Holiday Inn (Paramount). This first cinema conjunction of Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire is a box-office bargainan effervescent musical, spiced with 13 pleasant Irving Berlin melodies. It is whipped into expert froth by Producer-Director Mark Sandrich, maker of most of the Astaire-Rogers musicals.
Few cinemactors appear to take more pains than Hoofer Astaire, less pains than Crooner Crosby. Result: Crosby's easy, casual banter is just the right foil for Astaire's precision acrobatics, his wry, offbeat humor.
Five years ago Holiday Inn was a musical note in Songsmith Berlin's melodious mind. He wanted to drape a Broadway show around a series of songs for U.S. national holidays. Holiday Inn provided him with the right framework. According to its episodic plot, Singer Crosby turns his rural retreat into a roadhouse on every holiday in order to make country life pay, and to give himself and Fred Astaire a chance to sing and dance.
Crosby needles Astaire ("That'll be easy, like peeling a turtle"), makes sage love to the heroine (Marjorie Reynolds), ad libs at will, takes time out to kid one of his own recordings ("Sing it, sing it pretty!"). Two of the picture's best new songs (Berlin threw in Easter Parade and Lazy for good measure) are his: Abraham, a solid swing spiritual for Lincoln's birthday, and Let's Start the New Year Right, which does.
Perfectionist Astaire, world's No. 1 tap dancer, shows no signs of slowing down. Each of his routines has a new and different sparkle. One, performed while tipsy, is a deft parody of jitterbuggery. Another, a 4th of July number done to the accompaniment of torpedoes and firecrackers, is his favorite staccato buck & wing, with some fresh frills. A dazzler for any audience, it was a headache for studio technicians. Astaire could explode his own torpedoes, but the firecrackers had to pop in time with his fidgety feet. Technicians built an organ that would set off the crackers electrically, so that the organist could play the explosions at the right spots in the score.
For Marjorie Reynolds Holiday Inn is a plugger's triumph. Before dancing with Astaire, singing with Crosby, she made about 70 picturesfrom a moppet role (age six) in Scaramouche to college musicals, Boris Karloff thrillers, scores of Monogram and Universal Westerns and cliffhangers. Thrown in as a last-minute stopgap for a heroineless Holiday Inn, she recalled enough of her former ballet training, enough of her singing voice to get by. Blonde Miss Reynolds (real name: Marjorie Goodspeed) adds a Wild-West charm to the picture.
Moscow Strikes Back (Artkino). In World War II the Nazis have won most of the land battles and taken all the best pictures of them. Their newsreels, cautiously edited for foreign consumption, have daintily omitted the detailed carnage of war, presenting it as a streamlined holocaust in which the high-stepping Nazi backs make all the touchdowns. Moscow Strikes Back has about everything the Nazi films have hadplus the carnage.