Holiday Inn


Posted on: November 30th, 2016 by Leah Reddy


Though the movie Holiday Inn takes place in the early days of the United States’ entry into World War II, the stage version of Holiday Inn is set just after the war, from August of 1946 through 1947. The post-war years were a time of adjustment in the United States, as the nearly 16 million men and 350,000 women who had served in the military returned home and wartime government regulation of the nation’s economy ended. The average American lifestyle changed markedly in the years just after the war, and in many ways these changes created the present-day nation.


WWII transformed the United States’ economy for the better. Despite concerns about returning soldiers flooding the job market, the late 1940s were a time of economic prosperity. The United States was the only major economy that was stronger after the war than before.

The United States formally entered WWII in December 1941. Full scale warfare required a coordinated national effort to manufacture and transport more goods and supplies than ever before. The federal government, which had become a strong economic force during the Great Depression, created “mobilization agencies” that directed the production of industries and imposed wage controls and price ceilings to limit inflation.

In 1940, 9.34% of the GDP was government spending; In 1945, it was 41.56%.

A war job recruitment poster, 1943

A war job recruitment poster, 1943

Increased demand for war materials created jobs, many in Union workplaces, and people moved across the country for work. As millions of men volunteered for or were drafted into the military, the manufacturing industry was opened to women and African-Americans for the first time. Wages rose an average of 65% during the war. Federal income tax was levied at a higher rate and on a greater percentage of the population in order to support the war effort. These factors combined to create the Great Compression, an era of greater income equality between the rich and the poor than ever before.

Unemployment, which peaked at 24% in 1932, the height of The Great Depression, and hovered around 10% in 1941, dropped to 1.2% in 1944. 


On June 22, 1944 the Serviceman’s Readjustment Act of 1944, commonly known as the G.I. Bill, was signed into law by President Roosevelt. The bill was designed to help returning servicemen and women transition into civilian life by providing loan guarantees for the purchase of housing,farms, or businesses and paying for veterans’ college, vocational, and technical education. Eight million service members—far higher than original projections—used the G.I. Bill to obtain an education. 2.2 million attended college or graduate school, and 5.6 million pursued vocational or technical training. In one generation, a college education ceased to be only for the children of the elite. Groups that had been excluded from higher education, including Catholics, Jews, those from rural areas, the children of immigrants, and the poor, suddenly had access to a university education. African-American veterans were also covered by the G.I. Bill’s education provision, and when historically black colleges and universities became overcrowded, many sought an education at all-white schools, forcing integration of some institutions.

The G.I. Bill’s loan guarantee made homeownership possible for millions of veterans, spurring the growth of suburbs. African-American veterans, while eligible for the loans, were largely excluded from their benefit because banks wouldn’t back mortgages in predominantly African-American neighborhoods, and discrimination in housing sales was still legal.


Cooperation of the entire American population was needed to win the war. Foods and materials needed for the war effort were rationed: civilians were entitled to a limited amount each month. Sugar, coffee, butter, cheese, canned fish, canned milk, fats, canned and frozen vegetables and fruits, other bottled foods, and meat were rationed, requiring home cooks to carefully plan meals in advance. Tires and gasoline were rationed. A “Victory speed limit” of 35 miles per hour was imposed in hopes of lessening wear on tires. Scrap metal, paper, fabric, and fat were collected.

Dior's iconic new look

Dior's iconic new look

In 1942, Regulation L-85 was introduced due to fabric shortages. Hemlines and skirt circumference were limited by the regulations. Nylon and silk stockings became unavailable, as both fabrics were used in parachutes and ropes. Overall, wartime clothing was simpler and more functional than that of earlier eras. The number of women employed in industry and agriculture created a demand for women’s work pants, suits, and jackets. Womenswear took on a more masculine look.

Some attribute the rationing of fabric to the rise in popularity of backless, tea-length dresses. 

By the end of the war, Americans were worn down by years of sacrifice and eager for a world of material abundance that, thanks to the improved economy, they could afford. There were 25 million registered automobiles in 1945; 21 million more were produced by 1950. This desire was also reflected in the famous “New Look” from fashion designer Christian Dior, which premiered in February 1947. Long, swirling, voluminous skirts were paired with jackets that emphasized women’s curves. Shoes were no longer sensible, but slender and delicate. Femininity was paramount in both color and cut. Dior described the look as “a return to an ideal of civilized happiness.”


The nation’s marriage rate was at an all-time high in the post-war years, and a “baby boom” soon followed. Couples who had been separated by the war were reunited, and a strong economy made it possible to support a large family. Women and men in their twenties and thirties at the end of WWII had struggled through the Great Depression, survived a terrifying world war, and faced a future threatened by nuclear warfare. Scholar Elaine Tyler May suggests that these events contributed to the nation’s unprecedented rise in marriage and birthrates: "Americans turned to the family as a bastion of safety in an insecure world... cold war ideology and the domestic revival [were] two sides of the same coin.” The percentage of women in the workforce grew during the war, from 28% in 1940 to 34% in 1945. By 1947 it was back to pre-war levels, despite the fact that 75% of working women wanted to remain at their jobs. This decline in female employment was due in part to factories refusing to rehire women after they returned to producing peacetime goods, as well as their desire to ensure jobs for returning soldiers.

Levittown, Pennsylvania, 1959

Levittown, Pennsylvania, 1959

The idealized image of the happy post-war housewife grew out of both the urgency to push women out of the workforce, the psychological need to create a happy, secure home as a bulwark against the forces of a frightening world, and the higher wages brought on by the war, which made it possible for a sole working or middle-class breadwinner to support a family.

Holiday Inn, the New Irving Berlin Musical is now playing at Studio 54. Visit our website for tickets and more information.

Related Categories:
2016-2017 Season, Education @ Roundabout, Holiday Inn, Upstage

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Holiday Inn: Watch and Listen

Posted on: November 20th, 2016 by Rory McGregor


Roundabout proudly presents the Broadway premiere of Irving Berlin’s Holiday Inn. In this American classic, Jim leaves show business in New York behind to set up his own farm house in Connecticut. All he wants is to settle down with his wife and enjoy the quiet life. However, she has other plans and stays in New York, leaving Jim in Connecticut all by himself. His luck soon changes when he meets Linda, a schoolteacher and talented ex-performer and together they turn the farmhouse into a spectacular inn with big performances to celebrate each holiday. Dazzling, warm and hilarious, Holiday Inn brings holiday cheer all year round. And what better way to be immersed into the world of the musical with our installment of Watch and Listen below!

In 1988, on Irving Berlin’s 100th Birthday, BBC Bristol & the A&E Network broadcast a fascinating documentary about the life of Berlin and his impact on American culture. Led by Tommy Tune, find out more about the history of what led Irving Berlin on the path to creating some of the most famous songs in history.

Also to celebrate Berlin’s 100th Birthday, there was a special concert at Carnegie Hall which was televised on May 27 1988. A spectacular video where you can see everyone from Frank Sinatra to Ray Charles and even Willie Nelson singing some of Berlin’s most famous tunes.

Irving Berlin, of course, was most famous as a composer but did you know he broke protocol and sung one of his own songs in the 1943 film This is the Army? This is the Army was a film directed by Michael Curtiz based on the wartime stage musical of the same name by Berlin. Berlin composed the 19 songs in the film and appeared on screen singing one of them. A brilliant composer, but what do you think about his singing abilities?

And, as a bonus, here is Berlin in a very rare television appearance showing off his special piano:

And what other way to round off this list than with a compilation of Irving Berlin’s songs? The Songbook of Irving Berlin catalogues famous songs from the show to some you may have never heard before. How many do you recognize?

Holiday Inn: The New Irving Berlin Musical is now playing at Studio 54. For more information and tickets, please visit our website.

Related Categories:
2016-2017 Season, Holiday Inn

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Lights, Camera, Holiday!

Posted on: October 29th, 2016 by Jason Jacobs


12 Sparkling Holiday Hits! 10 Bing Crosby Vocals! 6 Fred Astaire Dances! 2 Lovely Leading Ladies!

Thus hails the original trailer for Paramount’s 1942 film Holiday Inn. Opening just after America had entered World War II, Holiday Inn earned public adoration, critical acclaim, Academy Award® nominations, and record box office gross.

The original idea was hatched almost 10 years earlier. Following the success of the song “Easter Parade” in the 1933 Broadway revue As Thousands Cheer, Irving Berlin conceived a revue based on major holidays. Before it was produced, Berlin pitched the idea to film director Mark Sandrich, with whom he had worked on three Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers films (Top Hat, Follow the Fleet, and Carefree) for RKO. Sandrich had become one of Hollywood’s leading musical directors, and he thought it could be a vehicle for Bing Crosby. He worked with Berlin on a story about an inn that was only open on holidays, and Paramount signed on.

Berlin’s original concept to debunk the holiday spirit may have played for a sophisticated Broadway audience, but Hollywood was another story. With the studio, the casting of Crosby, and the larger cultural shift away from Depression-era cynicism into wartime patriotism, Holiday Inn transformed into a more sincere celebration of American holidays.

Song Hits from Holiday Inn. The album was released in 1942.

Song Hits from Holiday Inn. The album was released in 1942.

With Crosby and Fred Astaire onboard, one studio agent described the impressive creative team as: “solid as Matthew, Mark, Luke and John—and I think (it) will be remembered just as long.” But the stars’ salaries were so high that the film could not afford any female stars—Rita Hayworth, Mary Martin, and Ginger Rogers had been under consideration—so the women’s roles went to relative unknowns Marjorie Reynolds and Virginia Dale.

In addition to “Easter Parade,” Berlin wrote a selection of new numbers for each of the major holidays: “Plenty to be Thankful For,” “Let’s Start the New Year Right,” “Be Careful, It’s My Heart.” He had already composed “White Christmas,” but the script went through numerous rewrites before assigning Crosby the song in its now iconic scene. A less beloved song is “Abraham,” performed for Lincoln’s birthday, as a minstrel number with the cast, band, and even the inn’s waiters in blackface. When aired on television, this scene is often cut, and there was never any consideration of including this song in the new Holiday Inn production.

The film was shot from November 1941 through January 1942 on the Russian River in Northern California. America’s entry to World War II influenced changes in the film, and likely contributed to its warm reception in August 1942. (See "A Holiday for a Country at War).
The film became one of the highest grossing musical films of its time in both the US and the UK. It received 3 Academy Award® nominations, and Berlin took home a Best Original Song Oscar for “White Christmas.” The studio album, “Song Hits From Holiday Inn,” was released in 1942. The movie is still adored by fans, and despite covering a full year of holidays, many people still regard it as a favorite Christmas film.

To see the original Holiday Inn trailer, click here.


Bing Crosby was one of America’s most popular radio, film, and television stars from the 1930s through the 1950s. He rose to fame as a “crooner,” a new, relaxed singing style that coincided with the wide use of microphones, and appeared in his first feature, The Big Broadcast, in 1932. He began performing a comedy routine with Bob Hope in 1932, and in 1940 the duo made their first film, Road to Singapore. It was so successful that Crosby and Hope made 7 more “Road” films. By the time Holiday Inn was made, his box office draw was listed as #10 among all Hollywood actors.

Fred and Adele Astaire, 1921

Fred and Adele Astaire, 1921

Fred Astaire started dancing with his sister Adele in vaudeville, then moved to Broadway and finally to Hollywood. By 1941 he had made three successful films with Sandrich and Berlin. He was considered Hollywood’s preeminent—and most expensive— lead dance man. Paramount wanted to go with a lesser known star, but Sandrich held out for Astaire. Astaire had creative control over the dance numbers. In addition to his spectacular fireworks dance, the film is also noted for his "drunk dance," in which Marjorie Reynolds helps him to stay upright. Astaire also had control over the editing of his dance sequences. Once a dance started, the film could not cut away for dialogue or even a reaction shot from another character.

Crosby and Astaire teamed up again in 1946 for another Irving Berlin musical, Blue Skies. Then in 1954, Paramount tried to reunite them for White Christmas, a follow-up to Holiday Inn. Astaire wasn’t happy with the script and pulled out of the project, so Crosby was ultimately paired with Danny Kaye.

You can watch Astaire’s “drunk dance” from Holiday Inn here.


On December 7, 1941, less than a month after filming began for Holiday Inn, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and America entered World War II. The film’s creative team responded by expanding their Fourth of July segment. Berlin, a veteran of World War I, wrote “Song of Freedom” for Crosby, who was passionate about supporting the military. Some of the lyrics referenced President Roosevelt’s 1941 State of the Union address. The song was accompanied by a montage of patriotic images: factory workers, armed forces, and American leaders, unconnected to the characters or story. Then, in “Say it with Firecrackers,” Astaire tapped around small explosions on the floor, hurling firecrackers from his pocket. Although this scene is the most visible response to the war, the idea of “dreaming of a white Christmas, just like the one I used to know” took on a deeper meaning for the many American soldiers deployed abroad.


Holiday Inn, the New Irving Berlin Musical is now playing at Studio 54. Visit our website for tickets and more information.

Related Categories:
2016-2017 Season, Education @ Roundabout, Holiday Inn, Upstage

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