Skip to main content

Open holidays only? How many of those are there?

Holiday Inn
(1942)

(SPOILERS) A slender premise that sustains itself surprisingly well, most obviously because, unlike the later White Christmas, which reuses Bing Crosby and the famous song first sung here and that more-dependable-than-the-real-stuff asbestos snow, there’s a degree of conflict ensuring Holiday Inn isn’t just a collection ineffectual interludes between Irving Berlin numbers.

Linda: I don’t know. It sounds like something you’d dream about at night and it would be wonderful. And then you’d wake up in the morning and realise it wouldn’t work.

Much of the effectiveness of Holiday Inn comes from Fred Astaire’s willingness to play such a louse; on those grounds, it would make sense that he turned down White Christmas, there being no such tension between the leads. When Crosby’s Jim Hardy announces his decision to retire to a Connecticut farm with Virginia Dale’s Lila Dixon, the third member of the act, Astaire’s Ted Hanover persuades her that he loves her and she should continue to perform with him “The two of us, dedicating our lives to making people happy with our feet”. The stinker. Crosby takes it on the chin and before long has turned the ailing farm into an inn, which, in appealingly indolent fashion, is open only on the holidays (“That gives me about 350 days a year to kick around in”).

Astaire, being voraciously predatory and a low-down dirty philanderer – he’s seriously shameless – then can’t resist stealing away the next woman to work with Crosby, Marjorie Reynold’s Linda Mason. Now admittedly, Bing, rather backed into a corner, is less than straight up with Astaire and Reynolds and attempts to put a spanner in the works, but you can’t really blame him for wanting to stomp on the little weasel. My sympathy’s all with Crosby when, on hearing Reynolds is to be whisked off to Hollywood and his holiday inn idea is to be appropriated – albeit not by a hotel chain, yet – responds sullenly “I can see now that I’m the only one who could be happy here”.

It all ends happily, naturally, thanks to Louise Beavers, his wise black housekeeper (most of Beavers’ roles were maids or housekeepers), who gives him an earful, but somehow, there’s absolutely no justice for dirty Fred. Indeed, he gets hitched to Dale and doubtless subsequently embarks on numerous extramarital affairs. It’s especially notable that no other side to Astaire; he’s entirely, shamelessly, scheming and duplicitous. There’s nothing to lend him a more likeable veneer.

Well, aside from his dance numbers; his tap solo punctuated by firecrackers is probably the best musical sequence in the picture; his drunk dance is pretty good too. The least auspicious is the especially tailored – post Pearl Harbour, which happened during the production – war effort promo with Bing singing Song of Freedom in a daft hat. Talking of which, you’ve got to hand it to Berlin for a lyric like “I could write a sonnet, about your Easter bonnet”.

The version I saw had its blackface number Abraham edited out, Channel 4 presumably being over sensitive to criticism after Theresa May announced it as her favourite Christmas film (much as I’m disinclined to throw the weight of my support behind the ex-PM, the way The Independent reported her admission, you’d think it's her favourite Christmas film because of the blackface. Which I’m sure isn’t the case).

Bing and Fred aren’t quite Bing and Bob (Hope), although it would have been nice to see Crosby one-upping Astaire the way he frequently did Hope in the Road movies. Holiday Inn's funniest scene, however doesn’t feature either lead. Having been delayed in her drive to the inn by hired hand Gus (Irving Bacon), who stops his car in the creek, leading to her getting very wet, Reynolds is given a lift by Dale. Learning why the latter is there – Crosby has connived to bring her together as Astaire’s partner again – Reynolds offers to drive, as she knows a shortcut to the inn. Instead she stops in the creek again, so leaving Dale stranded. Very crafty.


Agree? Disagree? Mildly or vehemently? Let me know in the comments below.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Poor Easy Breezy.

