on 17 December 2014
HOLIDAY INN  [Blu-ray + Digital HD + ULTRAVIOLET] [US Import] The Greatest Musical of All Time!
Screen legends Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire sing and dance their way into your heart in one of the most timeless holiday classics ever, ‘Holiday Inn.’ Featuring the Academy Award® winning song “White Christmas.” Jim Hardy [Bing Crosby] plays a song and dance man who leaves showbiz to run an inn that is open on holidays. Ted Hanover [Fred Astaire] plays the former partner and rival in love. Follow the two talented pals as they find themselves competing for the affections of the same lovely lady Linda Mason [Marjorie Reynolds]. ‘Tis the season for one of the most sensational musical comedies of all time! Digitally Re-mastered and Fully Restored From 35MM Original Film Element! Also Includes Colorized Version!
FILM FACT: Awards and Nominations: 1943 Academy Awards®: Win: Best Original Song for Irving Berlin for "White Christmas." Nominated: Best Score for Robert Emmett Dolan. Nominated: Best Original Story for Irving Berlin. With music by Irving Berlin, the film has twelve songs written expressly for the film, the most notable being "White Christmas". The film features the complete reuse of ‘Easter Parade’ written by Irvin Berlin for the 1933 Broadway revue “As Thousands Cheer.”
Cast: Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire, Marjorie Reynolds, Virginia Dale, Walter Abel, Louise Beavers, Irving Bacon, Marek Windheim, James Bell, John Gallaudet, Shelby Bacon, Joan Arnold, Bob Crosby Orchestra, Edward Arnold Jr. (uncredited), Loretta Barnett (uncredited), Muriel Barr (uncredited), Harry Barris (uncredited), Patsy Bedell (uncredited), Leon Belasco (uncredited), Brooks Benedict (uncredited), Ralph Brooks (uncredited), Donald Brown (uncredited), Ruth Clifford (uncredited), Marion Colby (uncredited), June Ealey (uncredited), Edward Emerson (uncredited), Julia Faye (uncredited), Charles Ferguson (uncredited), Glenn D. Forbes (uncredited), Robert Haines (uncredited), Mildred Harris (uncredited), Oscar 'Dutch' Hendrian (uncredited), Robert Homans (uncredited), Bud Jamison (uncredited), Jack Lindquist (uncredited), Robert Locke Lorraine (uncredited), General Douglas MacArthur (archive footage uncredited), Wilbur Mack (uncredited), Bud Mercer (uncredited), Bert Moorhouse (uncredited), Ross Murray (uncredited), Anthony Nace (uncredited), Jane Novak (uncredited), Reed Porter (uncredited), Keith Richards (uncredited), Ronald R. Rondell (uncredited), Franklin D. Roosevelt (archive footage uncredited), Jack Shea (uncredited) and David Tihmar (uncredited)
Director: Mark Sandrich
Producer: Mark Sandrich
Screenplay: Claude Binyon, Ben Holmes (uncredited), Bert Lawrence (uncredited), Francis Swann (uncredited), Zion Myers (uncredited) and Irving Berlin (Story)
Composer: Irving Berlin
Cinematography: David Abel
Video Resolution: 1080p [Black-and-White + Colorized]
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Audio: English: 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio Mono and English: Dolby Digital Mono
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish and French
Running Time: 101 minutes
Region: All Regions
Number of discs: 1
Studio: Universal Studios
Andrew’s Blu-ray Review: Though many rightfully regard it as a yuletide film after all, it begins and ends on Christmas Eve and introduced the most popular secular Christmas song of all time, “White Christmas.” 'Holiday Inn' is actually an all-purpose holiday movie, suitable for viewing on Thanksgiving, Independence Day, Easter, even Valentine's Day. Composer Irving Berlin cleverly salutes almost every national day of celebration in this delightfully entertaining romantic romp that's been a regular in my family's December viewing rotation as long as I can remember. The ingenious teaming of crooner Bing Crosby with terpsichorean titan Fred Astaire, a bevy of beautiful Irvin Berlin melodies, and a snappy script by Claude Binyon and adapted from an idea by Irving Berlin, and all help elevate a pedestrian tale to surprisingly lofty heights. While 'Holiday Inn' stands as one of 1942's highest grossing films, its reputation has only increased over the ensuing decades, and it's unlikely its current stature as a pinnacle of seasonal entertainment will ever be diminished.
