Tuesday, December 9, 2008

White Christmas (1954)

Well my family members had departed and the table was mostly cleared, so what better time than Thanksgiving night to begin the Christmas-related movie viewing? This was my mother's and my rationale for sinking into our couch for a viewing of White Christmas on our spanking-new television. This is one of my favorite Christmas movies for various reasons. The plot is fairly simple: Bob Wallace (Bing Crosby) and Phil Davis (Danny Kaye) form a highly successful stage show after they meet in the army during WWII. They're totally best friends, but Phil is always trying to push the workaholic Bob into relationships in an attempt to get some free time for himself. They become well-known producers and on night decide to check out a sister act for their show, Betty (Rosemary Clooney) and Judy (Vera-Ellen) Haynes.

Phil and Judy instantly plot to set up Betty and Bob, but the girls are headed for Vermont to perform at an inn over the holidays. Phil cons Bob into going to Vermont as well, and upon entering the inn they discover it's owned by their former leader, General Waverly. The inn is doing very poorly because it hasn't snowed all season and the general's about to go bankrupt but doesn't want any charity, so Phil and Bob secretly plan to bring their entire show there in order to draw enough crowds to save it. Under the guise of using the scant visitors as "guinea pigs", they work the Haynes sisters into the act and much singing and dancing follows during rehearsals as sparks (some good, some bad) fly between Bob and Betty, and Judy and Phil become closer as they plot the future of the former couple. There are misunderstandings, stubbornness, and easily-resolved conflicts so that in the end the general learns how appreciated he is and his inn is back in business and everybody is in love. Yay!

This movie is sweet and easy to get caught up in. The music is wonderful, naturally, with excellent tunes by Irving Berlin. It's got great dialogue, with a lot of good comedic bits for Danny Kaye and Mary Wickes. Vera-Ellen is fantastic, as always, and this was her last big feature before her early retirement due to health issues (it's so sad; she's one of my all-time favorite dancers). Bing Crosby croons for a while, as is his wont, and Rosemary Clooney doesn't have enough songs. The story isn't much to speak of but the characters are so likeable and fun to watch that I'm always engrossed. And it's Christmas-related but not really about Christmas so nothing is being shoved down people's throats. Being from the 50's it has some period-related silliness and a pro-army message and is really really white, but the women have some agency and the costumes are swell, and I wouldn't have expected anything groundbreaking from a cute mainstream musical.

Interesting Side Note: I just found out it was directed by Michael Curtiz, who did Casablanca, Captain Blood, and Mildred Pierce. Unexpected.


Check out Vera-Ellen tapping so fast you barely see her foot move. She is the best. Also Danny Kaye, being silly.

Bing Crosby relives his Holiday Inn days.

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