Holiday Inn (1942)

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Released 18-Nov-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Musical Menu Animation & Audio
Audio Commentary-Ken Barnes (Film Historian) & Archive Audio Comments(Actors)
Featurette-A Couple Of Song & Dance Men
Featurette-All-Singing All-Dancing
Theatrical Trailer
Notes-Production Background
Biographies-Cast & Crew
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1942
Running Time 100:28
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Mark Sandrich
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Bing Crosby
Fred Astaire
Marjorie Reynolds
Virginia Dale
Walter Abel
Louise Beavers
Irving Bacon
Marek Windheim
James Bell
John Gallaudet
Shelby Bacon
Joan Arnold
Case ?
RPI $19.95 Music Irving Berlin


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.37:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes, Fred cigarettes; Bing pipe.
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    As I write this review it is only a few days after Christmas Day 2003, the film under consideration is Holiday Inn, and the film featured the first appearance of that perennial Christmas favourite song, White Christmas. It is sung here by the singer it is most identified with, Bing Crosby. It is hard after all this time to realise that the producers of the film had no idea that the song would go on to become the biggest selling record of the 20th century (50 million sales and counting). The fame of the song would in fact eclipse that of the film (and lead to a semi-remake entitled White Christmas in 1954).

    At the same time, Holiday Inn would become the 5th highest grossing film of 1942, and as the popularity of that song grew, it won Best Song at the Oscars. The film itself marked the first teaming of two of the top musical stars of the period, Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire. It featured a soundtrack by Irving Berlin, who is one of the key figures in 20th century American music. The director is Mark Sandrich who had directed 5 of the best of the Fred Astaire / Ginger Rogers films in the 1930s. With so much going for it you get the feeling it was either going to be a classic or a phenomenal flop. So, how does it measure up to expectations?

    I must state up front that I have always liked this film. Some critics have suggested that it is just the frame for a series of elaborate musical numbers and has a poor story. While there is some truth to this claim, it is also a fact that the movie received an Oscar nomination for Best Original Story, and serves as the vehicle for some good romantic comedy. In the final analysis the film is primarily a Musical, and fares as well plot-wise as most such films do.

    The action opens on Xmas eve, and we meet Ted Hanover (Astaire) arriving at a night club for his show with Jim Hardy (Crosby). They are involved in a romantic triangle with Hanover's dancing partner Lila Dixon (Virginia Dale). Jim decides he would prefer the quiet life in Connecticut, and heads off to take up farming. Country life is a bit too quiet for him and he comes up with the idea of working only on holidays, and opening up the Inn each holiday with a big musical show (hence the title of the film). One of the new stars is Linda Mason (a very young Marjorie Reynolds in a delightful performance).

    Well, one thing leads to another as it tends to do, and soon Jim and Linda are romantically involved. In the meantime, Lila has run out on Ted and he is looking for another partner. Arriving at the Inn after a drunken binge he finds himself in Linda's arms, and begins a scheme to win her from Jim and make her his new dance partner. He manages to spirit her away to Hollywood, but can he keep her there? If this was a "Road" movie we would be pretty certain that Crosby would get the girl, but how will he fare versus Astaire?

    Apart from White Christmas, most viewers should recognize at least a few of the other songs. Easter Parade was also famous enough to have a later film revolve around it (starring Astaire and Judy Garland) while the song Lazy was sung by Marilyn Monroe in the 1950's There's No Business Like Show Business. Along with the great songs, the stars spark nicely off each other, and the plot moves along quite smoothly. The home audience at my place liked it enough to watch it 4 times in three days, so it seems that it has aged well. My feeling is that the film captures the essence of the Hollywood Musical at its prime, with two of its top stars in great form. I only wish they had managed to convince the studio to come up with the money to include Ginger Rogers and Rita Hayworth as the two female leads as Sandrich had hoped.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     There is no indication during the credits, but I think that the film has undergone a restoration. It looks too good to be 60 years old, unless there was a very good print lying around at the studio ready to be used on this DVD.

    The aspect ratio of the presentation is 1.33:1, full frame, not 16x9 enhanced, which is close to the original 1.37:1 theatrical presentation ratio. Strangely, the opening and closing credits show some minor windowboxing.

    The transfer is pleasantly sharp for most of the film; it does exhibit a little of the soft focus which often shows up on older prints, but this is not significant for the most part (see 28:04 for one instance). Shadow detail is excellent for much of the film, with an occasional minor lapse (71:53 for one). There is little low level noise so that the overall clarity of the film is quite acceptable.

    This is a Black & White presentation which features a nice tonal representation throughout. I was impressed by the way that Sandrich used both the frame and the depth of the Black & White picture to present the musical numbers.

    The level of physical damage on the print is something of a contradiction. Artefacts show up during the whole film, yet they are generally so small that you will be left with the impression of having watched a film in excellent condition for its age. There is some minor telecine wobble in the opening credits, but little aliasing (which shows some care taken in the mastering, as aliasing can really show up in a poor Black & White transfer). As I mentioned film artefacts are frequent (see 9:58 and 56:07 for a few examples) but seem to have had the worst removed judging by the age of the film.

