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UNIVERSAL

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Going My Way
Leo McCarey

Holiday Inn
Mark Sandrich

Cast:
Going My Way
Bing Crosby, Barry Fitzgerald, Frank McHugh, James Brown, Gene Lockhart, Jean Heather

Holiday Inn
Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire, Marjorie Reynolds, Virginia Dale, Walter Abel, Louise Beavers

Writing Credits:
Going My Way
Leo McCarey (story), Frank Butler, Frank Cavett

Holiday Inn
Irving Berlin (idea), Elmer Rice (adaptation), Claude Binyon

Synopsis:
Going My Way
Youthful Father Chuck O'Malley (Bing Crosby) led a colorful life of sports, song, and romance before joining the Roman Catholic clergy, but his level gaze and twinkling eyes make it clear that he knows he made the right choice. After joining a parish, O'Malley's worldly knowledge helps him connect with a gang of kids looking for direction and handle the business details of the church-building fund, winning over his aging, conventional superior (Barry Fitzgerald). Songs such as "Swinging on a Star" sparkle, and both Crosby and Fitzgerald do a fine job tugging at the heartstrings in a gentle, irresistible way that will make viewers return to this lovely film again and again.

Holiday Inn
Two retiring show people start up a New England country inn with the unique and, one would think, self-defeating idea of being open only on national holidays; however, in this delightful fluff-fest, they achieve instantaneous success. Conflicts arise when they fall for the same woman, and sparks fly - as do their feet - in a variety of inventive, holiday themed song-and-dance productions. Perhaps the best film ever inspired by a song. Irving Berlin's "White Christmas" was introduced in this film.

MPAA:
Rated NR

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Fullscreen 1.33:1
Audio:
English Monaural
Subtitles:
English
French
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime:
126 min. (Going My Way)
101 min. (Holiday Inn)
Price: $29.98
Release Date: 11/9/1999

Bonus:
• Production Notes
• Cast and Filmmakers Biographies
• Trailers


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EQUIPMENT
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RELATED REVIEWS


Going My Way (1944) / Holiday Inn (1942)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 9, 2007)

GOING MY WAY:

As I perused the list of Best Picture winning films, I was surprised to find Going My Way because it never seemed like an "Oscar"-friendly product to me. Actually, scratch that thought to a degree, as there's nothing about the movie itself that doesn't fit in with other BP winners of the era. It's a heart-warming feel-good film not dissimilar to those produced by Frank Capra, and it fits in well with such product.

I guess the reason I was surprised to find Way among the victors' list stems from the starring presence of Bing Crosby. I never thought of him as someone who would appear in an Oscar-winning film. Granted, the Academy came to love musicals in the Fifties and Sixties, but not the kind made by Crosby, which were small and innocuous; Oscar favored splashy daring productions.

Yes, I do associate Crosby with musicals, even though he made many films that didn't fit that format. Way and DVD-mate Holiday Inn kind of straddle the boundaries of the two worlds. On one hand, both feature quite a lot of songs being sung, but on the other, neither does so in the classic musical manner. In the latter, tunes are presented as a natural outgrowth of the moment and are done in an abstract way since we're not supposed to actually believe that these actions occur in real life.

The two Crosby films use music in a more conventional manner; all of the songs are offered as parts of performances, generally on stage. There's never the fantasy element inherent in most musicals. As such, although the movies contain lots of song performances, I don't really consider them musicals.

As for the story, Way falls into a long line of pictures in which a young hipster comes into a situation with new methods and faces opposition from more traditional fogies. Films like To Sir, With Love use this method. It's a cheap device to draw lines quickly.

Way complicates the situation in that it uses characters in atypical roles. After all, how often do we see priests cast as hip and progressive? That's exactly what we find in the persona of Father Chuck (Crosby), a new-comer who's been transferred from St. Louis to the New York parish of crusty old Father Fitzgibbon (Barry Fitzgerald). Although Chuck's there to run the joint - seems that Fitz can't turn a profit - he's too nice a guy to let the old fella in on the secret, so he gently nudges the situation along to his liking and uses his new-fangled ideas to win over parishioners, ne'er-do-well local kids and Fitzy alike. Happy happy, joy joy!

Despite a storyline that must have seemed tired even back then, Way manages to offer some schmaltzy charm. Crosby certainly didn't deserve an Oscar for his work here but he seems reasonably charming and sincere as Chuck and he adds a certain luster to the part that makes it entertaining. Bizarrely, a technicality allowed Fitzgerald to be nominated as both Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor. He won the latter and the loophole was closed, presumably. In any case, Fitzgerald is fairly amusing and compelling in the role, though he doesn't get much with which to work.

