Sunday, December 13, 2015
Christmas 2015: December 13
Holiday Inn (1942)
One of the most beloved Christmas songs of all time is “White Christmas.” It’s a good song, casting many of the traditional Christmas images through a cloud of nostalgia and melancholy. The song originates in a movie but not the one that bares its name. Instead, it came from an earlier film, 1942’s “Holiday Inn.” Though the film was once popular enough to lend its name to a real life chain of hotels, now the hotels are probably more famous. I don’t have much familiarity with the work of Bing Crosby, outside a few of the “Road to” flicks. My mom, however, loves Fred Astaire so I’ve seen quite a few of his films before. I’ve probably seen “Holiday Inn” before but do not recall it. Considering Christmas time is coming up, it seems appropriate to give the film a watch.
Jim Hardy and Ted Hanover are popular nightclub performers, a singer and dancer respectively. Jim hopes to marry the woman he loves and retire to a farm. That is, until Ted steals her away. Jim doesn’t find farm life agreeing with him very much either. He touches upon the idea of turning the farm into a hotel, open only on holidays and always featuring a big show. After the woman breaks Ted’s heart, he winds up dancing at the Holiday Inn as well. There, another woman named Linda comes into both men’s lives, winning both of their hearts. Soon, strife arises in the Holiday Inn, as Hollywood comes calling to Ted and Linda.
Not all the songs are as memorable though. “Be Careful, It’s My Heart” is the Valentine’s Day number and the kind of maudlin old songs too often associated with Bing Crosby. “I Can’t Tell a Lie” features some fun dancing from Astaire, while wearing a powdered wig, but the song is totally forgettable. “Let’s Start the New Year Right” has an okay melody but doesn’t stick in the brain much. “Happy Holiday” has also become a classic but I’m not a fan, as its lyrics are insipid and its melody is repetitive. There are some other songs that are forgettable. “Abraham” is memorable but for the wrong reasons. Yep, that is the infamous blackface sequence. Astaire, Reynolds, and all the back-up dancers are in blackface, in Antebellum clothes, with just awful ethnic wigs on. The song features some embarrassing Ebonics-esque lyrics. This number just draws attention to the Mammy-style maid character in the rest of the film. Times change and all that. I understand the historical context. It still makes the film an uncomfortable watch.
Of course, maybe that’s the entire point. Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire were two of the biggest stars of their day, so getting both in a movie together predictably resulted in a huge hit. Musicals in the forties were akin to modern day action blockbusters. Slot out giant explosions for song-and-dance numbers. That’s what got the audiences in the theaters. Crosby and Astaire are both incredibly charming and Marjorie Reynolds and Virginia Dale are decent co-stars for each. Beyond those fabulous songs and dances, there’s not too much worth remembering about “Holiday Inn.” It’s also only partially a Christmas movie. [6/10]
The Adventures Sam & Max: Freelance Police: Christmas Bloody Christmas
When “Sam & Max: Freelance Police” premiered on Fox Kids back in the late nineties, I had no familiarity with the indie comic books and cult classic computer games that spawned the series. I watched the show because I watched most everything on Fox’s Saturday mornings back then. Luckily, the show’s demented humor was right in my wheelhouse at the time. Though plenty of cartoons came and went in the late nineties, for some reason “Sam & Max” always stuck with me. When Shout! Factory gave the overlooked series a DVD release some time ago, I picked it up out of curiosity and nostalgia. The show, though not atypical for kids programming of the time, holds up pretty well. Naturally, they did a Christmas episode.
Sam and Max are spending the holidays in a secluded forest cabin when Sam’s grandmother finds them. A former merchant marine and prison warden, Grandma invites Sam and Max to the Christmas celebration on the Blood Island prison compound. There, a notorious criminal named Hurtzog and his gang plan a prison break. Sam, Max, and Grandma work together to recapture the prisoners and save the prison’s Christmas celebration.