Screen Team Edition: Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire

And we’re back, again to talk about another screen team: Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire. Now, as far as I know, they were good friends, but I would be hard-pressed to come up with much information about their friendship prior to their first film together, the 1942 classic Holiday Inn, although I get the impression they were friends before they made that movie. Admittedly, they certainly seem to be an odd pairing, particularly behind the scenes, as Fred Astaire seemed to be a bit of a perfectionist, particularly with his dancing, meanwhile, Bing wasn’t as big into rehearsing (didn’t really hurt his acting or singing, but it is VERY obvious when it comes to his dancing ability, or lack thereof). Still, they did make for a good pair through at least two movies, the aforementioned Holiday Inn and the 1946 movie Blue Skies (and in some respects, one could argue this was a three-man team, as both of the movies had music supplied by composer Irving Berlin).

In Holiday Inn, Bing plays Jim Hardy and Fred plays Ted Hanover, two men working together onstage with Lila Dixon (Virginia Dale), with whom they are both in love with. Jim decides to leave the act and live on a farm, believing it to be an easier life (and oh, how wrong he was). After a year, he decides to turn the farm into an inn that is “open holidays only.” Linda Mason (Marjorie Reynolds), who wants to break into show business, is sent there to audition, and she gets the job. When the inn opens New Year’s Eve, Ted comes in, drunk, after Lila left him for a millionaire. He ends up dancing with Linda, but then passes out. In the morning, he remembers dancing with a new partner, but can’t remember what she looked like (although he believes he is in love with her). He figures she will be back at the inn, and on Valentine’s Day, is proven right. She wants to be his partner, but doesn’t want to leave the inn. She ends up leaving the inn when Jim tries to prevent her having the choice to go to Hollywood. The question remains: where will she stay? Hollywood or Holiday Inn? (Length: one hour, forty minutes)

In Blue Skies, Fred Astaire plays Jed Potter, a dancer as part of a group that includes Mary O’Hara (Joan Caulfield). He tries to get her join a new show in New York instead of going on the road with the one they were doing. She refuses, until he takes her out to a nightclub owned by his friend Johnny Adams (Bing Crosby), with whom she immediately falls in love. While he likes her, he doesn’t quite share her interest in marriage, as he has a habit of buying and selling his nightclubs. After a while, they do get married, with him “promising” to stop buying/selling new nightclubs, although it doesn’t stop, even after they have a child. Meanwhile, Jed loves her from afar, although she never fully returns his affection. (Length: one hour, forty-three minutes)

Since I will have (at some point) individual reviews for both of these movies, my purpose here is to talk about them as a team. In some respects, they operate together similar to how Bing worked with Bob Hope, as they both fell in love with the leading lady in both movies, although they don’t rely as strongly on insults. One thing common to both movies is that they have at least one song that emphasizes their singing/dancing strengths. In Holiday Inn, it is “I’ll Capture Your Heart Singing,” where, in a performance, they argue whose regular method is more appealing to the ladies: singing or dancing. They also have “Be Careful, It’s My Heart,” with Bing singing while Fred dances with leading lady Marjorie Reynolds, and “I Can’t Tell A Lie,” with Fred dancing again with Marjorie Reynolds while Bing “leads the band” (even trying to change music styles to throw off Fred and Marjorie, to humorous effect). In Blue Skies, their main routine together is “A Couple Of Song And Dance Men,” which was a comedy routine, showing how much Bing didn’t like to rehearse, as we see Fred dancing circles around him, while following up with little comedy bits to end the routine.

Sadly, these ended up being the only two movies that Bing and Fred made together (well, unless you want to count them both appearing as hosts, but not onscreen at the same time, in That’s Entertainment). I know that Fred was originally slated to appear in the 1954 White Christmas, but he didn’t do it because he thought he was getting too old for that type of role (and I suspect the fact that his wife was sick and dying from lung cancer didn’t help). However, they did end up doing at least one TV special together (possibly more, I’m not really sure). Still, they are a wonderful team to watch, and I would recommend either of their movies together!

Holiday Inn

My Rating: 8/10

Blue Skies

My Rating: 10/10

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