A Very White Christmas in Atlanta: The Plaza Lets It Snow with Two Bing Crosby/Irving Berlin Christmas Classics

Posted on: Dec 20th, 2013 By:

HOLIDAY INN (1942); Dir. Mark Sandrich; Starring Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire and Marjorie Reynolds; Friday, Dec. 20 – Wednesday, Dec 25 (visit the Plaza Theatre website for times and ticket prices); Plaza Theatre; Trailer here.

WHITE CHRISTMAS (1954); Dir. Michael Curtiz; Starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen; Wednesday, Dec 25 – Tuesday, Dec 31 , in repertory with MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET (1947) (visit the Plaza Theatre website for times and ticket prices); Plaza Theatre; Trailer here.

By Aleck Bennett
Contributing Writer

How much Bing is too much Bing? Trick question. There can’t be enough Bing this time of year. So when the Plaza Theatre offers up Der Bingle in HOLIDAY INN and WHITE CHRISTMAS—teamed with stars like Fred Astaire, Rosemary Clooney, Vera-Ellen, Danny Kaye and Marjorie Reynolds and built around numbers by the legendary Irving Berlin—well, it’s a Christmas present for every classic Hollywood musical lover.

In 1940, songwriter Irving Berlin came to Paramount Pictures with an idea he’d first toyed with after writing the song “Easter Parade” in 1932: a film set at an inn open only on holidays, featuring a series of different holiday-themed musical numbers. Fred Astaire and Bing Crosby—both riding high on waves of popularity—were quickly attached to the project, and filming began on November 1941. However, despite its reputation (and that the film begins and ends during the holidays), the film isn’t really a Christmas film at all. It’s the tale of a love triangle between Jim Hardy (Bing Crosby, as the retired stage performer who runs Holiday Inn), Ted Hanover (Fred Astaire, as Jim’s caddish former performing partner on a path set for stardom) and Linda Mason (Marjorie Reynolds, as the inn’s featured performer and Jim’s love interest, who is tempted by the future of fame and fortune promised by Ted).

Furthermore, while the song “White Christmas” is featured three times (once in the opening credits, twice in the film itself), its appearances are dictated more by the dramatic developments of the plot than to evoke memories of Christmases past or holidays longed for in the future. In fact, the song was unpopular at first (being released in the middle of summer might have had something to do with that) and was overshadowed by another song from HOLIDAY INN. “Be Careful, It’s My Heart.” Crosby himself was initially indifferent to the song, simply saying “I don’t think we have any problems with that one” when first hearing it. (Irving Berlin, on the other hand, was more enthusiastic, calling out to his secretary “Grab your pen and take down this song. I just wrote the best song I’ve ever written—heck, I just wrote the best song that anybody’s ever written!”)

By the end of October, things had changed. The song skyrocketed to the top of the “Your Hit Parade” chart where it sat until the new year dawned. It also nabbed the “Best Song” Oscar in the 1942 Academy Awards. To date, it is the best-selling single of all time. (There’s some dispute over that, however: because standard record charts weren’t in existence when Crosby’s single was released, there’s a lack of hard info on just how many copies were sold. As a result, some have claimed that Elton John’s “Candle in the Wind 1997” holds that title at 33 million copies sold. However, Guinness World Records—after extensive examination—concluded that the single had sold 50 million copies as of 2007, thus beating out Elton.)

As a result, the film has become somewhat pigeon-holed as a Christmas staple, even though little of the film takes place during that holiday (the Fourth of July seems to take a much more prominent role, due to the bombing of Pearl Harbor plunging the country into war during the filming). What the film lacks in explicit Christmas content, though, it more than makes up in the fantastic performances of Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire. Berlin’s music is tailor-made to be sung with the easy-going elegance of the film’s stars, and Astaire is at the top of his game during the film’s dance sequences. Marjorie Reynolds is a standout dancer and utterly convincing as the aspiring performer Linda (though her singing was dubbed by Martha Mears). The film is crisply directed with a sure hand by Mark Sandrich, a veteran of numerous Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers musicals, and his camera showcases the musical performances beautifully.

Because the film was such a success, and because people just kept buying that Bing single, Paramount decided to return to the well again 12 years later with the film WHITE CHRISTMAS. It was intended to be the third Crosby/Astaire/Berlin feature (after 1946’s BLUE SKIES), but Astaire passed on the script. Crosby did, too, deciding to spend time at home after the death of his wife. When Bing returned to the project, finding a co-star proved problematic. Donald O’Connor was slated to take Astaire’s role, but suffered an injury prior to filming, so Danny Kaye stepped in at the last minute.

Determined to take full advantage of “White Christmas”’s perennial popularity, Paramount decided that the entire film should take place at the holidays. This time, the plot revolves around two ex-Army men who have made it big in show biz after WWII (Crosby and Kaye). They find themselves tangled up in a romance with two aspiring singer/dancers (Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen) and a deal to perform a new show at a ski resort run by their former commander over Christmas. However, when the winter proves unusually warm and no snow is due on the forecast, the resort’s future is in jeopardy and the team step in to try to save the day.

Keeping in line with the song’s continued success, the film was the top moneymaker of 1954, bringing in almost twice as much as its closest competitor, THE CAINE MUTINY. And why not? It’s hard to go wrong with such an appealing cast and such a great set of Irving Berlin tunes. However, I feel it lacks the dramatic edge of HOLIDAY INN, and while it may be a more traditional Christmas movie, it errs on the side of schmaltz a little too often for my taste. Danny Kaye makes for a particularly saccharine replacement for Astaire, replacing Astaire’s lean elegance for a cloying sweetness.

But on the plus side, Crosby’s as on as he ever was (though he’s a bit long in the tooth by this point to be the love interest of Rosemary Clooney, some 25 years his junior), and Clooney and Vera-Ellen are both incredibly engaging. Director Michael Curtiz brings his trademark flair for inventive camera set-ups and capturing the emotion of a scene to the proceedings and makes the film—Paramount’s first shot in the widescreen VistaVision process—a visual delight. My small criticisms aside, the film is undoubtedly worthy of inclusion in the pantheon of great Hollywood musicals, and is a bona fide Christmas classic.

With the holidays as hectic as they are, it’s important to take the time to cool down. And here’s a perfect excuse to do just that. Simply sit back at the Plaza and let the glorious tunes of Irving Berlin and the incomparable pipes of Bing Crosby carry you away to a White Christmas of your own.

Aleck Bennett is a writer, blogger, pug warden, pop culture enthusiast, raconteur and bon vivant from the greater Atlanta area. Visit his blog at doctorsardonicus.wordpress.com

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Kool Kat of the Week: Ooh-la-Love! Talloolah Love Embraces Her Inner Geek Girl Power and Finds It Gloriously Glamorous at Dragoncon 2013

Posted on: Aug 27th, 2013 By:

Hair, makeup and photography by Pin Up Girl Cosmetics.

By Gretchen Jacobsen
Contributing Writer

Burlesque and pin-up culture have been a part of Dragoncon back to the Bettie Page Contests of the 1990s. But this week’s Kool Kat, Talloolah Love, is taking it to another level as producer of DragonCon Burlesque, A Glamour Geek Revue and other titillating events throughout the weekend.

Talloolah has long been a force in Atlanta’s burlesque revival, cabaret and Retro scenes. Known across the United States and even internationally, for her burlesque performances, the “Sweetest T in the South” is an instructor at the newly opened Atlanta School of Burlesque. She is also one of the founders of the retro arts organization, The Artifice Club, known for splendid steampunk events extraordinaire including Mechanical Masquerade: The Retropolis, Sunday Aug. 31 at 8:30 p.m. at the Westin Peachtree Plaza, as well as bringing the growing electro-swing movement to Atlanta.

The lovely Ms. Love somehow managed to find time out of her crazy schedule this week to talk to ATLRetro and share a bit about her fascinating career, her perspective on the burlesque revival today, and how she’ll be entertaining us this weekend at Dragoncon. We couldn’t be happier!

ATLRetro:What drew you to burlesque?

Talloolah Love: I grew up watching musicals, blue comedy, Carol Burnett and THE MUPPET SHOW.  My idols were Betty Grable, Rosemary Clooney, Mae West and, of course, Marilyn Monroe. But it all started with belly dancing. I had taken classes in Colorado, but when I moved here, I found the community difficult to move around in as a newcomer. Burlesque embraced me with both arms, and I haven’t looked back since.

Who inspires you as a performer?

Besides the aforementioned stars of yesteryear, my modern inspirations are Amber Ray, Immodesty Blaize and Russell Bruner [Editor’s note: read our Kool Kat on Russell, the 2012 King of Burlesque here]  All three are ferocious on stage. They leave indelible marks of inspiration on my soul when I watch them. Amber and Immodesty both for their fierce stage presence and mind-blowing costumes. Russell for his incredible timing, charisma and musicality. All of them have a devotion to their craft that really takes my breath away.

