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Wayback Wednesday: White Christmas (1954)

I greatly appreciated the Christmas couture. 

Merry Christmas!

What a Christmas miracle it is that Dec. 25th just so happens to fall on a Wednesday this year. After having already reviewed two childhood favorites this month, I decided that my final Wayback of the holiday season should be dedicated to a classic movie from the Golden Age of Hollywood. Which is how I ended up watching the delightful musical White Christmas (1954) for the first time. By the way, you can check out my reviews for Home Alone (1990) and How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000) here and here. While I enjoyed getting swept away by the musical sensation that is White Christmas, I’m a little shocked that the movie is surprisingly low on Christmas content.

Screen Shot 2019-12-22 at 9.44.24 PM
Credit: / Paramount Pictures

White Christmas follows Bob Wallace and Phil Davis, two former army buddies who have found success as Broadway producers since the end of World War II. Accompanied by the musical Haynes sisters, Betty and Judy, the group spend the holiday at the solitary Pine Tree Lodge in Vermont. To help the lodge’s owner, Bob and Phil’s former army general, the group decide to put on an elaborate show to drum up business.

So, like I said, this movie has next to nothing to do with Christmas. Sure, there are fabulous Christmas costumes (designed by the equally fabulous legendary costumer, Edith Head) and the yearning for a snowy holiday, but other than that the title is the only real Yuletide connection. In fact, we were a half hour in when besides for a brief rendition of the title song, there was an absence of anything remotely Christmas-y. It wasn’t until the fabulous finale that things got appropriately Christmas-y. I mean really, this movie could have been called The General’s Wish or Vacation in Vermont, and it could use the exact same script. I know I’m harping on how I could have used more Christmas in White Christmas, but I liked this movie. It’s a holiday heartwarmer that I’ll most likely be watching again in the future. So, I was a smidgen disappointed that it wasn’t as Christmas-y as I’d had hoped. Although, one of my favoutite movies to watch in December, The Holiday (2006), isn’t very Christmas-y and that doesn’t hold it back from being one of the best holiday movies ever. Believe me, the Wayback review for The Holiday is coming in 2020.

Luckily for White Christmas, the addition of Christmas King Bing Crosby allows the movie to deliver its fair share of Yuletide merriment. Together he and Danny Kaye, as Bob and Phil respectively, shine. They perform as a pair so fluidly and with such partnership that it really seems as though they’ve been working together for over a decade. If there’s one thing that can be said of old musical comedies from the 40s and 50s, it’s that they threw together lead actors who had a natural chemistry. Hey, while we’re praising Crosby and Kaye, kudos to the movie for having the guts to put its male stars in drag and perform a number as women. For 1954 that was revolutionary for a movie to do and it’s the type of fun risk that makes White Christmas a pleasant, sweet, story.

The same wonderful chemistry can be said for Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen as Haynes sisters Betty and Judy respectively. Let me just say, the movie knew what it was doing when it cast these two super talented stars as a musical sister act. Once again, the pair work flawlessly together as their talents are used to the very best of their ability. Clooney’s gorgeous voice and Ellen’s impeccable dancing are on full display as they prove to be the most enjoyable parts of this musical extravaganza. Ellen especially shows off some astounding choreography during her and Kaye’s, “The Best Things Happen While You’re Dancing” number. God, I miss when movies were just musicals for no reason.

Another thing I miss about old movies is their use of practical effects and sets over the modern convenience of CGI. Sure, CGI is amazing and at times practical can look rather cheesy, but there were some great use of practical effects in the beginning that make a strong case for the practice to be brought back in the 21st century. Each set, immaculately designed, feels like it’s ripped straight from the Broadway stage and cultivate a sense of old-school charm you only get from old movies like these. I mean, the lodge they stay in is beautiful and looks like the perfect place to curl up and be relaxed and cozy for the Christmas holiday. Also, going back to the costumes for a second (seriously, look up Edith Head’s work), every one is dripping in razzle dazzle and will have you going, “YASSS!” Especially Cloooney’s black gowns.

Like Last Christmas (2019), which you can check out my review for here, White Christmas is a holiday movie named after a Christmas song that while having fleeting moments of heart and humour, never reaches its full potential. I absolutely love that the main plot is a good ol’ fashioned, “let’s put on a big show to save the business!” storyline. It’s certainly delightful and the musical numbers, though admittedly an odd assortment, are sure to blow you away though. Seriously, y’know how in most musicals the numbers share a common theme that help movie along the plot or describe the characters? Yeah, not so much in White Christmas. Although, the song “Count Your Blessings,” is a heartwarming tune that is sure to put you in the holiday spirit.

If you’re a fan of Broadway productions and showbiz glamour, I recommend White Christmas. I personally enjoyed it but I have to admit that the main reason I’ll be re-watching it in the future is for the glitzy costumes and mesmerizing dancing. If anything, watching White Christmas has made me realize how badly I want a new Christmas musical in my life. Hmmm, maybe a movie based on “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas?” Make it happen Hollywood!

What are your favourite Christmas movies?

Let me know in the comments or on social media!

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