Frankly, that statement goes for the whole movie. Way must be one of the least substantial and most piffling Best Picture winners ever. It's such a slight little film I felt a small breeze would knock it over. It also involved some very unnecessary subplots. I won't discuss one, because it could be regarded as a spoiler - although it ends up as almost meaningless - but the other offers a romance that seems tacked on and purposeless. Actually, I think I do understand why it exists. The filmmakers wanted to include some light romance, but leads who are priests restrict those options, so the movie used very tangential characters in that regard instead.

It doesn't really work, as the romantic subplot has nothing to do with the story and it doesn't add to the movie in any way. Nor does the more tragic issue that I won't specifically discuss; it seems to contribute drama to the plot, but in actuality it offers nothing more than a momentary diversion that becomes useless in the long run.

No doubt about it - Going My Way is a flawed movie, and one that didn't deserve an Oscar. However, I found it to be mildly entertaining despite the hokey sentimentality and contrived plot devices. Way may be cheese, but it's a moderately tasty variety.

Quirky footnote: in the film, Father Chuck is portrayed as a big fan of the St. Louis Browns baseball team. He also mentions that he once sang with a group that called themselves the Orioles. Ten years after this movie appeared, the Browns left St. Louis, came to Baltimore and called themselves the Orioles! And now you know... the rest of the story!


The DVD Grades: Picture C+/ Audio C+/ Bonus D

Going My Way appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. A mix of issues made this a decent but inconsistent transfer.

For the most part, sharpness seemed good, though concerns appeared there. I noticed some edge enhancement, and that meant shots occasionally looked somewhat iffy. The movie also took on an odd “digital” appearance that meant backgrounds sometimes seemed jittery. Some mild moiré effects appear, and I also witnessed a few jagged edges, but these concerns were minor.

Source flaws caused a smattering of distractions. The movie offered light grain throughout the film, and mild speckles and grit also appeared along with some scratches and nicks. Some scenes were worse than others; the part in which Carol first sings showed many marks, whereas many shots appeared essentially free from flaws.

Black levels appeared nicely deep and rich, and the picture generally displayed strong contrast, though a few scenes displayed some slightly overly-bright elements. Shadow detail looked clear and lacked excessive heaviness. Going My Way could benefit from extra work, but I still thought it provided a generally satisfactory picture.

The film's monaural soundtrack also seems decent but unspectacular. Dialogue worked fine. The lines seemed surprisingly natural and I had no problems related to intelligibility. Effects were acceptably crisp, though they seemed thin.

Most of the music was slightly brittle but it generally sounded smooth and clear, with the notable exception of some of the louder singing scenes. Those could appear somewhat shrill, especially during the opera segment. The music didn't become distorted per se, but it simply sounded harsher than it should. I also noticed a mild layer of background noise throughout the movie. Ultimately, Way offers an acceptably clear but nonetheless mildly flawed soundtrack.

The DVD features a few supplemental features. We get some nice text production notes about the film that provide a few interesting details about its creation. We also discover pretty good biographies for nine of the actors plus director McCarey and a trailer from a post-Oscar re-release of the film.


HOLIDAY INN:

When I watched Going My Way on this DVD, it marked my first viewing of the film. I can't say the same about disc-mate Holiday Inn, as this 1942 classic has long been a Christmas-time favorite of mine.

The film provides the first of only two occasions on which Crosby and Fred Astaire would work together, with 1946's Blue Skies being the final instance. I never saw the second movie but doubt it lives up to this one.

Inn tells the story of two entertainers, singer/dancer Jim Hardy (mostly singer Crosby) and dancer/singer Ted Hanover (mostly dancer Astaire). At the start of the film, those two and dancer/singer (but mainly dancer) Lila Dixon (Virginia Dale) do an act together, but this will soon end since Jim and Lila plan to marry and retire to farm life.

Or maybe not. It turns out that Ted's been wooing Lila on the side, and they've decided to stick together as a couple. Once the bomb drops on sad-sack Jim, he heads off to his estate alone and spends some time as the gentleman farmer.

Eventually he gets an idea for a new business: the Holiday Inn. This establishment will put on shows each of the dozen or so holidays each year. While scouting for talent, Jim meets Linda Mason (Marjorie Reynolds) and she joins him for the performances. Inevitably, love ensues, and so do the old competitive challenges once Ted loses Lila and meets Linda.

Confused yet? It's actually all quite simple, though it sounds like a convoluted soap opera. The only important concerns stem from the Jim/Lila/Ted triangle, and those are easy to follow.

In the end, it's all almost irrelevant, since the plot exists just to pursue a basic love story and also to toss in some songs. As a business proposition, the Holiday Inn sounds like a loser - no way they make enough money to support the project based on so few shows a year, especially since the performances are elaborate and look expensive - but it gives the filmmakers an excuse to stage said complicated numbers.

