I’ve written about White Christmas in this space a couple of times, and truth be told, could probably fill a substantial volume writing about all it’s awesome sauce. It’s one of those movies I’ve seen so many times I don’t even really pay attention to the plot anymore. I spend my time looking in the background for all the little things I missed on the previous 100 viewings. And boy is there some great stuff in the background. Whether you’ve seen it dozens of times like I have or if this is the first time you’ve ever heard of it, do yourself a favor and watch the backup dancers during the Mandy routine. It’s solid gold.
For the ones that somehow aren’t familiar with this Christmas gem, White Christmas is the story of army buddies Bob Wallace (Bing Crosby) and Phil Davis (Danny Kaye) who team up after WWII to become a “boffo” song and dance act. Doing a favor for an old pal from the Army, they meet the Haynes sisters, Betty (Rosemary Clooney) and Judy (Vera-Ellen), another song and dance duo. Phil, scheming to get Bob a wife and kids, and therefore some time away from the show biz grind for himself, conspires with Judy, looking for some freedom from Betty, to get Bob and Betty together. The four travel to Vermont for a little R&R, where they run into Bob and Phil’s old commander, General Waverly (Dean Jagger), who now runs an inn. Times are tough for the General (who prefers not to be called general, but everyone calls him that anyway). The lack of snow has been bad for business and the inn housekeeper Emma (Mary Wickes) let’s Bob and Phil in on the secret that the General is in over his head. Bob and Phil, look to their show business sway to find a way to save the inn and show the General he hasn’t been forgotten.
Song and dance hijinx ensue. Also, occasional cross-dressing.
Like Holiday Inn, White Christmas has tremendous music penned by Irving Berlin, including of course the eponymous title track. In a similar fashion, it centers around show biz folks, so most of the song and dance numbers appear like natural performances or rehearsals, not just people randomly bursting into elaborate musical numbers on the street. There are exceptions, most notably The Best Things Happen While You’re Dancing number. The silliness in which that particular routine ends and abruptly returns to reality only adds to the movie’s charm. Oh, and this chestnut.
Lovely as it is corny. I can’t get enough of it.
If you’re the kind of person that enjoys musicals, then you will love White Christmas. If you’re not that person, you will probably still enjoy it. It’s a good story on it’s own and Bing and company are impossible not to love. It’s a funny and sweet movie, and you might just get a little misty at the ending.
If you’re a White Christmas veteran but have never taken the time to appreciate all that’s happening on the margins, do yourself a favor this year and keep an eye on the scenery. It’s more than just spotting the miscues and continuity mistakes. There is actually a lot going on outside the main action that will enhance your viewing experience.
A few clues to help you out:
- Watch modest Bing in the dressing room after Blue Skies
- The aforementioned backup dancers during Mandy
- Watch the coffee pot in the Haynes sister’s dressing room
- Bing’s wardrobe in the Army hospital tent
There’s just a few to get you started.
Not only is White Christmas one of my favorite Christmas movies, it’s one of my favorite movies period.