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UNIVERSAL

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Mark Sandrich
Cast:
Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire, Marjorie Reynolds, Virginia Dale, Walter Abel, Louise Beavers, Irving Bacon, Marek Windheim
Writing Credits:
Irving Berlin (idea), Elmer Rice (adaptation), Claude Binyon

Synopsis:
Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire sing and dance their way into your heart in the sensational musical comedy Holiday Inn. Nominated for 3 Academy Awards, this special edition features 13 holiday songs by famed composer Irving Berlin, including "White Christmas" - one of the biggest-selling recordings in music history!

Crosby plays a song and dance man who leaves showbiz to run an inn that is open only on holidays. Astaire plays his former partner and rival in love. Follow the two talented pals as they find themselves competing for the affections of the same lovely lady (Marjorie Reynolds). This classic features an all-new digitally remastered picture and never-before-seen bonus material. 'Tis the season for one of the most enjoyable films of all time!

Box Office:
Budget
$3.2 million.

MPAA:
Rated NR

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Fullscreen 1.33:1
Audio:
English Monaural
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
French
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime: 101 min.
Price: $19.98
Release Date: 10/10/2006

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Film Historian Ken Barnes
• “A Couple of Song and Dance Men” Documentary
• “All-Singing, All-Dancing” Featurette
• Trailer


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


Holiday Inn: Special Edition (1942)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 5, 2007)

1942’s Holiday Inn has long been a Christmas-time favorite of mine. The film provides the first of only two occasions on which Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire would work together, with 1946's Blue Skies being the final instance. I never saw the second movie but doubt it lives up to this one.

Inn tells the story of two entertainers, singer/dancer Jim Hardy (mostly singer Crosby) and dancer/singer Ted Hanover (mostly dancer Astaire). At the start of the film, those two and dancer/singer (but mainly dancer) Lila Dixon (Virginia Dale) do an act together, but this will soon end since Jim and Lila plan to marry and retire to farm life.

Or maybe not. It turns out that Ted's been wooing Lila on the side, and they've decided to stick together as a couple. Once the bomb drops on sad-sack Jim, he heads off to his estate alone and spends some time as the gentleman farmer.

Eventually he gets an idea for a new business: the Holiday Inn. This establishment will put on shows each of the dozen or so holidays each year. While scouting for talent, Jim meets Linda Mason (Marjorie Reynolds) and she joins him for the performances. Inevitably, love ensues, and so do the old competitive challenges once Ted loses Lila and meets Linda.

Confused yet? It's actually all quite simple, though it sounds like a convoluted soap opera. The only important concerns stem from the Jim/Lila/Ted triangle, and those are easy to follow.

In the end, it's all almost irrelevant, since the plot exists just to pursue a basic love story and also to toss in some songs. As a business proposition, the Holiday Inn sounds like a loser - no way they make enough money to support the project based on so few shows a year, especially since the performances are elaborate and look expensive - but it gives the filmmakers an excuse to stage said complicated numbers.

Though I don't care for this kind of material in general, the show tunes work fairly well here. They're good enough that even a musical-hater like myself got a kick out of some of them. Inn is the answer to one of the most common movie trivia questions; the song "White Christmas" debuted here, not in the film White Christmas as so many assume.

Less well known is the fact that "Easter Parade" - another tune that inspired a movie - also made its initial appearance in Inn. Actually, those two famous songs offer some of the least interesting production moments in the film, though "White Christmas" is used for good emotional effect. Probably the best number is the one for the Fourth of July, which features Astaire's "improvised" firecracker dance. It's inspired stuff and remains very entertaining.

That statement applies to the film as a whole. It's a charming tale that benefits mightily from the chemistry between the two stars. They're both likable but entirely believable as friendly rivals, and their interactions are memorable. The men make their plain characters more interesting and lively than the roles deserved.

Inn contributes a surprising amount of solid humor as well. Most modern movies don't make me laugh, and the giggles come even more infrequently in romantic films like this. However, Inn gets in some good moments, such as Astaire's attempt to graciously accept Crosby's gift of homemade preserves ("Why they're great on... or even alone"). It's not a laugh-riot, but it offers enough funny material to sustain my attention and interest.

The only genuinely negative aspect of the film stems from differences in cultural sensitivity between 1942 and today. Let's just say the racial stereotypes in Inn are pretty thick. Not only does Jim have a sassy black "mammy" named Mamie who runs his kitchen, but the musical number for Lincoln's Birthday features all the white performers heavily done up in black-face make-up!

This effect is outdone only by the snippet in which - incongruously, since she's not part of the production - Mamie sings the following line to her children: "When black folks lived in slavery/Who was that set the darky free?" Oh, my! However, I won't come down too hard on the movie because of the differences in the culture; believe it or not, I'll bet this kind of material was actually regarded as progressive at the time. Hey, at least Inn presents the freeing of slaves as a positive, unlike Gone With the Wind, which so actively mourns the death of the antebellum South and all its "quaint" customs.