What is your philosophy as a performer?

To me, it doesn’t matter what style of burlesque you do. It doesn’t matter what size, shape, color, sex or race you are. As long as what you bring to the stage is polished, cared for, speaks from the heart, and makes you happy to do it, I call it burlesque.

Hair, makeup and photography by Pin Up Girl Cosmetics.

Does it look like they are having fun? Does it look polished? Are you having fun watching them? Burlesque is so subjective. What I love about it is you cannot like that first act, but the second one lives with you for years. All you have to do is wait five minutes, and the channel gets switched to something new and different. You may love it, you may hate it, but wait till you see what’s going on in the next five minutes. Variety is the spice of life, you know?

Do you think burlesque is “girl power”?

I do. I grew up being told I wasn’t right for one part or the next. Burlesque gives me the power to say, “Oh yeah? Well, I think I was stellar for that show, so I am going to do it and there’s no one who can tell me I can’t.” You have to have some brass balls to get up on stage and own everything you do in spite of the fact that not everyone will love you. Burlesque has given me the ability to say, “Well, I hope some of you liked my form of art.” It’s how I express myself. When I am on stage, or even rehearsing a number in my unitard, I feel empowered because I make the decisions on my hair, my costume, song, choreography, absolutely everything. Sure I want opinions on things, but I have the final say on what goes on stage. There’s something exhilarating and very empowering about that.

You’re the one of the founders of The Artifice Club. What is the club all about?

The Artifice Club is a group that DJ Doctor Q and I founded together. It’s a coalition of artists who support artists. Besides my need for passion in one’s art, I believe in collaboration of minds. In the past, the Club did this by doing shows and displays of peoples’ art in hopes for exposure. Now, it is so much more than that. It is a not-for-profit organization that facilitates grants, helps promote, donates back to the community, and holds fundraisers to assist artists in keeping their mind on their creations rather than how they are going to pay for their space, or for a trip to the next festival to show their wares.  It is now an organization with a board of directors and will be doing more good on a bigger scale for anyone who applies to the guidelines of the club.

What events are you involved in at Dragoncon? 

Thursday Aug. 29, 8:30 p.m. at the Pulse Lounge in the Atlanta Marriott Marquis, I will be strutting out in my bunny ears with the ladies at The Annual Bunny Hutch. This isn’t my event, but I am very excited about it.

Hair, makeup and photography by Pin Up Girl Cosmetics.

Friday Aug. 30 8:30 p.m. The Sheraton Atlanta pool will be the location for the Second Annual Pin-ups by the Pool Party. Presiding over the show will be the returning and illustrious New Orleans Jon (see his recent Kool Kat profile here). There will be a pin-up competition and a mermaid competition, so please come see and be seen. I expect it to be quite a spectacle.

Saturday Aug. 31 11:59 p.m. in the Regency Ballroom at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta is DragonCon Burlesque, a Glamor Geek Revue. This is the second year I have been in charge of the show, and I couldn’t be more elated! This year has some really out-of-the-park acts. For example, fresh off his world tour the KING of Steampunk Funk, Montague Jacques Fromage, will be the Master of Ceremonies weaving a story of intrigue and sexy interludes throughout the entire show, along with the 2013 Queen of the Southern Fried Burlesque Festival, Lola Lesoleil, and other prestigious award-winning performers. This promises to be the show not to miss!

What is unique about Atlanta’s burlesque scene?

I feel like the scene has changed so much in the past ten years. When I first started out, Atlanta was unique because the troupes were really the only way anyone could perform regularly, and there really wasn’t a lot of cross-pollination.  Each troupe did what they did and that was it. It’s so different now. We all work together, and the independents seem to outnumber the troupe members. Personally, I think that is a great thing. It means a patron can go to a show and really not know who they are going to see. I think that a golden age in Atlanta Burlesque really is on the horizon thanks to Ursula Undress and the efforts being made with The Atlanta Burlesque Alliance and The Atlanta School of Burlesque. Plus, with social events like my Atlanta Burlesque and Cabaret Society and Sadie HawkinsCougar Crawl, we all have a real good time with each other. Kind of like a burlesque SEX IN THE CITY, only we get high on E-6000 rather than sip cosmos together.

What do you think about Atlanta being named the nerdiest city in America?

Oh, I love it. It’s appropriate too. DragonCon is huge, and it’s run privately for geeks by geeks. Besides DCon, Atlanta plays host to at least five other major fan fueled conventions. Add to that the vast LARPing communities and bookstores/comic book shops out here, then throw in that Cartoon Network is deep in the heart of Atlanta’s arteries, and you have a cultural cornucopia of Nerd-dom! I think it’s great.

What are you working on for the future?

I am always looking for what’s next. Fascination was an [electro-swing] event the good DoctorQ and I worked on together this past year, and I really loved the format. The venue was just an issue. Venues tend to be the big issue when it comes to producing big shows. My hope is that we find the RIGHT venue and that we start doing one big bang-out show – a little of the Fascination format with a few other big ideas I have cooking on the back-burner. Otherwise, I plan to do a Midwest tour next year. It’s still in the planning stages, but once it gets off the ground, you can bet I am going to social network the bajeezus out of it!

Who would you like to perform for or with?

I started to list them all out, but that would take all day. I want to perform with everybody. Then perform with them again because once is never enough!

Hair, makeup and photography by Pin Up Girl Cosmetics.

Where can we see you next?

After Dragoncon, I am going on a much deserved vacation, but I will be back at the beginning of October at The Shelter. I am going to be shaking it up as an airship pirate for this new mash-up music club night called Bootie Atlanta on October 5 – $5 admission before 11 and $10 after that.

Anything you’d like to add?

If you are interested in getting into burlesque, I have a few suggestions for you. If you already have an act and just need a venue to perform it in, I suggest auditioning. There are  a lot of troupes and even a production company in Atlanta where you can audition, and then, you’re there!  The best way to get involved in the Atlanta Burlesque community is to come out to Atlanta Burlesque and Cabaret Society meetings at The Elliott Street Pub in Atlanta. We meet the first Thursday of the month at 8 p.m., we go till 10, and at these meetings, you will meet other burlesque performers, photographers and fans of the local scene, you may even get to catch an act on the stage down there for a workshop on new and established performers. It’s a great way to market yourself. Speaking of marketing yourself, you will want to do your research and attend burlesque shows, figure out who the important people are and make sure you let them know you are serious. All of the troupes are very different and have a lot to offer the right person if they fit into their dynamic. If you don’t like how one show runs, that’s ok, check out another troupe!

If you do not have an act, and just really want to be involved, then I suggest classes at The Atlanta School of Burlesque. Check out their teaching schedule and come to a few classes. There’s a fundamentals class for the very very basic, and then beginning choreography classes. I recommend that you look at videos of the different teachers. They are also active performers in the scene; go catch them out at a show. I guarantee you that going up to a teacher after they have performed to tell them that you will be taking a class from them in the near future is better than bringing an apple to them any day!

 

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This Week in Retro Atlanta, Feb. 15-20, 2011

Posted on: Feb 14th, 2011 By:

OK, lovers, it’s back to the grind. It’s too late to check out ATLRetro’s top 3 picks for Valentine’s night, so let’s get right to the rest of the week.

Tuesday Feb. 15

Joe Gransden is back at Twain’s in Decatur for a jazz jam session starting at 9 PM. Or head back in time and over there to A NOVEMBER DAY: A WAR STORY, a timeless fable about friendship set against the backdrop of World War I, presented today by Thingumajig Theatre of West Yorskshire, England, today through Sun. at The Center for Puppetry Arts. Performers use hand, rod and shadow puppets, live music and a transforming set to tell the tale of a British soldier in WWI and his unexpected friendship with a stray dog. Suitable for ages 10 and up, with a teen and adult workshop on Sat. Feb. 19.

Wednesday Feb. 16

THE RED BALLOON takes flight at Theatre du Reve in 7 Stages’ Backstage Theater from Feb. 16-27. The stage adaptation uses puppetry and live original music to bring to life the classic 1956 French movie about a boy who befriends a shiny red balloon. Suitable for ages 4 and up.

Get ready to rumba, cha-cha and jitterbug at the weekly Swing Night at The Glenwood. Catch Joe Gransden every Wednesday night at 8:30 PM at Jerry Farber’s Side Door. Alice Cooper meets Kiss Southern-fried in Red Rocket Deluxe, headlining at Star Bar. Dance to ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s hits during Retro in the Metro Wednesdays presented by Godiva Vodka, at Pub 71 in Brookhaven, starting at 8 PM.

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