MOVIE REVIEW: “White Christmas” stars Bing Crosby (High Society, Going My Way), Danny Kaye (The Court Jester, On the Riviera), Rosemary Clooney (Deep in My Heart, Red Garters), Vera-Ellen (On the Town, Call Me Madam), Dean Jagger (Twelve O’Clock High, Vanishing Point), Mary Wickes (Sister Act, The Hunchback of Notre Dame ), John Brascia (The Baltimore Bullet, The Wrecking Crew), and Anne Whitfield (Tick Tick Tick, Cookie’s Fortune). It is directed by Michael Curtiz (Casablanca, The Adventures of Robin Hood), with the screenplay being written by Norman Krasna (Princess O’Rourke, Fury ), Norman Panama (Knock on Wood, Above and Beyond), and Melvin Frank (A Touch of Class, The Facts of Life ). Bob Wallace (Crosby) and Phil Davis (Kaye), former WWII soldiers turned successful song-and-dance duo, follow a pair of beautiful sisters, Betty (Clooney) and Judy (Ellen), to Vermont, only to discover that the resort they are staying at is owned by their former general, who is struggling to keep his business afloat.
For the first time in years, it snowed at my house on Christmas day. Instantly, the holiday was made more magical. Who doesn’t desire a white Christmas? Nobody, that’s who. And yet, I have a slight suspicion that my viewing of Michael Curtiz’s classic, “White Christmas,” last night had something to do with it…
Oddly enough, I have never seen “White Christmas.” Not in its entirety, anyway. I grew up in a home where, around Christmas time, festive films were constantly played on the television in our kitchen; some of which, I would never pay much mind to. I knew of the musical numbers in this picture. My siblings and I would joke about the “Snow” song, and who could forget the iconic scene of Bing Crosby singing the titular tune to his wartime comrades? After being told how important this feature is not only to Christmas, but also cinema at large, I figured it only proper to watch it late into Christmas Eve, as the most wonderful day of the year creeped in.
“White Christmas” is as old school as musicals get. Large stages, elaborate production design, colorful wardrobe, and big names filling the bill. Essentially, it’s the bridge of theatre and cinema, with a large chunk of the story taking place on a stage where we watch singers and dancers perform. The choreography is fantastic, and the technical elements (clothing, set pieces) are amazing; there are specific moments that take your breath away over the use of color and design, one of which in particular being Vera-Ellen’s white dress contrasting the harsh red backdrop during their rehearsal of “Playing Around” in Vermont. They clearly knew what they were doing in the song and dance department, with a majority of the story leaning into that (obviously). Really, the only number I didn’t care for was Danny Kaye’s “Choreography.” It had its moments, but for the most part… it was kind of odd.
The performances of this spectacle are fairly solid. Bing and Danny do a bang-up job selling their chemistry and carrying the story. On top of that… they can sing and dance. But we knew that. Alongside them are Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen, who balance out the rest of the cast bill as the Haynes sisters. Of course, they’re the love interests (well, one of them is), but as I have said before, this is all about the music, so most of their shine was shown on the stage. They’re great, and are given enough leeway to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the big boys. I didn’t expect much character depth, but for what was given, I was satisfied. All of them work exceptionally well together, and that is what the narrative is all about (well, what most of it is about).
As for the story of “White Christmas,” it’s fairly simple. There’s comedy, romance, and drama, all wrapped in music. The conflict is familiar, but what stood out to me was the angle with General Waverly (Jagger), Bob and Phil’s retired Major who struggles to keep his Vermont resort afloat. Something about putting on a show to remind someone just how important/relevant they are is heartwarming, especially with how Curtiz and the writers orchestrated it. The final act gives way to a moment full of warmth, one that we expected, but fawned for anyway. Much like “Casablanca,” Curtiz knows how to wrap things up beautifully; though General Waverly was not the primary conflict, its resolve made the story complete. And what could be better than ending this sucker with a final “White Christmas” number in front of snowfall? Truly wonderful.
Of course, it goes without saying that “White Christmas” should be on your annual watch list. It’s music, dance numbers, and warm story make for a memorable, holiday treat. Sure, there’s not much depth to the narrative, but that’s not the point. If you enjoy musicals, you’ll love this; if not, you’ll probably skip it. It’s pretty straightforward. Regardless, I’m glad to have finally seen it (just in time for a real white Christmas), and look forward to playing it for years to come. FINAL SCORE: 94%= Juicy Popcorn
Here is the trailer: