This is a five-part series of reviews of classic live-action Christmas films that are on my must-watch list every holiday season.
Some songs are just perfect the first time around, and Bing Crosby’s rendition of “White Christmas” is one of them. Why do other artists bother? Do they not watch the first few minutes of this film, where Bing stands on a stage before his Army outfit during World War II and croons his heart out? Even though it’s not the first time he’d sung that song on film (that movie gets reviewed tomorrow, so stay tuned), it never fails to stop the show.
But I digress. White Christmas may be a little thin on plot, but there’s a bit more to it than just its title song (and all the other fantastic Irving Berlin numbers). Bing plays Bob Wallace, a singer and soldier who after entertaining the troops finds himself under a falling building. Phil Davis (Danny Kaye) pushes him out of the way, saving Bob’s life but injuring his arm. Bob goes to visit Phil in the Army hospital and promises him anything for saving his life. “Anything” turns into a double song-and-dance act, radio slots, and producing elaborate shows together for the next several years.
Bob and Phil have everything except women to love. Enter sisters Judy and Betty Hanes (Vera Ellen and Rosemary Clooney). Phil sees Betty as the perfect mate for Bob, one who will be an antidote to his never-ending work ethic and give Phil a much-needed rest. The four entertainers end up in Vermont, at an inn run by Phil and Bob’s former general. The sisters are supposed to be the floorshow for all the incoming skiers, but there’s one problem: no snow for the Christmas crowds. No snow equals no guests and no money for the already in-debt general. What can be done but put on a show to save the day?
It’s a classic musical plot done in many different ways, but it’s tons of fun to watch. I’m a sucker for musicals, what can I say? The dancing is first-rate, the costumes are a dose of old-school glamour and elegance, and the romances, while predictable from the lovers’ first meetings, are sweet. And while I’m not the biggest Bing Crosby fan ever, any chance to hear him sing “White Christmas” is a chance I will happily take. To quote my high school pal Kara, “That’s the sound of melting butter.” And it’s the sound of Christmas for me.