Wednesday, November 21, 2007

"A Dozen Orchids, Loose, Looking Like They Don't Care."

We have now reached the Holiday Inn Tipping Point, which is the release of a special edition featuring a commentary, which means I had to buy it. For those of you who think that Christmas movies featuring Bing Crosby and horrendously uncomfortable minstrel numbers begins and ends with White Christmas, meet Holiday Inn.

Holiday Inn is the film which debuted "White Christmas" (see how this works?) and is also one of only two films which stars both Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire. There's a number at the top of the movie which supposedly mocks Bing's inability to dance and Fred's weak singing, but really, this scene makes me bury my head in my hands in generational humiliation, for while Bing was no Astaire (and who was?) he could certainly not-suck his way across a dance floor. As to Fred's singing, yep, the voice a little thin, especially contrasted against Bing's, but it was precisely eleventy billion times more palatable that Paula Abdul's. His phrasing was sublime. Say what you will about Fred; he never inadvertently spawned what was recently dubbed Least Essential Album of the Millennium. I would stack Bing's dancing and Fred's singing up against any half-clad, lip-synching pop blight a future episode of I Love The '00's can trot out.

Movies the likes of Holiday Inn kindle in me nostalgia for an era that ended several decades before I was even thought of, when people celebrated Presidents Lincoln and Washington separately and, apparently, by dining out. It's a Grandpa movie, which means no one is ever pregnant, and there are many gowns. I watched this one at least several times with my own grandfather, who at the time was in his thirty-fourth year of boycotting Sinatra movies ever since Frank divorced Nancy. "This is when they both make like they're big shots," he'd explain as Bing and Marjoire Reynolds sat black-and-whitely at a nightclub table. (It was also Grandpa's job to cue the fire in Going My Way, and I've been mired in many a plothole without him.)

As to the commentary itself, it doesn't touch the gold-thread-on-the-waistcoat standard that was 1776's, but is satisfying enough. We learn, for example, that "White Christmas" was originally intended for Reynolds' character, and that Fred Astaire actually was reeling drunk during the New Year's Eve dance number. The historian doling out the commentary explains all this in a highly credible small-to-medium British accent, and, just after going into great and serious social detail about the history of minstrel shows, he takes on the scene in which Reynolds sabotages Virginia Dale:

VIRGINIA DALE: (rather bitchy remark)

COMMENTATOR: That rather bitchy remark now leads us to double-cross number two.

Hey! Call the kids and heat up so cocoa for all kinds of rather bitchy remarks, not to mention sets of sets, the line "Hit your snow!", and Bing in a straw hat smacking a pig on the rear end.

I miss the '40's.

born in '77 at: mbe@drinktothelasses.com

12 comments:

Anne said...

I love Holiday Inn! I don't know if I've ever actually seen white Christmas, but I have to watch H I every year. I've always loved Astaire, and I'm sentimental about the "Greatest Generation."

Also, I would have looked great in the clothing of the 40s!

God help the mister that comes between me and my sister...

HelloBettyLou said...

I miss the 40s too.

red pill junkie said...

"I would stack Bing's dancing and Fred's singing up against any half-clad, lip-synching pop blight a future episode of I Love The '00's can trot out.

Yep. Those were th days when movie stars HAD to be multi-talented, and not just a one-trick horse, like nowadays (although it seems that lately, that one trick merely consists of looking good in the screen!)

Maybe I'm wrong, but I think guys like Ewan McGregor are good examples of that old tradition not being completely extinct. The guy is a very good actor, and I think he did a very good job with the singing numbers of Moulin Rouge!

PS: Happy Día de Acción de Gracias to you guys (and all the rest of my fellow Readers of course). What a wonderful thing to celebrate this first holiday as a married couple :-)

Monica said...

I have always loved Holiday Inn. White Christmas is great too. Also, Christmas in Connecticut and the original Miracle on 34th Street. My absolute favorite is Meet Me in St. Louis. Can't stand It's a Wonderful Life. Too much stress.

MB said...

"Can't stand It's a Wonderful Life. Too much stress."

Agreed. I mean, it gets to a happy place, but MAN does it go through some dark alleys to get there.

CJ said...

I love White Christmas! My favorite scene is when Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye grab the blue feathered fans and perform the 'sister' song in place of Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen.

I agree with you about It's a Wonderful Life. I like Christmas movies, but not that one.

I like watching any movie that has Fred Astaire dancing. He made the dancing look so easy, but I know a lot of work went into making it look that way. What's the one where he dances up the wall, across the ceiling, and back down the other wall? I'm always fascinated by that scene.

Anonymous said...

My Dad and I have a favorite movie we watch every Christmas and this one will throw you for a loop:"The Jazz Singer" starring Neil Diamond. Neil was at his very best and we know every word by heart. It drives my Mom crazy! We all have our own uniques traditions, don't we!

Sara N

MB said...

"What's the one where he dances up the wall, across the ceiling, and back down the other wall? I'm always fascinated by that scene."

Royal Wedding. They built a special rotating set to achieve the effect.

Rachel said...

Does the 1776 commentary actually get good? I LOVE that movie, but it drove me crazy how they were just narrating what was happening in the film (I mean, I wouldn't be listening to the commentary if I hadn't watched the movie itself before), so I turned it off.

(I know that's a complete tangent, but once 1776 gets mentioned, I develop a very short attention span for Everything That is Not 1776.)

MB said...

I noticed, too, that the commentary did fall into "narrate-speak" every now and then. But when the movie's 2.5 hours, yeah, that's gonna happen. But yes, I learned some fantastic tidbits about how the movie was made, especially during the deleted scenes. Good for having on in the background while you're doing Christmas cards :)

Hollee said...

I love the movie and your reviews--you have my utmost trust when it comes to flicks, Yoda.

Anonymous said...

I thought of another great Christams movie that I won't miss when it's on 24 straight hours on TNT: "A Christmas Story" starring Peter Billingsley. I didn't get it when I was a kid but I totally get it now. Favorite part: The father wins his prize which is a leg lamp and he pronounces "Fragile" frageelay and says it must be Italian. Cracks me up every time I see it!

Sara N

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