On Jeopardy! tonight, Alex Trebeck asked a question about the origins of the Holiday Inn hotel chain. I should have known this: the name Holiday Inn was given to the original hotel by founder Kemmons Wilson’s architect, Eddie Bluestein, as a joke, in reference to the musical film Holiday Inn (1942), starring Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire. I find it hard to imagine the quaint New England Inn (open only on holidays) in the film inspiring the modern hotel chain.
The first Holiday Inn opened in Memphis in August 1952 as Holiday Inn Hotel Courts. The motel was demolished in the early 1990s, but there is a plaque commemorating the site. The brand saw its heyday in the 1960’s and 70’s and fell out of popularity with the explosive growth of new hotel chains in the 1980’s. The brand name Holiday Inn is now owned by IHG, the largest hotel group in the world, which in turn licenses the name to franchisees and third parties who operate hotels under management agreements.
The successful movie starring, Holiday Inn is one of the musical staples of the Christmas season. The 1942 movie launched Irving Berlin’s song, “White Christmas,” which won an Oscar. In my opinion, not too many singers have performed this song equal to Crosby’s delivery. In the film, the Bing Crosby character retires from showbiz to open a rural inn, and the plot revolves around the two men and the women they love. The internet movie review site, Rotten Tomatoes, calls the plot “barely logical,” but it’s the musical numbers that keep viewers coming back. I don’t know why, maybe it’s the canning experiences I have had, but I love the scene where Jim Hardy (Bing Crosby) gifts his friends the fruits of his farming labors, peach preserves, and the jars explode.