Well, despite those dated aspects, Holiday Inn remains a winning film, mainly due to charming performances from its leads. The movie provides a lot of good comedy, romance and songs, and it works well enough to tame even a musical-hating beast like myself. Plus, since it includes so many different holidays, it's the one "Christmas movie" you can watch anytime and not feel like an idiot!


The DVD Grades: Picture B-/ Audio C+/ Bonus B

Holiday Inn appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Despite some ups and downs, the transfers seemed more than acceptable given its age.

For the most part, sharpness appeared good. Although some shots presented a bit of softness – especially during the scene when Jim slathered Linda in blackface – the majority of the flick came across as pretty well-defined. I noticed no jagged edges or shimmering, but edge haloes were an issue. These could be moderately prominent throughout the film and they caused some distractions.

Print flaws were a sporadic concern. I noticed specks on more than a few occasions, and some nicks and blotches also materialized. The movie tended to be a bit grainier than average.

Black levels appeared very good through the flick. It boasted deep tones as well as nice contrast most of the time. A couple shots came across as a little muddy, but most demonstrated nice delineation. Low-light shots also offered good clarity for the most part. The edge haloes and the source flaws knocked down my grade to a “B-“, but I felt fairly pleased with the presentation.

As for the monaural soundtrack of Holiday Inn, it seemed average. Dialogue was perfectly acceptable for material of this vintage. Though the lines never seemed particularly natural, they were reasonably concise, and they didn’t sound edgy. Effects were thin and slightly shrill at times, although some surprising exceptions existed; the firecrackers in the Fourth of July scene appeared pretty clear and accurate.

Music sounded listenable but could be a bit harsh and discordant. The mix presented a little light noise in the background. Overall, the audio was satisfactory based on its age but no better than that.

How did the picture and audio of this Special Edition compare to those of the original 1999 DVD? I felt the audio remained lackluster for both, but the new transfer worked a little better. The 2006 DVD offered somewhat improved definition and clarity, especially in terms of contrast and blacks. It wasn’t a tremendous step up in quality, but it did look better than its predecessor.

While the 1999 disc – a “double-feature” with Going My Way - presented few extras, this Special Edition adds a few components. We open with an audio commentary from film historian Ken Barnes. He offers a running, screen-specific chat, but he doesn’t go it alone. Along the way, we hear some archival notes from actors Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire and conductor John Scott Trotter. Most of the material comes straight from Barnes, though; the audio clips from the others are rare.

Barnes covers a lot of topics. He starts with a look at the project’s origins and development before he provides notes about story ideas, music and performances, cast and crew, specifics about “White Christmas” and its impact, the film’s era and social context, its reception, competition and legacy.

That’s a lot, and Barnes makes this a fine discussion. My only complaint comes from the amount of dead air, as Barnes goes silent a little too often, especially during the film’s second half. However, the quality of the content more than compensates for those gaps. We get a surfeit of excellent details. Barnes sings us the original first verse of “White Christmas”, relates the blackface number as part of its era, and even explains the confusing Thanksgiving gag during which a cartoon turkey jumps from one Thursday to another. Barnes offers a genuinely terrific commentary.

In addition to the film’s trailer, we find a pair of programs. A Couple of Song and Dance Men runs 44 minutes, 34 seconds. It mixes movie clips, archival materials and comments from Barnes and Fred Astaire’s daughter Ava Astaire McKenzie. They discuss the lives and careers of Astaire and Crosby. The format seems a little awkward, as it often feels like Astaire and Barnes just lecture each other; it doesn’t always comes across like a conversation and it can be weird.

Nonetheless, plenty more good information develops here, and the archival elements prove winning. Yeah, the program occasionally comes across like annotated filmographies of Crosby and Astaire, but the conceit works. We learn a lot and see plenty of fun clips to flesh out the package.

(By the way, maybe I’m just a stooge, but I never realized that Crosby wore a hairpiece until I saw him without it in these clips!)

All-Singing, All-Dancing goes for seven minutes, 15 seconds and features narration from Barnes as he discusses the evolution of singing and dancing in films. Barnes goes through techniques used over the years and discusses how movies captured these elements. Barnes proves informative as always in this informative little piece.

Holiday Inn has long been a favorite of mine. Though known best as a Christmas movie, it works all year-round and consistently entertains. The delightful pairing of Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire helps make this a classic. The DVD offers decent picture and audio along with some nice extras highlighted by an excellent audio commentary. This would make a good addition to your holiday DVD collection.

Viewer Film Ratings: 5 Stars Number of Votes: 6
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