White Christmas (1954) / Comedy-Musical
MPAA Rated: Not rated, but suitable for all audiences
Running Time: 120 min.
Cast: Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, Vera-Ellen, Dean Jagger
Director: Michael Curtiz
Screenplay: Norman Krasna, Norman Panama, Melvin Frank
Review published December 19, 2003
We've probably all heard the theme song to this movie, one of the rare songs that actually overshadow the film of the same name. However, White Christmas is a classic seasonal film in its own right, making up for a simplistic plot with a lot of charm and some terrific musical numbers, courtesy of Irving Berlin. The title song itself was featured in Bing's 1942 flick, Holiday Inn, but there are some new songs here in the form of "Sisters," "The Best Things Happen When You're Dancing," "Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep," and "Snow". I must admit, I don't recall ever hearing anything other than the theme song here, so how much you enjoy the soundtrack will probably vary greatly.
Suspension of disbelief is necessary early on, as the film opens with Bing and Danny playing Bob Wallace and Phil Davis, respectively, while privates in the Army during World War II. The men would entertain the troops with their song-and-dance act, which they took along with them after the war was over, becoming one of the country's prominent entertainers. As the two get older, Phil thinks he is ready to settle down some and get hitched, and when they meet a pair of sisters, Betty and Judy, Phil does what he can to see that Bob has an opportunity for love. After finding out the sisters are heading to Vermont, Bob and Phil follow suit, only to discover that the inn they are staying in is owned by the general they fought for while in the military. The general has fallen on emotional hard times, wishing he were back in a military which no longer needs his services, and he's losing money in his hotel because of a lack of snow during the peak winter period. Bob and Phil want to help any way they can.
First of all, you'll have to be willing to forgive a great deal of contrived occurrences in order to properly enjoy White Christmas to the fullest extent, and you can't be one to turn away from anything that has even a smidge of corniness, as there's enough corn in the film to rival most farms in the Midwest. Taken for what it is, a pure entertainment family film, it live up to its promise, a good looking flick with lots of nice colors and costumes by Edith Head, and of course the terrific direction by Michael Curtiz (Casablanca). Although it has become a perennial Christmas classic, the film doesn't really deal much with the holiday until the very end, so it is a film that doesn't need to solely be enjoyed during Christmastime.
White Christmas is a sweet and charming film that is entertaining for the whole family to watch together. They don't really make films like this anymore, with an innocence that is endearing and a naivety that could only upset the biggest scrooge among us. If you haven't seen it yet, give it a chance. You'll probably find yourself playing it again next December and every one henceforth.
©2003 Vince Leo