Richard Lutz plunges into TV movieland to dredge up a gem or two.
That’s right, there’s Old Bing above schmoozing his heart out and crooning White Christmas back in 1942. The movie was Holiday Inn (Friday, 16.45, Film4) and you can record and dump it somewhere for the Yuletide/New Year twilight zone when things get a little dull and bloated. Or both.
The negligible plot: Bingo and Fred Astaire vie for the same up and coming performer (Marjorie Reynolds) in the country hideaway, The Holiday Inn. There’s songs a-plenty, including Irving Berlin’s White Crimbo which stayed as the best-selling single for a mere 55 years until Elton John blew it away with the Princess Di 1997 remake of Candle in the Wind.
The movie was such a wartime hit that someone went and nicked its name and slapped it all over his burgeoning motel chain – that’s correct, Holiday Inns are named after the Bing/Fred classic. There you go, one for quiz night in your local, if it exists any more and hasn’t been replaced by a TexMex/Thai/Samoan drive-through.
Bing went on to sleepwalk through a remake twelve years later called, surprisingly, White Christmas. Sharing screentime were Danny Kaye (in the Fred role) and Rosemary Clooney. You know Rosemary?…. She’s George’s auntie and she was quite the success back in the day.
For you trivia nuts, the cast of Holiday Inn also included Irving Bacon (see old codger above). He plays Gus the handyman. Irving who? Well, he usually was paid to play the postman, the incompetent sheriff and the soda jerks in hundreds of films.
And, I kid you not, he is also on the crystal flatscreen this week in a long-forgotten horse opera called Run for Cover (Wednesday,12.45, Film4). Here he plays Scottie, another micro-character in a cast that includes James Cagney as a cowpoke renegade turned sheriff who is partnered up with a young John Derek, later to become more famous as Bo Derek’s hubby.
What makes this little cowboy movie prick up an ear or two is that it’s directed by iconoclast Nicholas Ray. Later that year he went on to make Rebel Without a Cause.
Of Run for Cover, screenwriter Harriet Frank shrugged it off: “We weren’t picky in those days.” She became pickier later with successful movies starring the likes of Steve McQueen, Jane Fonda and Paui Newman.