December 23, 2011

25 Days: White Christmas
by docsmartypants

White Christmas (1954) Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, Vera Ellen

Confession time: I didn’t watch White Christmas. I have watched it—loads of times. In fact I watch it every year, and I swear I own a copy. But when I went to watch White Christmas I could find no trace of it in my home: not on DVD, not on VHS, not on TV, not even on Netflix instant queue. So I guess I will go out and buy a new copy tomorrow, if I can find one. But in the meantime we watched The Ghost and Mrs. Muir instead, and I will write about White Christmas from memory, since clearly my copy was stolen by the ghost of Rex Harrison.

The basic plot of White Christmas is that Bob Wallace (Crosby) and Phil Davis (Kaye), who met in the war, have a successful song and dance act. But Bob is a hopeless workaholic and Phil wants some time off, so Phil plots to find Bob a love interest. They meet the Haynes sisters (Clooney and Ellen), who have a small act of their own, and they all end up at a struggling inn in Vermont that is run by Bob and Phil’s former commanding officer (Dean Jagger). To help the inn stay in business, Bob and Phil decide to bring their whole troupe up to Vermont and stage a big Christmas show, starring themselves and the Haynes sisters. There’s fake romance, real romance, misunderstandings, lots of great songs, a few not-so-great ones, a touch of patriotism, and of course, a white Christmas.

Danny Kaye absolutely delighted me when I was a child. I will now concede that he is a shameless ham, but that doesn’t stop my enjoying him in White Christmas. Bing Crosby, on the other hand, seems to have had the majority of his personality surgically removed. Is it possible that Kay was some sort of charisma vampire, sucking the life energy out of his costars? It would certainly explain Clooney’s performance, too. Ah well, despite some overacting on the left and some wooden acting on the right, I whole-heartedly love White Christmas.

I can still remember the first time I watched this movie when I was a kid, and it got to the scene where Bob and Phil stand in for the sisters so they can make a getaway from the nightclub they’ve been performing at. The guys do the “Sisters” number, and I laughed so hard that first time that I thought I might pass out. Even now it gets me—particularly the little looks they give each other and the obvious glee with which Phil thwacks Bob with that feather fan. Genius!

Obviously the number everyone thinks of when they think of this movie is “White Christmas.” I love that song, but there are plenty of other good ones in this movie. There’s also some fantastic dancing, especially from Vera Ellen (if you can pay attention to her footwork rather than how painfully thin she is).

White Christmas is a holiday staple for a reason: It’s a classic. It’s funny and fun to watch—full of color and music and dancing—and it’s got the obligatory happily-ever-after ending. I can’t really ask for much more. If you have a copy of White Christmas, go watch it. And if you have my copy (I’m looking at you, Ghost Rex Harrison!) please give it back to me, because Target is sold out.

Tune in tomorrow for Day 24: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: The Blue Carbuncle.

posted under Media

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