For more than a half century, the song “White Christmas” sat atop the charts as the bestselling song of all time, but Elton John's special 'Candle in the Wind' tribute to Princess Diana finally eclipsed it in the late 1990s, and 'Holiday Inn' owes much of its success and longevity to this nostalgic yuletide anthem that continues to warm hearts and evoke cherished memories of home, family, and seasonal festivities. Any artist worth his or her salt has recorded it, but let's face it, no one can rival Bing Crosby's original rendition, performed simply at the piano in front of a lit tree with a roaring fire in the background. The song comes early in 'Holiday Inn' with little fanfare, and though it didn't immediately catch on, especially with America's entry into World War II spurred its popularity, as the tune became a special favourite of soldiers fighting overseas, and its performance by Bing Crosby is now considered an iconic film moment, and its reprise by Marjorie Reynolds (dubbed by Martha Mears) late in the film wields additional emotional impact.
The plot of ‘Holiday Inn’ was merely an excuse on which to hang 14 Irvin Berlin songs. Crosby, Astaire, and Virginia Dale are a musical act, which breaks up when Crosby decides to retire to a farm. Most of 'Holiday Inn,' however, is all about fun and the clever romantic manoeuvres of its duelling leads, which purports to be best friends, but spend most of the film as double-crossing rivals. When gold-digging tap dancer Lila Dixon [Virginia Dale] dumps crooner Jim Hardy [Bing Crosby] on the eve of their wedding for Jim Hardy's partner, the slick and manipulative Ted Hanover [Fred Astaire], Jim picks himself up, dusts himself off, and proceeds with his plan to quit the nightclub hurly-burly and relax on his Connecticut farm. Yet after a year of arduous chores and little sleep, farmer Jim Hardy, fresh from a stint in a sanatorium to calm his frazzled nerves, and embarks on a new professional path better suited to his lazy personality. Almost overnight, Jim Hardy transforms his farm into an inn "but what an inn!" The gimmick is that it only opens only on holidays, so Jim only has to work about 10 days a year (although the lavish productions Jim continually mounts would quickly bankrupt such an enterprise). Jim asks his former manager, Danny Reed [Walter Abel] in a memorable frenzied portrayal, to send any starving performers his way and Danny Reed complies, referring flower shop employee Linda Mason [Marjorie Reynolds] to Holiday Inn just to get her out of his hair. Jim Hardy hires the fresh-faced, bubbly Lila Dixon [Virginia Dale] and quickly falls in love with her, but when Lila Dixon runs off with a Texas millionaire, leaving Ted Hanover without a dance partner and girlfriend. Ted Hanover sets his sights on Lila Dixon to fill both roles. "Here we go again," sighs Jim, and in an effort to keep history from repeating itself, he uses all his wiles to keep Linda Mason at the inn and out of Ted Hanover's arms.
Though the backstage plot, that features more than a few screwball elements, is just a framework on which to hang more than a dozen Berlin holiday-themed songs, there's enough arch dialogue and witty repartee to fuel the clichéd story. Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire create incomparable chemistry, and watching them spar with and manipulate each other is one of the film's most enjoyable aspects. The role of Ted Hanover is the closest Fred Astaire would ever get to portray a villain in his five-decade career, and he seems to relish the character's Machiavellian traits. Yet Fred Astaire's charm always shines through, and somehow he makes the crafty cad likeable. Though both Marjorie Reynolds and Virginian Dale never achieved much renown beyond their work here, both make strong impressions, holding their own with Fred Astaire on the dance floor and providing a welcome flash of inspiration when necessary.
Yet when all is said and done, 'Holiday Inn' is all about the music and the dancing, and Irvin Berlin's catchy cadre of memorable tunes makes it easy to revisit this breezy film year after year. In addition to the Oscar-winning “White Christmas” and perennial favourite “Easter Parade,” the score includes the lilting “Be Careful, It's My Heart” and exquisitely sung by Bing Crosby and danced with ethereal grace by Fred Astaire and Marjorie Reynolds, and the festive “Happy Holiday,” the soulful 'Abraham,' which performed as a black-face minstrel number, and the rousing “Song of Freedom,” which is a bit of wartime propaganda featuring clips of Franklin D. Roosevelt and American troops in action that was hastily inserted after the Pearl Harbor attack, which occurred during the film's production, and the explosive “Let's Say It With Firecrackers,” one of the most intricate and exciting dance numbers of Fred Astaire's career. With astonishing precision, Fred Astaire taps his feet off while tossing various pyrotechnics across the dance floor in perfect syncopated rhythm, resulting in an electrifying routine and defining example of how seamlessly Fred Astaire weaves together invention, artistry, and flawless technique.
