When I began preparing for this year’s Blogmas, I decided to focus on reviewing movies in order to have post already prepared and scheduled without worrying about writing a new post every day. One of the movies I debated if I should review is the 1942 movie of Holiday Inn. 2020 is not a great year and, after the social unrest and Black Lives Matter movement gaining more attention and traction than ever before, I didn’t like the idea of reviewing Holiday Inn. Out of all the Christmas movies in my movie collection, Holiday Inn is one of the most controversial because of a blackface routine in the movie. Although I, a white woman, felt hesitant to review this movie, I still felt like I wanted to talk about it in a movie review.
The version of Holiday Inn I watched is the DVD from the 75th Anniversary Edition. The set also contains an additional DVD of the Broadway musical version of Holiday Inn. I will be reviewing that version of Holiday Inn in a future post.
The movie is about a man named Jim Hardy, played by Bing Crosby. Jim is part of a three person performing act that includes Ted Handover, played by Fred Astaire, and Lila Dixon, played by Virginia Dale. On Christmas Eve, Jim, who proposed to Linda, is excited to leave show business with his new wife to live on a farm that his just purchased. Unfortunately, Lila secretly fell in love with Ted and breaks off the engagement with Jim in order to stay with Ted and continue performing.
Despite this, Jim leaves show business to work on the farm. After a year of problems adjusting to life on a farm, he decided to turn the farmhouse into Holiday Inn, an inn with live performances during dinner that will be open on holidays only. Although Ted and Jim’s former agent scoffed at the idea, it turned out to be a success with the help of the main performer Linda Mason, played by Marjorie Reynolds. Jim falls in love with Linda, but after discovering Lila dumped him for another man, Ted falls in love with Linda as well, leading to a rivalry for Linda.
I liked the movie. It is funny, light hearted, and has great music by Irving Berlin. I always enjoy watching this movie because it’s easy to follow plot and it’s way of seeing the entertainment industry back in the 1940’s.
The DVD version of the film I watched is the unedited version, which means it does contain the controversial blackface routine for the musical number “Abraham”. I don’t know if a DVD copy of the edited version of the film is or will be available, but as far as I know all the DVD versions of the film I watched do contain the scene. Because of this, I like to skip over the “Abraham” musical number because I don’t like the routine, the symbolism of it, and the history connected to it. Also, I already know what’s going on in the film which makes skipping this scene not a huge deal for me, but doing this for someone who has never seen the movie before will be harder to do. The “Abraham” scene is part of a longer sequence in which Jim, who knows Ted is searching for Linda as a replacement for Lila and likely does love her, tries to hide Linda from Ted by doing a blackface routine, which hid Linda under layers of make up. Because of the routine’s reason for existing in the movie and that it is woven into the plot for comedic reasons, I know it will be on many people’s do not watch lists.
Although I do like Holiday Inn, the blackface routine does give the film a huge black eye, especially in 2020. The film is well done and Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire make it a film worth watching. Just be remember the “Abraham” number and make sure to skip it if you are like me and are upset by it. If the blackface routine in any movie is too upsetting to watch, another option is the pro shot version of the Broadway musical Holiday Inn. It completely omits the blackface routine and, although the story is slightly different than the movie, it’s close enough to be the perfect alternative choice to the movie version.