Those who prefer a storyline delivered through a series of straightforward dialogue sequences and not with lavish song and dance numbers should look away now.

On the other hand, those who find themselves teary eyed and grinning at the sight of sequins and tap shoes should start paying attention.

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For the latter party, this special edition feature of the 1942 musical, Holiday Inn, needs only one question: what's not to like?

Bing Crosby, allegedly the biggest selling recording artist in the world at the time, is on spectacular form, crooning his way through classics like White Christmas and Easter Parade, while Fred Astaire tap-tap-taps his path through some brilliantly memorable dance routines.

Jim Hardy (Crosby) is a singer and dancer who decides to quit the world of showbusiness in favour of a simpler, rural life on a farm in Connecticut. His downsizing dream starts off as a way of avoiding the high pressure and long hours of the New York music industry, but Jim soon finds he needs the peace and quiet of the country to get over a broken heart when his fiancée leaves him. The reason for her departure? She ran off with another man on Christmas Eve. The other man? None other than Ted Hanover (Astaire), Jim's best friend.

Being a musical, especially one set in Forties America, Jim remains remarkably chipper about the whole affair, taking it very sportingly on the chin and getting on with his life. He throws himself into his new business venture, turning his country farm into a rural retreat that only opens during the holidays.

He plans on giving an all-singing, all-dancing evening's entertainment, for 15 exclusive nights of the year only. It is a huge success and the audience - both onscreen and at home - is invited to work their way through the year, via various national celebrations - Lincoln Day, Thanksgiving, Easter, Independence Day, etc. All would be rosy in Jim's garden were it not for his wily friend, Ted, who crops up at every special occasion in the calendar year to try and poach Jim's new leading lady and love interest, Linda.

The scenes where Bing and Fred smile sweetly at one another, giving plenty of "best pal" slaps on the back, despite obviously wanting to rip each others tiny Brylcreemed head off, are superb. What's more, these scenes give the plot a darker edge and humour that isn't often seen in the musical genre of that period.

The song and dance routines are, predictably, absolutely mesmerising. Bing's version of White Christmas - better known, perhaps, from the later film, Blue Skies, also starring Fred Astaire, where Bing sings it to the US troops - is really a must-see for anyone in the run-up to Christmas holidays. With snow falling outside, as a woolly-jumpered Bing draws up to the fire with his pipe and begins to serenade Linda with his silky message of seasonal goodwill, it would melt all but the biggest of Scrooges' hearts.

As for Fred, his Fourth of July dance, featuring two pocketfuls of firecrackers thrown down in time with the music, is just astounding. He is as skilful and graceful as ever, on top form here with some gravity-defying moves. Even the drunken dance routine, where Ted is supposed to have stopped off for a drink beforehand ("A Scotch and soda - one bottle of each") is a dazzling display of control and rythmn that would steal the show completely, if it weren't for the lovely Marjorie Reynolds trying admirably to follow his wobbly lead.

Heart warming stuff from the days when you could sing and dance your way into a gal's heart.

Reviewed on: 25 Nov 2003
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Holiday Inn packshot
Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire play rivals in love and try to outsing and outdance one another.
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Director: Mark Sandrich

Writer: Claude Binyon, with songs by Irving Berlin

Starring: Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire, Marjorie Reynolds, Virginia Dale, Walter Abel, Louise Beavers

Year: 1942

Runtime: 100 minutes

BBFC: U - Universal

Country: US


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