Irving Berlin, 1906

Irving Berlin, 1906

The Hayfoot and I put up our Christmas tree last night. Tonight we watched Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire’s Holiday Inn, which  neither of us had ever seen before. I learned my lesson last year when we missed out entirely on Christmas movies because of the Long Wait from Netflix. As it turns out  the queue for Christmas flicks gets longer the closer you get to December 25. Who knew? This year I was determined to learn from this experience and began ordering early. As I said I had never seen Holiday Inn before. I feel there is so much about about our culture I missed along the way, and that I am now playing catch up. Not such a bad feeling. It is probably just as well anyways. Most of our popular culture was geared toward adults in a way it is not today. A great deal of the film, and the milieu  that it came from, would have been lost on the my younger self anyway. That goes for the songs of Crosby and the dancing of Astaire as well.

When I was a volunteer in the Interpretation Division I often spoke to visitors about immigrants who passed through and eventually went on to bigger and better things here in America. One of them was Irving Berlin. born Israel Isidore Baline in Russia in 1888. Ironically it was primarily immigrants, many of them Jewish, who gave us the Great American Songbook. The songwriter probably was not dreaming of a White Christmas in Tyumen as a youngster. Our favorite scene was Lincoln’s Birthday number, sung in blackface no less. I have come never to be offended by such things; for better and for worse they are part of our culture and history. Never run away from the truth.Fascinating on so many levels. The Fourth of July number, with its lyrics about the Four Freedoms and images of FDR and American servicemen, are reminders that the film was released in 1942 as the United States was entering the Second World War in case you missed the point. If you haven’t seen there’s still time, and I am going to drop it back in the mailbox tomorrow morning.

(image/Life)