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Movie Review: White Christmas

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Some critics dismiss Irving Berlin’s White Christmas as a holiday classic and instead call it a corny, short-on-story, staged songfest. However, this critic is here to articulate the opposite. White Christmas is fun, fanciful, heart-warming, and capable of stuffing you with the Christmas Spirit quicker than a holiday turkey. With its show-stopping numbers and superb cast of players, White Christmas is a genuine December must-view.

After serving together in World War II, Bob Wallace (Bing Crosby) and Phil Davis (Danny Kaye) form a successful song-and-dance act. The pair performs nationwide, earns their own television program entitled “The Wallace and Davis Show,” and then tries their hand at producing their own musical, entitled “Playing Around.”

When the cast of “Playing Around” breaks for the Christmas holiday, Wallace and Davis meet two beautiful singing sisters, Judy (Vera-Ellen) and Betty Haynes (Rosemary Clooney). On Phil’s recommendation, Wallace and Davis join the “sister act” at the Columbia Inn in Pine Tree, Vermont for their next show.

Once at the Inn, Wallace and Davis discover that their former General, Thomas F. Waverly (Dean Jagger), is now the owner of the lodge. In an effort to help the General’s business and make his Christmas all the more merrier, the foursome brings their talent to Vermont in Broadway show form. In the meantime, Phil and Judy play matchmaker for Bob and Betty.

Despite the film only possessing modest references to Christmas (at the beginning and end), White Christmas is still a bona-fide Christmas story. The plot is focused around giving, being unselfish, and spreading love and joy — the true reasons for the season. An all-out holiday celebration isn’t necessary in justifying this motion picture’s connection to Xmas.

Apart from earning Irving Berlin an Oscar for Best Original Song (“Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep”), White Christmas also earned the titles of the highest grossing film of 1954 and the first feature film to be shot in VistaVision with vibrant Technicolor. Regardless of format, director Michael Curtiz (The Jazz Singer, Casablanca, Yankee Doodle Dandy, Angels with Dirty Faces, The Adventures of Robin Rood, etc.) does well at making White Christmas memorable. It is Curtiz’s management of the fine group of actors that enhances the aforesaid attributes.

Beginning with Bing, his rich voice leads the film in unforgettable songs like “White Christmas,” “Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep,” and “What Can You Do With a General?” Countering Crosby is Kaye’s comedic clumsiness. Furthermore, coupling the male pair is the motherly sumptuousness of Rosemary Clooney and the amazingly agility, yet serious anorexia, of Vera-Ellen. In addition, look for George Chakiris (a.k.a Bernardo from West Side Story) as a dancer in the “Mandy” and “Love” numbers and Mary Wickes to add to Kaye’s funny side.

For this critic, nothing spells Christmastime better than a warm cup of cocoa and this fluffy holiday outing. Therefore, be sure to spend at least one chilly night during the twelfth month of the year with White Christmas in your DVD player. It will warm your heart and fill you with song, year after year. Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a repeat viewing of this timeless, cheery, and sentimental classic.

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About Brandon Valentine

  • Couldn’t agree with you more about the virtues of this one, Brandon. In fact, I think you may have just convinced me to pop this into my DVD player this afternoon.

  • ostrova

    Wallace and Davis have a TV show, not a radio show, and I beg to differ about Danny Kaye’s “comedic clumsiness”, Valentine. He’s got to be one of the best untrained dancers in the movies.

  • I should point out to commenter #2 that Brandon had “television” in his piece originally and I edited it, incorrectly as it turns out since I mis-remembered the film. I’ve corrected my error, and apologies to Brandon for my editorial lapse.

    I don’t think it negates Kaye’s great talents to refer to his “comedic clumsiness” by the way — he always played to his comedic strengths, which were many.