“My dear partner, when what’s left of you gets around to what’s left to be gotten, what’s left to be gotten won’t be worth getting, whatever it is you’ve got left,” says Phil Davis. Bob Wallace responds, “When I figure out what that means I’ll come up with a crushing reply.”
Probably like most people, my introduction to the holiday classic White Christmas was through the song White Christmas performed by Bing Crosby (which I later found out had originated in the 1942 classic Holiday Inn, having won the Academy Award for Best Original Song for that film). I was surprised when I found out that the film White Christmas was a musical (just like Holiday Inn), and although I’d catch a couple of clips on TV over the years, I never got a chance to see the film. NCM Fathom recently screened the film in select theaters nationwide to celebrate the film’s 60th anniversary, and I was fortunate enough to see it on the big screen for the very first time. It was a very enjoyable experience, and the two DVD/blu-ray special features that screened afterward were a nice bonus.
1954’s White Christmas follows a pair of Broadway entertainers (and former G.I.s) who help a pair of sisters (who sing as a duet) get out of a sticky jam in Florida and journey with them to snowy Vermont only to discover that, despite the approach of Christmas, the snow has not yet arrived. The Broadway duo encounter their former CO, who owns the lodge that they’re staying at, and hatch a plan to help boost business for the holidays. Michael Curtiz has quite the cast assembled for this film: Bing Crosby (as Bob Wallace), Danny Kaye (as Phil Davis), Rosemary Clooney (as Betty Haynes), Vera-Ellen (as Judy Haynes), Dean Jagger (as Major General Tom Waverly), Mary Wickes (as Emma Allen), Johnny Grant (as Ed Harrison), Anne Whitfield (as Susan Waverly), and an uncredited George Chakiris (as one of Betty Haynes’ background dancers). Crosby and Kaye deliver terrific performances and make quite a comedy team; Kaye is delightfully mischievous and balances out Crosby’s straight man (their lip-synching to the song Sisters is one of my favorite scenes in the film). Clooney and Ellen are just as good and very convincing as sisters. The dancing sequences are remarkable as well (the sequence for the song Choreography is just wonderfully bizarre).
Curtiz’s direction is top-notch, bringing real weight to the World War II prologue that resonates throughout the film. The screenplay by Norman Krasna, Norman Panama, and Melvin Frank balances the comedy with the drama (the running gag involving Kaye’s arm never gets old). Loyal Grigg’s Technicolor cinematography is superb, making great use of Paramount’s brand new VistaVision process (a higher resolution, widescreen variant of 35mm film stock). Edith Head’s costume designs are gorgeous, the production design by Roland Anderson and Hal Pereira is very impressive (particularly the final sequence), and Frank Bracht’s editing drives the film at an excellent pace. Wally Westmore’s makeup design is first-rate, as are Irving Berlin’s songs (Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep earned the film its sole Oscar nomination). White Christmas is an enduring classic that is enjoyed by audiences generation after generation. If you haven’t already checked out this holiday gem, do not hesitate any longer!