|Writer(s)||Norman Krasna, Norman Panama … and Melvin Frank|
|Release Date||December 27, 1954|
Until a few years ago as far as I was concerned White Christmas was just the wrong answer to the pub quiz question, “Which film did the song White Christmas first appear in?” (the answer is, of course, Holiday Inn, pub quiz fans). All of that changed when I was home alone a few years ago with nothing to do, and I was feeling a distinct lack of Christmas spirit. I came across White Christmas on our DVR and thought, “I can give it a go to kill some time before the inept burglars turn up” (I was Home Alone after all). I went on to watch White Christmas twice more in the run up to Christmas that year alone, and it has become a firm Christmas favourite now. It’s jumped right to the top of my Christmas movie list and I’ll watch it every Christmas without fail, usually more than once. I’ve spent some time in the last few weeks writing about dreadful made-for-TV Christmas movies (although The Nine Lives of Christmas was surprisingly good) so I’ve jumped at the chance to write about one of my favourite Christmas films.
What happens in White Christmas, I’m guessing snow is involved?
I’ll put this out there from the start: it’s a musical.
A musical? Forget it, I’m leaving…
Wait! White Christmas is definitely a musical but it’s great. I am really not a fan of musicals that don’t star Ryan Gosling or Tom Cruise (La La Land or Rock of Ages in case you’re wondering) but I love White Christmas. The songs feel quite natural in the grand scheme of things and don’t really feel like forced musical contrivances.
Hmmm. Alright then. Apart from the singing, what else happens?
The film centres on the successful song and dance double act of Bob Wallace (Bing Crosby) and Phil Davis (Danny Kaye). The two of them ended up working together after their days in the army when Phil saved Bob’s life. By pushing him out of the way of a falling wall. I only mention this because it’s kind of a recurring joke throughout the film. No, really, it’s funnier than it sounds. It pretty much always makes me laugh more than it should. The boys have a chance meeting with the Haynes sisters who are new (ish) to showbusiness and they’re hoping for some tips from the great Wallace and Davis, to help them get ahead. The four of them end up in Vermont for Christmas-related shenanigans and as luck would have it the four of them end up at an inn owned by the boys’ former General from their army days.
What follows is very much a “put on a show to save the community center” type affair, when the gang realise the General’s inn isn’t doing too well and certainly isn’t helped by the unseasonal lack of snow. Heart-warming Christmas fun ensues.
But what makes it so good?
It’s just so much fun. There’s never any real peril involved in the proceedings. The driving force behind the plot revolves around a few minor misunderstandings. This kind of farce would normally irritate me; characters who withhold information for no good reason is usually something that turns me off a movie, but I actually really like it here. It’s not played in a frustrating way.
Personally, I find it to be a lot more charming than that. I think part of this is definitely the lead performances. I really like Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye individually in this, but when the pair are together they are great. The real standout for me is Danny Kaye, who I’d only seen in a few things previously. In White Christmas he is just superb. Nearly all of the biggest laughs come from Kaye, and he’s a great dancer. Judy (Vera-Ellen) and Betty Haynes (Rosemary Clooney) are also great, both are fantastic dancers and they provide some of the strongest musical numbers.
Musical numbers you say? So there’s more to this than White Christmas?
The titular song is really just the tip of the iceberg. It usually takes me until around March before I stop singing all of the songs in White Christmas and even then I have occasional relapses into “Sisters”. There are so many good musical numbers in the film and they’re all quite memorable, and remember this is from a man who doesn’t like musicals.
You make it sound so good, surely there’s something wrong with it?
It is a great movie, but in some respects it’s also very much of its time, so some of the gender politics are slightly questionable at times. Also, the central romance between Bob and Betty feels a little tacked-on, almost as though the writers decided there needs to be a romantic interest for Bing Crosby and so there you have it. There’s just something not quite there with the chemistry between them really, it’s all a bit too sudden. Maybe the 25-year age difference between the two of them has something to do with it, but who knows? They might well have been very much in love.
Very much so, it’s a feel-good Christmas movie that doesn’t involve maiming petty criminals (Die Hard, Home Alone and Home Alone 2) nor does it feel quite as gritty and depressing as some other Christmas movies do at times (It’s a Wonderful Life). White Christmas is just a nice, relaxing, and happy watch from start to finish with some disgustingly catchy tunes thrown in.
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Oli has been writing for Ready Steady Cut since November 2017. He has a PhD in Computer Science and he writes articles about TV, film and, very occasionally, science.