on January 3, 2004
Many people find WHITE CHRISTMAS to be a nostalgic trudge down memory lane. But in truth, it's hard to think of a more prescient film, anticipating, as it did, problems that would not even have a name for another 25 or 30 years. Yes, I'm talking about that infamous lack of snow in Vermont in 1954. Decades before "global warming" became a buzz phrase, director Michael Curtiz, writers Krasa, Frank and Panama, along stars Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney and Danny Kaye were bravely tackling this hot issue with style, wit and aplomb.
OK, so I'm kidding, but not so much about the style and wit. It's there in abundance (one can argue about the aplomb, though). It's got it all, Crosby and Clooney singing, Kaye and Vera-Ellen dancing. Great stuff. Yes, the corn grows high in Vermont, or at least until that first snow hits. Some complain about the rather calculated post-war military sentiment, and it is true that "What Can You Do For A General" is not exactly the film's high point. Dean Jagger is solid though as the dignified general, and he and the perennial private Kaye play well off each other.
While both WHITE CHRISTMAS and the much earlier HOLIDAY INN were classic Bing Crosby vehicles, the former cannot really be said to be a re-make (in any sense) of the latter. It was probably inevitable that Crosby would have to do the title song in some Technicolor vehicle or other, but an attempted remake of the Astaire/Crosby classic would probably not have been a good idea . Both films the show-biz revue in the New England inn theme, the buddy theme and the inevitable romantic complications with show biz gals who really just want to settle down. But the Kaye/Crosby camaraderie angle plays sweeter than the Astaire/Crosby rivalry. Was that a 50s thing? Hard to say, although many point to that era as being more conservative than preceding decades had been. It is at least interesting that the hint of show biz cynicism in HOLIDAY had been replaced by show biz warmth in the later film. (Significantly,Rosie's mistrust of Bing's motives in helping the general are totally unfounded. He's not a huckster, but is, true to form, just a decent guy who happens to be in show biz.)
WHITE CHRISTMAS is also a little more seasonally specific than HOLIDAY INN. Crosby fans can justify dragging out the latter almost any old time of year, since one or the other of those holidays the inn was open for must be coming up. WHITE CHRISTMAS will likely remain an annual seasonal favorite for most: although who's to say that a little WHITE CHRISTMAS in July would do a body any harm for that matter.
on October 20, 2003
Bob Wallace (Bing Crosby) and Phil Davis (Danny Kaye) come together as a song and dance team after Phil saves the life of headliner Wallace on the battlefield on Christmas Eve. Anything Phil wants, he can get from Bob by making reference to the arm he injured (a phantom injury to be sure) in the saving. Now, he just wants Bob to take things slower. To that end, he is trying to get him to settle on a girl.
Enter the Haynes's sisters, Betty (Rosemary Clooney) and Judy (Vera-Ellen), one of whom forges a letter from their brother to Bob and Phil to come see their act and give some pointers as a favor to an old army buddy. It appears that Judy and Phil may have orchestrated the whole thing - Phil to get Bob to settle down and Judy to get tips from the pros. Now, Bob - though attracted to Betty - is a cynic and figures everyone's got an ulterior motive and is not surprised to find out the letter is a forgery. Betty is, however, offended that he thinks the SHE is playing an angle. Later, she will be convinced that Bob is playing an angle at someone else's expense and the resolution of the conflict makes for a wonderful and classic romance story.
After getting the girls out of a jam, thanks to Phil, the foursome end up going to Vermont where they run into their old general running a ski resort. But there is no snow. Bob & Phil come up with a plan to boost the old man's spirits. There are two plot lines here - one the romance between Bob and Betty, and, two, the relationship between the general and his old troops. It is maybe not a GREAT movie/musical but it certainly is good. Songs include White Christmas (of course), Sisters, The Best Things Happen While You're Dancing, Count Your Blessings, and What Do You Do With a General.
The Clooney commentary is very interesting. She points out a lot of things I would not have noticed and has a lot of funny stories about virtually every scene. For instance, the drag scene where Crosby and Kaye are performing "Sisters" ... they had already made so many mistakes that they didn't think it would be used and just really cut up. When she pointed it out, I saw things I hadn't seen before.
on November 29, 2002
Someone described the film as 'happy,' and it is just that! It could've been conceived any time of the year, but as it is, the story takes place ten years between two Christmases. A title card opens the story on Christmas Eve of 1944; it then passes through time, and settles into the current year of the film itself- 1954, after which it ends with a luminous Christmas Eve snowstorm. Do the math. BTW, while Bing Crosby is the star of this one as well as 'Holiday Inn,' I don't entirely understand how this is a remake of that. (No other holidays are mentioned in this film.) But it does have the late Rosemary Clooney (a siren of beauty and a joy to hear) playing nicely off Crosby, especially in the duet "Count Your Blessings," as well as the ingenious Danny Kaye- particularly fine in the satirical "Choreography" and his glamorous, Astaire-like dance with Vera-Ellen to "The Best Things Happen While You're Dancing." Sadly, they only dance together once, but that inconsistency is probably due to the producers' earlier plan to have Fred Astaire (and then Donald O'Connor) in that role. The other numbers- "The Army," "Sisters (both versions)," "Snow," "Mandy," and the title number- are all winning.
