Classic Film Review: White Christmas (1954)

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Brenda Fellman

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As I have previously written in ‘Four of the best Christmas movies you could ever watch‘, I am aiming to write up full reviews for 3 of them because I only gave a small review for each in that article. So without further adieu, here is the second one; White Christmas.

White Christmas is a romantic comedy musical. When Bob Wallace (Bing Crosby) and Phil Davis (Danny Kaya) leave, the army following the end of WW2, they team up and become a famous song and dance team. During their travels, they meet two sisters, Betty (Rosemary Clooney) and Judy (Vera-Ellen) Haynes,  who are also a song and dance team. When the girls head to an inn in Vermont to perform a Christmas show that year, the guys follow and find their former commander, General Waverly, to be the owner of the inn. The inn is struggling and it gets worse as there is no snow that year and the General is about to lose everything. They team up to help the general out by putting on a Christmas show.

Bing Crosby is charming as Bob Wallace, a calm and reserved, witty and delightful, wise-cracking and somewhat cynical kind of guy. Bing truly performed to his greatest. His vocal talent is enormous, and it’s a real treat to see him crack up with Danny Kaya throughout the whole film. While Bing Crosby was the first choice for this film, Danny Kaya was not. This film was originally planned to reteam Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire after the success of their team up in Holiday Inn. Once Fred Astaire turned down the rule it then went to Donald O’Conner (from Singing in the Rain) but then he too pulled out due to illness. Following O’Conner, it was offered to Danny Kaya. In all honesty, this role is made for Danny Kaya and while Fred Astaire and Donald O’Conner would have been fine, Danny Kaya is a good foil to the calm and reserved Bing Crosby.  Both Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen are perfect in the roles of the Haynes sisters. Rosemary Clooney is absolutely spellbinding as Betty Haynes, the older, calmer and more subdued sister. While Vera-Ellen is refreshingly delightful as Judy Haynes, the younger and more naive of the two. Though funnily enough, Vera-Ellen was older then Clooney.

The music is fun and memorable. this comes as no surprises as the music was composed by Irving Berlin who is one of the best songwriters or all time. White Christmas is very much a vehicle for showcasing Berlin’s songs and mastery. The combination of Berlin’s music and the lavish dance routines are in a way the real stars of the film. The real stand out track is of course is White Christmas, but there are other songs that just as good, such as “Snow,” “Sisters,” and the delightful song “Count your Blessings;” which was nominated for a best Original song at the Oscar’s.

So, while White Christmas is a Christmas movie, it is not as over the top with the theme as many Christmas movies tend to be. Besides the ending, the film is not all that centered around Christmas. White Christmas seems to focus more on the themes of romance, loyalty and generosity while the Christmas spirit is dulled out in small doses.

One thing about this film which I enjoy is that it has a lovely view of Military comradely and pride. The movie starts off on Christmas eve, in the middle of WW2 with General Waverly handing over his post to another general whilst Bing Crosby sings White Christmas to entertain his unit. The whole plot than focuses around helping General Waverly and some the film’s of the tear jerkers moments are around him.

White Christmas is a feel-good film. The plot is exciting and it’s filled with good holiday cheer. The music is enjoyable and Bing Crosby’s rendition of White Christmas at the start of the film, with the war background, is an amazing opening. If you haven’t seen it then you are missing a great film. Go watch it and enjoy.

(An interesting thing I noticed this year while watching both White Christmas and Holiday Inn is that the same Inn was used in both films.)

White Christmas – Cast

Bing Crosby – Bob Wallace

Danny Kaya – Plil Davis

Rosemary Clooney – Betty Haynes

Vera-Ellen – Judy Haynes

Dean Jagger – Major General Thomas F. Waverly

Mary Wickes – Emma

Anne Whitfield – Susan

Christmas movies

Want to watch some other great movies this festive period? Here are 10 of the best Christmas movies to watch this Christmas.

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Classic Film Review: Whit…

by Brenda Fellman time to read: 3 min