Though I don't care for this kind of material in general, the showtunes work fairly well here. They're good enough that even a musical-hater like myself got a kick out of some of them. Inn is the answer to one of the most common movie trivia questions; the song "White Christmas" debuted here, not in the film White Christmas as so many assume.

Less well known is the fact that "Easter Parade" - another tune that inspired a movie - also made its initial appearance in Inn. Actually, those two famous songs offer some of the least interesting production moments in the film, though "White Christmas" is used for good emotional effect. Probably the best number is the one for the Fourth of July, which features Astaire's "improvised" firecracker dance. It's inspired stuff and remains very entertaining.

That statement applies to the film as a whole. It's a charming tale that benefits mightily from the chemistry between the two stars. They're both likable but entirely believable as friendly rivals, and their interactions are memorable. The men make their plain characters more interesting and lively than the roles deserved.

Inn contributes a surprising amount of solid humor as well. Most modern movies don't make me laugh, and the giggles come even more infrequently in romantic films like this. However, Inn gets in some good moments, such as Astaire's attempt to graciously accept Crosby's gift of homemade preserves ("Why they're great on... or even alone"). It's not a laugh-riot, but it offers enough funny material to sustain my attention and interest.

The only genuinely negative aspect of the film stems from differences in cultural sensitivity between 1942 and today. Let's just say the racial stereotypes in Inn are pretty thick. Not only does Jim have a sassy black "mammy" named Mamie who runs his kitchen, but the musical number for Lincoln's Birthday features all the white performers heavily done up in black-face make-up!

This effect is outdone only by the snippet in which - incongruously, since she's not part of the production - Mamie sings the following line to her children: "When black folks lived in slavery/Who was that set the darky free?" Oh, my! However, I won't come down too hard on the movie because of the differences in the culture; believe it or not, I'll bet this kind of material was actually regarded as progressive at the time. Hey, at least Inn presents the freeing of slaves as a positive, unlike Gone With the Wind, which so actively mourns the death of the antebellum South and all its "quaint" customs.

Well, despite those dated aspects, Holiday Inn remains a winning film, mainly due to charming performances from its leads. The movie provides a lot of good comedy, romance and songs, and it works well enough to tame even a musical-hating beast like myself. Plus, since it includes so many different holidays, it's the one "Christmas movie" you can watch anytime and not feel like an idiot!


The DVD Grades: Picture C/ Audio C+/ Bonus D

Holiday Inn appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The movie presented decent visuals but they never excelled.

Sharpness was a consistent area of minor concern. Much of the movie seemed adequately well-defined, but quite a lot of the film came across as soft, flat and hazy. It never looked terribly murky, but it lacked great clarity. A few moiré effects appear, but jagged edges seemed absent, and I noticed only mild edge enhancement.

Most print flaws actually were pretty insubstantial for such an old title. I saw a few scratches and a little speckling but no tears, hairs, or other major concerns. Grain seemed consistent but not terribly heavy.

Black levels appeared adequately dark but contrast seemed weak. The film displayed an excessively gray look and lacked bright, clean whites. Shadow detail was acceptable but nothing special, also a victim of the movie's generally muddy tone. Inn stayed watchable throughout the film, but the softness and muddiness made it less satisfying than it could have been.

Though not exceptional, I felt a little more pleased with the movie's monaural soundtrack. Dialogue was perfectly acceptable for material of this vintage. Though the lines never seemed particularly natural, they were reasonably concise, and they didn’t sound edgy. Effects were thin and slightly shrill at times, although some surprising exceptions existed; the firecrackers in the Fourth of July scene appeared pretty clear and accurate.

Music sounded listenable but could be a bit harsh and discordant. The mix presented a little light popping in the background. Overall, the audio was satisfactory based on its age but no better than that.

As with Going My Way, Holiday Inn features few supplements, but what we get is solid. I really enjoyed this film's text production notes; in only a few screens they added a lot to my knowledge of the movie. Coolest tidbit: I had no idea that Holiday Inn hotels owe their existence to this picture!

We also find pretty decent biographies for five of the actors plus director Sandridge. These are not incredibly extensive but they provide nice overviews of these folks' careers. (The listing for Crosby offers exactly the same details as his bio with Way.) Finally, a re-release trailer for Inn finishes this disc.

This DVD offers one very good movie - Holiday Inn - and one decent film - Going My Way. Oddly, the one that won Best Picture is clearly inferior, but I enjoyed both of them. Both present acceptable but unspectacular picture and audio, and both are skimpy with supplements.

Despite less-than-impressive quality, this DVD makes for a winning package; it includes two solid movies for a list price of only $29.95. Fans of these kinds of films will be happy to own it, and even if you're really partial to just one of them, it still isn't a bad buy.

To rate this film visit the Cinema Classics review of GOING MY WAY / HOLIDAY INN

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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main