There’s no question that Bing Crosby crooning out White Christmas is an integral part of many’s holiday seasons. Even after the 5,000th listen, his smooth, deep voice makes me want to cuddle up in front of the fireplace each and every time. Sadly, the movie by the same title does not evoke the same warm and fuzzy response from me as its audible predecessor. It feels more like the time of night where it’s almost time for bed, the fire in the fireplace is beginning to die and the house seems just a little cold.
Following the conclusion of World War II, Bob Wallace (Bing Crosby) and Phil Davis (Danny Kaye) become the hottest singing and dancing routine in America. With the advent of television, their popularity spreads that much faster. After coming across a tandem of singing sisters, Betty and Judy Haynes (Rosemary Clooney and Vera Ellen), Bob and Phil are sidetracked from spending Christmas in New York and end up in Vermont with the girls. When they get there, the two ex-Army men find their former leader, General Thomas F. Waverly (Dean Jagger), keeping house as the owner of a struggling inn.
White Christmas is filled with lots of music – the type people like to sing along with. But I felt like I was getting too much of a good thing because it seemed as though most every song was repeated at least once, if not more. Often these repeat interludes came very close together as well, further drawing the notes out. It’s done right with the title song as it plays in the opening minutes and does not return until the closing number. This way, repetition works. It frames the film together, showing how it has come full circle. But having Betty and Judy sing “Sisters” and within a few minutes Bob and Phil lip-synching to the same tune – it’s a little much.
Part inevitable romance, part tribute to the troops, White Christmas is feel-good fluff filled with beautiful voices, bursting colours (an announcement at the beginning states that Paramount is proud that this is their debut of Vista Vision, the production company’s foray into the wonderful world of widescreen) and holiday cheer. It’s also too long. Scenes drag on and on, and not always because of the song and dance numbers. There’s too many inconsequential scenes where little happens or where the plot starts to repeat itself like the songs.
There’s a definite sentimentality attached to White Christmas, I just couldn’t buy into it. I would guess a big part is that I didn’t grow up during this period and don’t have much of an attachment to Crosby, Clooney, et al. except for what I’ve seen and heard long after the fact. Without that connection, I don’t see how I could be sentimental towards the film since there’s no personal connection. Between the beauty and the music, I can see why White Christmas is part of the Christmas classics canon. Just don’t expect to find it on mine. I’d just as sooner stick to Bing’s singing.