A successful song-and-dance team become romantically involved with a sister act and team up to save the failing Vermont inn of their former commanding general.
Director: Michael Curtiz
Starring: Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, Vera-Ellen, Dean Jagger, Mary Wickles, John Brascia
Rated: NR (alcohol consumption)
By Cole Schneider
In theaters to celebrate the season, “White Christmas” is a welcome throwback for today’s cynical movie-going crowds. Nowadays it’s more typical to see something like last year’s glib, glum, and gloomy “Love the Coopers” in anticipation of the big day, but “White Christmas” is nothing if not more pleasant and generally agreeable than those kind of slogs. The whole film is dripping with traditional Christmas joy and a wholesome spirit.
Moreover, it’s funny, has good sing-and-dance numbers, and great performances—particularly Danny Kaye. And while it’s sweeter than the candy cane you’re likely to be ingesting while watching, it also has a keen self-awareness. After Bing Crosby and Vera-Ellen escape a large party for a romantic dance on a beautiful veranda, Rosemary Clooney interrupts with, “What is this, the best two out of three?”
“I guess I got carried away”, Vera-Ellen barks back to excuse herself and Crosby jumps in with, “Yeah, she carried me right with her. I don’t weigh very much.”
Later, after elaborate plans are made for a huge show, a man remarks that he and the other two people present will be a fine audience. It even nails the remorse of military retirement and the bittersweet emotions of a holiday away from family.
Still, this is a movie built on its grand musical numbers and slick dialogue, and Michael Curtiz camera is really wonderful at filling the frame both side-to-side and front-to-back with a sense of fullness, liveliness, and pink-colored cheerfulness, while the one-liners are satisfying enough when not compared to his masterpiece, “Casablanca”.
“White Christmas” is pretty much everything we mean when we find the properly amused state-of-mind to offer a friendly “’Tis the season”.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
By Matt Greene
Looking for some holiday diversion? Miss the old-days of garishly cozy sound stages? Wanna see “White Christmas” sung by its originator? Then by all means…see Holiday Inn.
However, White Christmas, a mild confection of a film, will also do the trick. Coming from a wonderfully different era of film, we get multi-talented performers dancing, singing, acting, and delivering great dialogue, all with a smile on their face. It’s a fairly shallow but glamorously fun standard that chugs with charm.
Much like director Curtiz’s Casablanca, WC exists right on the edges of WWII, with a couple of army vets using their stage presences to woo girls and raise money for their ex-commanding-officer’s new hotel. All the performers are clearly enjoying themselves, with Crosby and Kaye respectably matching their annoyed cynicism and wide-eyed mischievousness to enhance each joke and scene. The songs provide much of the charm; while far from totally stellar, the dancing and humor within the numbers are great.
What Curtiz really provides is some wonderful gravitas in the war setting, especially in the opening and closing scenes. The general character is a flawless combination of hard-edged soldier and kind-hearted old man. His face in the finale is wonderfully teary-eyed, and it’s all done without depressing the mostly joyous proceedings.
What does drag the film down are the romantic-comedy annoyances (bad communication, random acts of infatuation, silly logic). At a solid 2-hrs, the film needed some cuts and much of these forced love-tropes should’ve hit the floor. Still, if you can set aside your cynicism for a night of frivolous American fluff, WC has plenty of charm to keep you humming along.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars