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Monte Rio inn's brush with Hollywood past

  • Mark Belhumeur is the owner of the Village Inn & Restaurant in Monte Rio. (Scott Manchester/PD)

In the opening of the movie “Holiday Inn,” a glum Bing Crosby sits down to his Thanksgiving turkey alone in a hotel devoid of guests.

Going into the holiday season, business is looking far better for Russian River innkeeper Mark Belhumeur, thanks, in part, to Bing.

The owner of Monte Rio's Village Inn & Restaurant is looking at a full house for Thanksgiving. And probably Christmas and New Year's, too.

“We're sold out on Wednesday and Thursday of Thanksgiving week,” said the jolly proprietor of what is reputed to be the original “Holiday Inn.”

Some scenes from the 1942 movie in which Crosby first croons “White Christmas” — one of the best-selling songs ever — were filmed at the Village Inn.

“The story that was passed down to me was that filming took place here because Bing was attending the Bohemian Grove a quarter-mile down the street,” said Belhumeur, who bought the inn in 2001. “He didn't want to stop filming while he was at the summer encampment, so he changed the location. I understand they trucked in snow.”

Belhumeur can't figure out which scenes were shot at the 1906 inn. Photos from the set show that the exterior and the main interiors were done on a soundstage.

He figures that possibly close-ups and scenes in the hotel rooms were filmed in what was then known as the River View Inn and later renamed “Holiday Inn.” He thinks a scene in which a car plunges into a river might have been filmed there as well.

It's become almost a parlor game for guests, who scan the film for familiar details.

“People tell me they see the fireplace or the staircase,” he said. “I don't see it. But people see what they want to see and if it makes them feel good, it makes me feel good.”

Nonetheless, the little 10-room inn seems to have been sprinkled with some Hollywood gold dust.

“We all the time have guests who come and say, 'I heard this is the place they filmed 'Holiday Inn,'” he said.

Many regulars come back year after year, booking sometimes a year in advance.

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