WHITE CHRISTMAS, 1954
Starring: Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, and Vera Ellen
Two former war buddies join showbiz forces with a pair of talented sisters to increase business for their old general’s fledgling inn during the Christmas holiday. But they’ve got their work cut out for them: no snow, no audience and no luck with romance.
NOMINATED FOR 1 OSCAR - Original Song “Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep”
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“Where’s the snow?!”
Meeting in the army during World War II, Bob Wallace (Bing Crosby) is saved in battle by Phil Davis (Danny Kaye) and a friendship is born. Showcasing their singing and dancing skills, they give their beloved general, Thomas Waverly (Dean Jagger) a rousing send-off as the war comes to an end. Years later, Wallace and Davis are a successful producing team when they meet their former general again. General Waverly is a struggling inn-keeper with a heart of gold, and Wallace and Davis decide to save him from bankruptcy by throwing a Christmas show to end all shows. White Christmas was released in 1954 and was the first film produced in Paramount's wide screen VistaVision, becoming the year’s top grossing film.
Essentially a buddy film, the story follows Bob and Phil as they bicker, entertain and support each other in their mission to save the Vermont inn. Bob is the more serious of the two, constantly putting in long hours. Phil requests Bob find a bride so he can get some “time to go out and get a massage or something.” The scene when they discuss this matter in their dressing room is shot well; they change out of their costumes, tossing hangers, shirts and matching movements in a perfectly timed scene with energy and humour. Crosby and Kaye display an ease with each other and on screen.
Phil’s wish begins to come true when they meet the Haynes Sisters, a musical act. Betty (Rosemary Clooney) and Judy (Vera Ellen) are gorgeous, talented and sweet. Both men are instantly smitten. Grabbing the opportunity to spend more time with them, Phil sneakily maneuvers another meeting with them which lands all four of them in Vermont. A spectacular Christmas show begins to take form despite the lack of snow, people and money.
Even though it’s a holiday film, the story doesn’t focus too much on Christmas, other than some sets and costumes. Its focus lies in the romance that forms between the sisters and the gentlemen as well as the loyalty they feel toward their former general. A misunderstanding between Betty and Bob causes a rift until she realizes his true intentions. A fake engagement between Judy and Phil results in disaster until they give in to their true feelings. But the most moving storyline is definitely the one that saves the General’s inn. Combining humour, song and gorgeous costumes, the rousing final title song, “White Christmas” tugs on heart strings. A tribute to their former general and a full inn brings in business and more importantly, snow!
Costumes by the talented Edith Head are beautiful and lavish. Cinched waists, flowing skirts, titled top-hats and bright colour all add to the visual appeal of the film. Choreography is intense and Vera Ellen shines in all her numbers, showcasing her teeny-tiny waist and mile-long legs. Bing Crosby croons with ease, displaying one of the best voices to grace the silver screen. His rendition of Berlin Irving’s “White Christmas” at the beginning and end of the story make the film. His duet “Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep” with Rosemary Clooney is sweet and gorgeously sung. With his kind eyes and tilted hat Crosby exudes a sincerity that works for the holiday-themed film. Danny Kaye as Phil is energetic and funny. Sliding into the role at the last minute, he does well in all the musical numbers, keeping Crosby on his toes in their scenes together. Kaye is especially good at physical comedy, displaying quick reactions and energy. Rosemary Clooney is elegant and confident in every movement; a fine partner to Crosby’s Wallace.
Although the film can sometimes dip into corny territory (an unintentionally funny ode to snow on a moving train: “I want to wash my hands, my face and hair with snow!”) it’s still very entertaining. The songs are lovely; the costumes and musical numbers are bright and cheery. The last song when the entire crowd sings “White Christmas” as the stage is filled with a world of red and white is heart-warming despite being slightly cheesy. And when the snow arrives, the audience can’t help but smile.
White Christmas is a gorgeously shot and well-performed film celebrating one of the world’s most popular holidays. The songs, colour, costumes and sets all add to a festive look, celebrating some of the most loved Hollywood actors in a well-made holiday film. As the huge Christmas tree lights up on stage and General Waverly smiles, it’s a touching moment. Acts of service, contribution and compassion are highlighted in this film, making it one of the best Christmas movies to watch during the holidays.