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood (2019)
(SPOILERS) My initial reaction to Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood was mild disbelief that Tarantino managed to hoodwink studios into coming begging to make it, so wilfully perverse is it in disregarding any standard expectations of narrative or plotting. Then I remembered that studios, or studios that aren’t Disney, are desperate for product, and more especially, product that might guarantee them a hit. Quentin’s latest appears to be that, but whether it’s a sufficient one to justify the expense of his absurd vanity project remains to be seen.

I just hope my death makes more cents than my life.

Joker (2019)
(SPOILERS) So the murder sprees didn’t happen, and a thousand puff pieces desperate to fan the flames of such events and then told-ya-so have fallen flat on their faces. The biggest takeaway from Joker is not that the movie is an event, when once that seemed plausible but not a given, but that any mainstream press perspective on the picture appears unable to divorce its quality from its alleged or actual politics. Joker may be zeitgeisty, but isn’t another Taxi Driver in terms of cultural import, in the sense that Taxi Driver didn’t have a Taxi Driver in mind when Paul Schrader wrote it. It is, if you like, faux-incendiary, and can only ever play out on that level. It might be more accurately described as a grubbier, grimier (but still polished and glossy) The Talented Ripley, the tale of developing psychopathy, only tailored for a cinemagoing audience with few options left outside of comic book fare.

So you want me to be half-monk, half-hitman.

Casino Royale (2006)
(SPOILERS) Despite the doubts and trepidation from devotees (too blonde, uncouth etc.) that greeted Daniel Craig’s casting as Bond, and the highly cynical and low-inspiration route taken by Eon in looking to Jason Bourne's example to reboot a series that had reached a nadir with Die Another Day, Casino Royale ends up getting an enormous amount right. If anything, its failure is that it doesn’t push far enough, so successful is it in disarming itself of the overblown set pieces and perfunctory plotting that characterise the series (even at its best), elements that would resurge with unabated gusto in subsequent Craig excursions.

For the majority of its first two hours, Casino Royale is top-flight entertainment, with returning director Martin Campbell managing to exceed his excellent work reformatting Bond for the ‘90s. That the weakest sequence (still good, mind) prior to the finale is a traditional “big” (but not too big) action set piece involving an attempt to…

They literally call themselves “Decepticons”. That doesn’t set off any red flags?

Bumblebee  (2018)
(SPOILERS) Bumblebee is by some distance the best Transformers movie, simply by dint of having a smattering of heart (one might argue the first Shia LaBeouf one also does, and it’s certainly significantly better than the others, but it’s still a soulless Michael Bay “machine”). Laika VP and director Travis Knight brings personality to a series that has traditionally consisted of shamelessly selling product, by way of a nostalgia piece that nods to the likes of Herbie (the original), The Iron Giant and even Robocop.

This is one act in a vast cosmic drama. That’s all.

Audrey Rose (1977)
(SPOILERS) Robert Wise was no stranger to high-minded horror fare when he came to Audrey Rose. He was no stranger to adding a distinctly classy flavour to any genre he tackled, in fact, particularly in the tricky terrain of the musical (West Side Story, The Sound of Music) and science fiction (The Day the Earth Stood Still, The Andromeda Strain). He hadn’t had much luck since the latter, however, with neither Two People nor The Hindenburg garnering good notices or box office. In addition to which, Audrey Rose saw him returning to a genre that had been fundamentally impacted by The Exorcist four years before. One might have expected the realist principals he observed with The Andromeda Strain to be applied to this tale of reincarnation, and to an extent they are, certainly in terms of the performances of the adults, but Wise can never quite get past a hacky screenplay that wants to impart all the educational content of a serious study of continued existence in tandem w…

I'm reliable, I'm a very good listener, and I'm extremely funny.