    There are no subtitles, and there is no layer change (unless I missed it during a fade).

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The audio presentation is unremarkable but sufficient to ensure that the music in the film comes across reasonably well.

    There are two audio tracks on the DVD. The film is presented with an English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono track and there is also a Dolby Digital 2.0 track for the audio commentary. I listened to both in full.

    The dialogue is clear at all times. Audio sync is generally good, with the occasional lapse during musical numbers which were recorded first and then lip-synced during filming. There is also some occasional minor variation in volume, the most noticeable one being a drop in volume around the 38:00 mark.

    The music is really the reason for the film, and Irving Berlin provided both the songs and the incidental music. He was so protective over their presentation that he would not allow any other music to be heard in the production. As noted in the audio commentary, this even led to Auld Lang Syne being omitted from the New Year's Eve sequence. It also leads to one interesting continuity error, where a song supposedly written mid-way through the film is used as background music earlier in the film. The music is generally of a very high quality, and features a number of hugely popular songs (White Christmas starts at 25:50, and Easter Parade at 64:10).

    Being a mono soundtrack there is no surround presence. The dialogue sits nicely across the centre of the screen, and the music sounds reasonably full. The subwoofer is limited to some low-end bass in musical numbers (but what else would it be used for in this sort of film? - there are no explosions on offer here).

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    For a pleasant change we have an excellent set of Extras on offer here, which is surprising given the age of the main feature. The DVD is presented as a "Silver Anniversary Edition" and lives up to its billing as something special. It is apparent that this disc was a labour of love for the DVD producer, film historian Ken Barnes, who had worked as a record producer with Crosby and Astaire during the 1970s.

Menu

    The menu is animated with audio. You can choose to Play the Movie, go to Scene Access (24 choices) or to the Special Features.

Audio Commentary

    As the director died tragically young of a heart attack in 1945, Ken Barnes provides the commentary for the film (he also produced the DVD and the two Featurettes on the disc). On occasion he also makes use of archival audio from Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire and Crosby's musical conductor John Trotter. For once this archival footage actually relates directly to the film, both the songs and the film itself proving popular enough that radio interviewers often asked the two leads about their experiences during production.

    Unfortunately, Barnes is a rather dry speaker; while many of his comments are interesting, their delivery is not. He also strays off topic quite often, detailing incidents in the lives of the stars unrelated to the content of the film or the scene being displayed in the background. Having said that, if you are a fan of the two stars, or of Hollywood musicals, then there is a lot of interesting information on offer here. As Barnes says, "I do love this movie". Ditto.

Feature: A Couple of Song & Dance Men

    I called this a featurette earlier. Well, it runs for 44:33 which means I should probably drop the 'tte' bit. It is based around Ken Barnes interviewing Astaire's daughter Ava Astaire McKenzie. I found Ava to be almost as dry as Barnes, and by its nature there is a fair degree of personal history here, but this might interest some viewers (my wife liked it). Of more interest to me was the fairly good potted career history of Astaire and Crosby, which includes some great footage from their early film appearances. This is a pretty solid and valuable extra.

Featurette: All-Singing All-Dancing

    This one is an informative look at one musical number showing how the different elements were created and combined to produce the finished product. Running for 7:13 it is a bit of an oddity as there is no explanation of why it was chosen, as there is little else on the disc outlining production techniques. Still, since I usually spend my time bemoaning the lack of extras accompanying old films on DVD, I won't begrudge this one no matter how isolated it looks.

Theatrical Trailer

    In very poor condition, this one is okay for its first minute, until the voice-over kicks in. It runs for 2:13.

Production Notes

    Once again this disc surprises. The Production Notes are 11 factual pages, accompanied by some photos, full of interesting tidbits (including the fact that the chain of hotels with the same name as the film took their name from the movie). I was describing my experience watching this disc in an e-mail to a friend in the USA, who was initially confused as she only knew the name from the hotels.

Biographies

    Once again more detailed than most, we have up to 13 pages of information on eight of the cast and crew. Good value.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This DVD has been produced in the UK. The Region 4 and the Region 2 versions appear identical. As far as I can establish the film is only available in Region 1 as part of a double feature with Crosby's Oscar winning role in the film Going My Way. If you just want this film and its accompanying extras (absent from the Region 1 version) then the Region 4 is the way to go (poor pun intended).

Summary

    Presented under the heading of the "Silver Anniversary Edition", this DVD has been nicely put together by film historian Ken Barnes. The picture is better than you would expect for its age (while still exhibiting some damage) and the sound is adequate. The nice extras package is what really makes an impact (oh yes, there's also the small matter of a highly enjoyable film musical starring Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire). Did I mention it includes the first appearance of the best selling song of all time? If you like either of the two leads, add another half-star to my rating (or one star if you like both the leads and that song).

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Tony Robert Davison (read my bio)
Monday, January 05, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba SD-K350, using Component output
DisplaySONY VPL-HS10 LCD projector, ABI 280cm 16x9 screen. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderKenwood. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationKenwood
SpeakersKenwood

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