Another awe-inspiring display of Fred Astaire's genius occurs when an inebriated Ted Hanover takes to the floor with Linda Mason and performs a series of perfectly executed drunken moves. Reportedly, Fred Astaire took several shots of whiskey before each take, and there were seven in all, and so he could appear authentically soused, and the resulting bumbling and stumbling, all meticulously choreographed, but performed to look like anything but and is one of the film's many high points. Equally humorous and very impressive, the dance to “I Can't Tell a Lie” alternates between highbrow classicism and lowbrow buck-and-wings, as Jim Hardy mercilessly and continually changes the song's style and tempo, prompting Ted Hanover and Linda Mason to continually alter their rehearsed routine on the fly, and thus prevent them from locking lips.
Surprisingly, though, ‘White Christmas’ was not the hit of ‘Holiday Inn.’ The Valentine song, "Be Careful, It's My Heart," was initially more popular. But the popularity of "White Christmas" grew during the war years, as homesick servicemen requested Armed Forces Radio to play it. The song would become the title tune for the remake of ‘Holiday Inn,’ which of course was ‘White Christmas’ , starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen. Like the hotel chain that was named after the film, 'Holiday Inn' isn't particularly unique, dramatically or musically, but producer-director Mark Sandrich, who helmed five of the legendary Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers films, knows what's he's doing, and crafts a buoyantly entertaining motion picture that continues to stand the test of time. Of course, "timeless" is the perfect adjective to describe the gifts of both Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire, and their easy-going partnership helps transform the modest 'Holiday Inn' into one of the most beloved musicals of all time.
The project seemed custom-made for Fred Astaire, who had been freelancing since leaving RKO in 1939. However, budget-conscious Paramount Pictures resisted, saying Fred Astaire would be too expensive. But Mark Sandrich was adamant, and threatened to abandon the project without him, so the studio reluctantly agreed. As soon as Astaire, Berlin and Crosby signed on to ‘Holiday Inn’ , Mark Sandrich told the press, "I call this picture the A B C of American musical comedy. Astaire, Berlin, Crosby. Get it?"
Blu-ray Video Quality – The Two versions of 'Holiday Inn' are included on this Blu-ray disc - one is the original black-and-white edition, while the other has been artificially colorized by computer, and doesn't deserve the time of day. According to the packaging, the black-and-white version has been "digitally re-mastered and fully restored from 35mm original film elements," and it looks it. The crisp, clear picture sports a faint grain structure that maintains the appearance of celluloid, and not a nick, mark, or scratch dots this pristine print. Exceptional grey level variance heightens detail, and rich, inky blacks lend the image necessary weight. Whites are well defined, and there's a lot of snow in this film, and never bloom, and patterns remain rock solid and resist shimmering. At the 43:10 mark, the left side of the screen looks substantially softer than the right, but of course, that's where leading lady Marjorie Reynolds is positioned, and her close-ups often look a bit gauzy when compared to those of Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire. Otherwise, this 1080p encoded transfer from Universal Studios looks pretty spiffy, and is a noticeable step up from the previous inferior NTSC DVD release. If, like me, you give 'Holiday Inn' an annual spin, you'll certainly want to upgrade to this high definition edition.
Blu-ray Audio Quality – The 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio Mono track pumps out clear sound that's free of any age-related imperfections, such as hiss, pops, and crackle. A wide dynamic scale handles all the highs and lows without a hint of distortion, and though the orchestrations lack the lushness and depth musicals demand, the songs still sound bright and lively, and Bing Crosby's dulcet baritone possesses plenty of warmth and resonance. Accents, such as Astaire's tapping, the firecrackers in the Fourth of July number, and the popping of the peach preserve jars, are appropriately bold, but subtleties are more difficult to discern. Dialogue and song lyrics are always clear and easy to comprehend, and no noticeable defects creep into the mix. For a 72-year-old film, 'Holiday Inn' sounds darn good, and once again, the film's legion of fans will be pleased with this solid, straightforward sound track.
Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:
Including the Colorized Version [2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio Mono] [1080p] [1.33:1]
Audio Commentary: Commentary Film Historian Ken Barnes [from an original DVD release]: This Archive Audio Commentary and we hear from Fred Astaire, Bing Crosby and John Scott Trotte are courtesy of Gord Atkinson’s award-winning chronological radio series, “The Crosby Years” : Though Ken Barnes remarks often sound scripted, author, record producer, and historian Ken Barnes delivers a commentary that's both informative and enthusiastic. Ken Barnes, who worked with both Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire many years ago and shares his personal recollections of the two men, calls 'Holiday Inn' the "definitive musical of the 1940s," and talks about the films genesis, how Ginger Rogers and Rita Hayworth were originally envisioned for the roles eventually played by Marjorie Reynolds and Virginia Dale, and how the song 'White Christmas' didn't initially wow the public. He also chronicles Crosby's early life as a drunken, skirt-chasing ne'er-do-well, analyses the film's politically incorrect minstrel sequence from its proper cultural perspective, and compares 'Holiday Inn' to its Irving Berlin sister film, 'White Christmas.' Enhancing his discussion of 'Holiday Inn' is a selection of archival audio clips of Fred Astaire, Bing Crosby, and Bing Crosby's long-time music director, John Scott Trotter, which shed additional light on the Fred Astaire and Bing Crosby relationship, their tenure as U.S.O. entertainers during World War II, and their perception of 'Holiday Inn.'
Special Feature: A Couple of Song and Dance Men  [480i] [44:35] Ken Barnes joins Fred Astaire's daughter, Ava Astaire McKenzie, for this unsatisfying dual examination of the 'Holiday Inn' stars. With the exception of Fred Astaire's electrifying “Puttin' on the Ritz” dance routine from 'Blue Skies' and a snippet of Bing Crosby singing “White Christmas” from the same film, all the included clips come from trailers, and the information provided isn't very enlightening, unless you're a total Astaire-Crosby neophyte. Ava Astaire McKenzie reads from a couple of letters Fred Astaire wrote to his wife during World War II, and we learn 38 takes were required for Fred Astaire's explosive “Let's Say It With Firecrackers” number, and the dancer also got himself quite tipsy for a drunken routine with Marjorie Reynolds, but otherwise this is a fairly pedestrian piece that sheds little light on the two men. Once again, the patter between Ken Barnes and Ava Astaire McKenzie feels scripted, which lends this 2002 feature an uncomfortable air of artificiality. Just thought I ought to point out that the extra in this documentary "A Couple of Song and Dance Men," features Fred Astaire's [otherwise unavailable] "Puttin' On The Ritz" routine from ‘Blue Skies,’ is complete and unedited. Seeing as it is, in my opinion, is the greatest dance number Fred Astaire ever did, which is saying a great deal and it makes purchasing this brilliant Blu-ray Special Edition well worth buying for that alone. Watch it and weep.
Special Feature: All-Singing All-Dancing  [480i] [7:15] This special feature examines the evolution of musical production and how pre-recordings and dance looping helped streamline the process and expands the art form. One number from 'Holiday Inn' is broken down to provide an example of how actors lip-synced to pre-recorded tracks and taps were often added in post-production.
Special Feature: Coloring A Classic  [480i] [8:51] A step-by-step look at how a classic black-and-white film becomes colorized. The technicians in this feature claim colorization makes old films look more attractive to younger contemporary audiences, but they fail to mention it sometimes alienates an older generation who are black-and-white purist viewers. To me both versions are of equal merit.
Theatrical Trailer  [480i] [4:3] [2:16] This is the Original Theatrical Trailer of ‘Holiday Inn.’ This is a re-issue preview hits all the high points of the Irving Berlin score.
Finally, one of the most beloved and timeless holiday films at last makes its Blu-ray debut! Thanks to the incomparable Irving Berlin and impeccable talents of Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire, 'Holiday Inn' is a veritable treat from start to finish, and suitable for viewing any time of the year. Packed with memorable tunes, including the iconic 'White Christmas,' and dazzling, inventive dances, this captivating musical never gets old, no matter how many times we see it. Both Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire are at the top of their respective games, and fine support from an excellent supporting cast keeps this immortal film pleasantly rolling along. Universal Studio's Blu-ray presentation is distinguished by a stellar black-and-white transfer, plus a brilliant colorized version, but of course it is entirely your choice to pick the version you would prefer to watch and I loved both versions. Plus you get solid audio and a comprehensive supplemental package. A host of yuletide films have attained classic status, but 'Holiday Inn' is more than seven decades after its initial release and continues to reside near the top of everyone's list, and this marvellous high definition edition, which is more than worthy of a double dip, ensures it won't lose its spot anytime soon. Highly Recommended!
Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Fan
Le Cinema Paradiso
WARE, United Kingdom