Terminator: Dark Fate (2019)
(SPOILERS) When I wrote my 23 to see in 2019, I speculated that James Cameron might be purposefully giving his hand-me-downs to lesser talents because he hubristically didn’t want anyone making a movie that was within a spit of the proficiency we’ve come to expect from him. Certainly, Robert Rodriguez and Tim Miller are leagues beneath Kathryn Bigelow, Jimbo’s former spouse and director of his Strange Days screenplay. Miller’s no slouch when it comes to action – which is what these movies are all about, let’s face it – but neither is he a craftsman, so all those reviews attesting that Terminator: Dark Fate is the best in the franchise since Terminator 2: Judgment Day may be right, but there’s a considerable gulf between the first sequel (which I’m not that big a fan of) and this retcon sequel to that sequel.

It’s like an angry white man’s basement in here.

Bad Boys for Life (2020)
(SPOILERS) The reviews for Bad Boys for Life have, perhaps surprisingly, skewed positive, given that it seemed exactly the kind of beleaguered sequel to get slaughtered by critics. Particularly so since, while it’s a pleasure to see Will Smith and Martin Lawrence back together as Mike and Marcus, the attempts to validate this third outing as a more mature, reflective take on their buddy cops is somewhat overstated. Indeed, those moments of reflection or taking stock arguably tend to make the movie as a whole that much glibber, swiftly succeeded as they are by lashings of gleeful ultra-violence or humorous shtick. Under Michael Bay, who didn’t know the definition of a lull, these pictures scorned any opportunity to pause long enough to assess the damage, and were healthier, so to speak, for that. Without him, Bad Boys for Life’s beats often skew closer to standard 90s action fare.

Look, the last time I was told the Germans had gone, it didn't end well.

1917 (2019)
(SPOILERS) When I first heard the premise of Sam Mendes’ Oscar-bait World War I movie – co-produced by Amblin Partners, as Spielberg just loves his sentimental war carnage – my first response was that it sounded highly contrived, and that I’d like to know how, precisely, the story Mendes’ granddad told him would bear any relation to the events he’d be depicting. And just why he felt it would be appropriate to honour his relative’s memory via a one-shot gimmick. None of that has gone away on seeing the film. It’s a technical marvel, and Roger Deakins’ cinematography is, as you’d expect, superlative, but that mastery rather underlines that 1917 is all technique, that when it’s over and you get a chance to draw your breath, the experience feels a little hollow, a little cynical and highly calculated, and leaves you wondering what, if anything, Mendes was really trying to achieve, beyond an edge-of-the-seat (near enough) first-person actioner.

They seem to be attracted to your increasing nudeness.

Pokémon Detective Pikachu (2019)
(SPOILERS) I was put in mind of Shazam! watching Pokémon Detective Pikachu, another 2019 tentpole that somewhat underperformed based on expectations. Not particularly due to any plot resemblance, but because both movies fall apart under the weight of an overblown and underwhelming finale. In the case of Shazam! that may be more damaging to its prospective sequels (if they keep the team of super-adult kids), whereas Detective Pikachu will simply have to struggle with a whole heap of unnecessary expositional baggage attempting to imbue the proceedings with emotional resonance.

She writes Twilight fan fiction.

Vampire Academy (2014)
My willingness to give writer Daniel Waters some slack on the grounds of early glories sometimes pays off (Sex and Death 101) and sometimes, as with this messy and indistinct Young Adult adaptation, it doesn’t. If Vampire Academy plods along as a less than innovative smart-mouthed Buffy rip-off that might be because, if you added vampires to Heathers, you would probably get something not so far from the world of Joss Whedon. Unfortunately inspiration is a low ebb throughout, not helped any by tepid direction from Daniel’s sometimes-reliable brother Mark and a couple of hopelessly plankish leads who do their best to dampen down any wit that occasionally attempts to surface.

I can only presume there’s a never-ending pile of Young Adult fiction poised for big screen failure, all of it comprising multi-novel storylines just begging for a moment in the Sun. Every time an adaptation crashes and burns (and the odds are that they will) another one rises, hydra-like, hoping…