White Christmas (1954)
Christmas Crooning with Crosby & Kaye
When what's left of you gets around to what's left to be gotten, what's left to be gotten won't be worth getting, whatever it is you've got left - Phil Davis
Starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Vera Ellen as well as the songs & music of Irving Berlin "White Christmas" has become a staple of Christmases ever since its release in 1954. It is a thoroughly enjoyable musical full of memorable songs such as the every popular title track "White Christmas" as well as some impressive dance routines, although not quite as impressive as those in its predecessor "Holiday Inn". But as is often the case with older Hollywood musicals, "White Christmas" is thin on plot and relies heavily on the music and the likeability of its stars to carry it. Is this an issue, well not really as between Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Vera Ellen make up for a lack of plot and turn "White Christmas" into a festive favourite.
Having met during World War II, Bob Wallace (Bing Crosby - Road to Rio) and Phil Davis (Danny Kaye - The Inspector General) join forces and become the hottest song-and-dance act in America selling out show after show. However having discovered singing sisters Betty and Judy Haynes (Rosemary Clooney and Vera Ellen) they find themselves spending Christmas in Vermont with the girls rather than in New York as planned. When they arrive in Vermont to their surprise they discover that the Inn that they will be staying in is run by their former army commander General Waverly (Dean Jagger - Day of the Evil Gun) and with a lack of snow it is struggling to stay open.
"White Christmas" although essentially a musical is a surprising mismatch of various sub elements. You have a tribute to the army, a bit of romance, some comedy and attempt at drama, well sort of, and generally it's a feel good movie which delivers a predictable but heart warming ending. It is definitely the sort of movie which thanks to it's festive feel, although honestly the Christmas theme really only enters towards the end, will leave you in a good mood in the lead up to Christmas day.
But it does have some problems and being thin on plot is probably the most significant. Understandably a musical will always aim to entertain through song and dance, and to be honest "White Christmas" does, but at times it attempts to deliver some drama through the storyline which is not strong enough to actually carry it. This has the knock on effect of making "White Christmas" feel a little drawn out and although not overly long at 115 minutes does seem to struggle at times.
Although the plot is thin "White Christmas" does make up for it with a good amount of humour which often disguises the short falls. As with older movies the comedy is subtle but is enough to bring a good smile to your face every time something funny happens. But most importantly it doesn't feel misplaced, in the scene where Phil Davis convinces Bob Wallace to partner up with him after he had saved his life, it is full of little moments, such as the arm in a sling which will make you smile.
But the real saving grace of "White Christmas" is the musical score composed by the legendary Irving Berlin. With the famous title track "White Christmas" book ending the movie, appearing at the start in a touching scene on the frontline and the feel good ending around a Christmas tree, the movie is packed full of memorable numbers. Out of the plethora of musical pieces there is the wonderful "Sisters" first performed by Rosemary Clooney and Vera Ellen, whose voice was actually dubbed by Trudy Stevens, and the equally memorable "Snow". My only criticism when it comes to the music is that often it is repetitive with the same song appearing twice in quick succession, which in some cases becomes a little annoying, although watching Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye lip-sync "Sisters" is a brilliantly funny scene.
As for the performances well for the most they are good and trade on each of the stars talents rather than on their acting ability, which isn't a bad thing. Bing Crosby croons his way through the movie perfectly and the opening scene which sees him singing "White Christmas" to the troops has to be one of my favourite versions of the song. Accompanying Bing Crosby is Danny Kaye who provides plenty of humour with his expressive face, although he is no slouch to when it comes to the singing and dancing either. Then you have Rosemary Clooney and Vera Ellen as Betty and Judy Haynes who are wonderful when it comes to the singing and dancing, or should that be Rosemary Clooney is wonderful at the singing whilst Vera Ellen is equally wonderful at the dancing. The good thing is that together all four of them work well and although there is no real romantic chemistry between them they do appear to bounce off each other brilliantly, especially Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye who bicker like two old men.
Plus of course there is Dean Jagger who although doesn't have a lot to do as General Waverly is impressive through out as he adds some real acting to the movie, along with the brilliant Mary Wickes who is a hoot as Waverly's busy body house-keeper.
What this all boils down to is that "White Christmas" despite its thin plot and a couple of niggles over repetition and length is a very good musical which deserves its place as a Christmas favourite thanks to its heart warming tale. It's a typical glossy Hollywood musical full of memorable songs and a few memorable dance routines, but also offers up a fair amount of good old fashioned humour. Plus it has good performances from all it's main stars making it a warm and friendly movie for the lead up to Christmas, if you don't mind a fair bit of sentiment as well.
Tags: Christmas Movies
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