PLOT: A successful song-and-dance team become romantically involved with a sister act and team up to save the failing Vermont inn of their former commanding general.
For the 10th installment, we’ll take a look at a film that is part of my Christmas movie must-watch list. White Christmas has aged gracefully in some areas and badly in others. While this may be true of most movies from the “golden age”, White Christmas is one of the few where the good strongly outweighs the bad.
One of the interesting parts of White Christmas, is that the entire film is a mishmash of the popular genres of the time, and somehow it all works. First, the traditional love story of the era is present as Betty Haynes — played by Rosemary Clooney (Here Comes the Girls, Deep in My Heart) — falls for the handsome and suave Bob Wallace — played by Bing Crosby (Holiday Inn, Bells of St. Mary’s) — but doesn’t trust that his intentions are pure. Second, there are parts of a military film sprinkled throughout, including the opening scene which becomes a running gag for the rest of the film. Finally, it is a musical, and a damn good one at that.
The musical part is obviously what this movie is known for, and it is one of the better ones in the genre. Clooney and Crosby shines while singing, Vera-Ellen (On the Town) dazzles in the solo dances, and Danny Kaye (The Kid From Brooklyn, A Song is Born) brings the comedy acting element in both the musical and non-musical sections. The casting of White Christmas is testament to knowing the talent you have and utilizing it correctly, especially in the studio era.
Kaye and Crosby’s chemistry is exactly where it needs to be so that you can believe that these two guys would be business partners. One of the surprising things was that Kaye and Vera-Ellen played off each other really well and were more believable as a potential couple than Clooney and Crosby were. The interactions between the four actors is a master class on how to tell a story through both dialogue and non-verbal acting, and not forcing the audience to fill-in-the-blanks.
I never really notice any religious themes, prayers, or mentions of Jesus in this film. But just-in-case I missed something, I gave it a half-point.
The arc of Bob and Betty’s relationship is much more natural than you see in today’s love story. They slowly fall in love, but don’t realize it until near the end of the film. They also avoid most of the fate and meant to be crap and tell a realistic story. And Judy and Phil’s relationship is an added bonus to the film.
The film’s final number is a Christmas staple, and was one before the movie’s release — “White Christmas” was first performed in 1942’s Holiday Inn which also starred Bing Crosby. The pomp and circumstance on the stage is what most people imagine as the perfect Christmas.
Christmas-ness Score: 4 out of 5
White Christmas‘ plot is generic and not much of a twist on movies released at the time, but it does the one thing that a film like this should do: entertain. The musical numbers and even the rehearsal scenes are fun to watch, and story itself is endearing enough that you’re invested between songs. White Christmas is perfect for family viewing because most of the jokes and themes are timeless, and there’s not anything that would need an awkward explanation. Just be aware that your kids may sing the film titular song for days on end, but thankfully it’s not a terribly annoying song. Now, how your kids sing it on the other hand…