on December 26, 2001
Irving Berlin's wonderful collection of songs find a well-suited home in the holiday classic "White Christmas," a movie bursting with vibrant colors, a zesty, delightful cast, and a plot that bears nothing but sheer whimsy and comical brilliance from some of the all-time greats. Inevitable comparisons to "Holiday Inn" arose at the time the film was released, though there's no reason not to fall in love with this movie's warm and spirited appearance.
Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye star in the film as army buddies Bob Wallace and Phil Davis. When an attack commences on their campsite, Phil is injured while pulling Bob from danger, and wittily uses his injured arm as a way to convince Bob to join him in a singing duet, leading to their popularity as Wallace and Davis becomes a hit. After receiving a letter from an old army pal, they head to Florida to see the Haynes Sisters, composed of motherly Betty (Rosemary Clooney) and crafty Judy (Vera Ellen), who wants nothing more than to see her sister married and happy.
Finding that they have a common goal, Phil and Judy cook up a scheme that lands the four of them in Vermont, where the girls are to perform at a ski lodge that has been doing poorly due to lack of snowy weather. What's more, the owner of the lodge is none other than Phil and Bob's old army general, Thomas Waverly, whose financial situation is increasingly unstable because of the lackluster season. What do the boys do? Why, they cook up a plan to whip the general's self esteem back into shape, all the while falling in love with the sister act as they await the much-anticipated snowfall.
The story may not be as complex as past Christmas films, and even for a musical, though it's certainly never dull, thanks in part to some grandiose musical numbers and exuberant dance sequences. There's a great deal of schmaltz to be had with the romances between Phil and Judy and Bob and Betty, but it all goes down easy like an overly sweetened snow cone. Director Michael Curtiz is careful to keep the romance and the outside stories in equal measure, for a movie that's half sweet, half sweeter.
This snow cone is made easier to swallow by the acting on the parts of Kaye, Crosby, Clooney and Ellen, who each supply humor, wit, and tact into their characters. Kaye is the standout, employing his graceful way with comedy into Phil with incredible results. Dean Jagger makes the general more than just a secondary character, while Mary Wickes provides some lighthearted moments as the maid Emma.
The physical appearance of the movie is superbly mounted, a handsome displays of nicely-paced choreography, winsome costumes, and striking music and dance sequences. Irving Berlin's classic songs, from "Sisters" to "Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep," make their way into the story, some as entertainment pieces within the film, others as advancements of the romantic angles. The famed title song makes its appearance in the film's finale, which crowns the film in a glorious tapestry of costume and music. On a side note, this was the first film ever to be shot in what was known as VistaVision, a widescreen format that works well in capturing the film's various setpieces.
In the end, "White Christmas" is little more than a fairy tale spun from sheer whimsy, but its a striking example of a fairy tale done in all the right ways. The appeal and talent of its quartet of stars adds a much-needed charm to the material, as does the production design, bringing Christmas to life like never before. To watch the film with a cynical eye is to miss out on the magic and the joy this underrated classic has to offer.
on February 4, 2000
The classics of Irving Berlin will make this a movie favorite year after year. I have seen this movie enough to spot some interesting edits (just watch Bing Crosby sitting on the side/end of the hospital cot or Vera-Ellen's cup of coffee in her dressing room) and I still watch it at least 8 times a year. It's enjoyable to let the music take you from the everyday grind with war buddies, Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye meeting up with the sister act of Rosemary Clooney and Vera - Ellen. Bing Crosby delivers his opening number / title song White Christmas with the same smoothness we've come to know and love. There's a lot of accomplished dancing on Vera Ellen's part and Danny Kaye does an excellent job as her partner in "The Best Things Happen While You're Dancing". Their "choreography" number provides a fun look at changes from traditional dancing to a beatnik approach in staging. "Count Your Blessing's" is a number appropriate for any time of the year. Mary Wickes does a fine job as the "housekeeper / receptionist / how can I help you?" individual putting her nose in the wrong place at exactly the right time and setting up the romantic conflict. Rosemary Clooney delivers only a hint of the musical talent she has continued to bestow on us. It would have been nice to hear Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen do something besides "Sisters" - it seems that is the only song this duet ever performed. It should be so easy to succeed in show business. While White Christmas may not be a Christmas standard on the level of Miracle on 34th Street or It's a Wonderful Life, the music alone can bring a bit of Christmas spirit even in July!
on January 3, 1998
Here's a semi-remake of "Holiday Inn" (1942), with Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire.
In this one, Bing and Danny Kaye play a couple of ex-soldiers who become a show business sensation after the Second World War. They work their way up to big-time Broadway producers. On a road trip, they meet up with the Haynes sisters (Vera-Ellen and Rosemary Clooney).
The boys follow the Haynes sisters to Vermont, where they're doing a show at a local inn. It turns out that the inn is run by the boys' ex-Army General. Seems that the "Old Man" is in a jam, on account of there being no snow for the ski crowd, and the inn is practically empty. So the four entertainers decide to put on a show to help save the day for the General.
Fine performances all around, and some pretty good (if uneven) dance numbers. Mary Wickes plays a delightful busybody, and Vera-Ellen and Danny Kaye light up the screen.
The movie is fine family entertainment, but only so-so as a musical. It also contains one of the least believeable lines in movie history. Rosemary Clooney, to Mary Wicks, on learning that the inn is in hard times financially: "Oh, please! Couldn't you tell the General that we don't want to be paid? We wouldn't want to be paid if the inn is doing so poorly!" Can you imagine a show person, living show-to-show, asking not to be paid?!
Anyway, lots of good dances and a few good tunes, like "Snow" and "Count Your Troubles", and of course, Bing crooning "White Christmas".
on August 17, 2001
The array of talent in this film is so outstanding that to describe the gifts of Bing, Danny, Rosemary, and Vera-Ellen would seem practically overkill. The musical numbers around which this show is based are perfectly delightful - brilliantly executed and ranging from the delightfully silly (Sisters) to the sentimental (Count Your Blessings) to Broadway show-stoppers.
This film has no literary value - one would search in vain for theme, plot, characterisation, or depiction of relationships. The "climax," in which the World War II veterans are re-united to pay the surprise tribute to the Old Man, is so unrealistic as to be silly. It is purely a musical entertainment.
It's quite delightful - a relaxing interlude during any time of holiday stress. This is the perfect gift, in particular, for senior citizen relatives... but make sure it is not yet on their shelves, because it very likely is.
on December 23, 2002
The color is beautiful. Best scenes are the sister act, the sister act parody, Snow, and when Rosemarie Clooney does that saltry night club number late in the movie. Vera Ellen is amazing with her skinny spider-like legs. The chemistry between Kaye and Ellen is believeable and funny while the chemistry bewteen Crosby and Clooney is like a wall of ice from the get-go, especially when Clooney's character becomes suddenly disenchanted--we noticed that when we were little kids watching this late on TV. But remember that Clooney and Crosby were the top popular vocalists at the time and the story-line was merely something to string together musical and dance performances. This movie is very entertaining if you don't take it seriously and delve for meaning. Just sit back and enjoy it. Good example of the use of Technicolor. I purchased a copy and still enjoy viewing it during every Christmas season.
on December 25, 2003
After watching this movie at least thirty times over some forty years (nearly every Christmas), it feels like I'm reviewing a member of the family. "How do you rate your Aunt Vicky? Compare and contrast with other aunts and cousins."
Since numerous reviewers have already summarized the plot nicely, I'll move right on. This is a loose reworking of Holiday Inn, which was actually a better movie. The musical and dance numbers were better in Holiday Inn, and the story was even a bit more interesting. But White Christmas is in bright, clear color, and they apparently had a bigger budget for sets, so it looks better than Holiday Inn.
I've always enjoyed the first half of the movie better. The story is simpler, the characters are sympathetic, and there is a more relaxed feel to it. The second half gets fairly maudlin before coming to an abrubt and happy conclusion. Once they take care of that troublesome general (What DO You Do With a General?), they can get back to the main plot of pairing up. After all, this is really a romance story, decked out in sleighbells and mistletoe.
So even though this movie is getting dated and creaky with age, we still have it to our house for Chritmas every year, along with Aunt Vicky.
on April 29, 1999
A full colour glory in VistaVision that'll warm your heart at Christmas or any time of the year. Bing, Danny, Rosie and Vera-Ellen sing and dance their way through a variety of Berlin songs that range from the sublime (White Christmas) to the ridiculous (What Can You Do With a General) with enough verve to win over Scrooge. Don't worry yourself with the plot, just enjoy it!
Five things i love about this movie:
1, Our four heroes in the train buffet 'Snow, Snow, Snow, SNOW!'
2, Mary Pierce as the General's housekeeper...(and head of Busybodies anonymous)
3, Rosie looking edible in 'that dress', singing 'Love, you didn't do right by me' (Look out for George Chakiris, the epitome of cool in a black turtleneck)
4, From the Minstrel Show...'How can you stop an angry dog from biting you on monday?...That joke is old, the answer is....' Well you'll just have to watch it to see!
5, 'Gee! I wish i was back in the army!' A million handsome guys, with longing in their eyes. And all you have to do is pick the age, the weight, the size, oh gee, i wish i was back in the army.
OK....I have to fit one more in......
6, For one night only...Wallace and Davis ARE....The Hanes Sisters!
May your days be merry and bright and may all Christmas films be as good as this.