White Christmas is your humble reviewer’s favorite holiday-themed movie. To simply call it a movie may be an injustice – it’s an experience! People fall in love with movies and they become very personal. This movie is a perfect example or something that can really touch you.
As White Christmas has been so widely reviewed, this review will serve only as an introduction to the movie for someone who has never seen it. If you are such a person, you have missed a special treat and you should remove yourself from that class of society at once!
The movie begins in Europe during World War II. Bob Wallace (Bing Crosby) is already a famous entertainer and during the war he’s serving as a Captain in the U.S. Army. He doesn’t have a cushy job though, he’s at the front, and it’s Christmas Eve 1944.
Major General Thomas F. Waverly (Dean Jagger) is retiring and he is a leader who is loved by his men. It’s been (un-officially) decided that an impromptu Christmas show will be held and the entertainment will consist of Captain Wallace and unknown Private Phil Davis (Danny Kaye). The purpose of the show is not just to remember Christmas but also as a tribute to General Waverly.
As the show nears an end the troops come under air attack and everyone tries to find cover. A brick wall starts to fall and Captain Wallace is standing under it. He’s quickly pulled away by Private Davis and the two take cover under a truck. Davis’ arm is slightly injured, and this will not be the last we hear of it.
Spoiler alert #1: We are not going to get too far into the movie, but if you have not seen it, you may want to stop before we go any further.
Captain Wallace pays a brief visit to Davis at a field hospital to thank him for saving his life and mentions that if there is anything he can do for him, to just ask.
Before the words are barely out of Wallace’s mouth, Davis pulls out the score of a song that he has written and offers it to Wallace. But, there’s a catch: It’s a two-person number and Wallace works as a solo act. Davis grabs his arm to remind Wallace that he saved his life and in the next sixty seconds the war comes to an end and we are presented with the fact that Wallace and Davis are now a team and one of the most popular entertainment acts in the United States, complete with a traveling show.
Spoiler alert #2: It’s not long before Christmas and the show is in Florida. The night before the show is to end and the cast is to return to New York to break for the holidays, Wallace gets a letter that is apparently from an old army buddy named Benny Haynes. It seems that his sisters perform a nightclub act, and he would love to have Wallace and Davis see their act.
As a “favor to an old army buddy,” Wallace rounds up Davis and the two reluctantly head to a nightclub to catch the act. The Haynes sisters (Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen) appear and perform their signature song, “Sisters.”
This nightclub scene is spectacular and a good example of the entertainment of days gone by. Following their performance a dance number (“The Best Things Happen When You’re Dancing”) between Vera-Ellen and Danny Kaye is memorable. Also of interest, the sisters produce a photo of their brother Benny (“freckle-face Haynes, the dog-faced boy” as Davis calls him) and it’s Carl Switzer (Alfalfa of “Our Gang” or “Little Rascals” fame). Switzer does not actually appear in the movie but the photo is of him.
The meeting between Wallace, Davis and the Haynes Sisters is not necessarily smooth and without the constant meddling of Davis into Wallace’s personal life (he continuously tries to match-make him with eligible females) would likely have ended the brief relationship between the four.
Spoiler alert #3: The Haynes Sister’s engagement in Florida is at an end and they are next booked at a ski lodge in Vermont. They are scheduled to take the train from Florida to Vermont and Davis is intent on keeping the four together so he presses Wallace to head to Vermont with them.
It’s all a little more complicated than that but eventually all four of them arrive in Vermont.
I don’t normally focus on bloopers in movies as I consider it trivial but it is interesting to note that neither the Santa Fe or Southern Pacific Railroads ran trains from Florida to New York but apparently that’s how they made the trek.
Spoiler alert #4: As soon as the group gets off the train in Vermont they realize that something is very wrong; The weather is balmy and there is no snow!
They are taken by car to the ski lodge where they are immediately told by the desk clerk, Emma Allen (Mary Wickes), that business is so bad that they will have to cancel the booking and that the sisters will be paid a half salary.
As soon as they hear the news Wallace and Davis pick up their suitcases and are prepared to leave when in walks a man carrying firewood. Both do a double-take only to discover that it’s General Waverly.
The movie is still just getting started.
Singing, dancing, romance, and Christmas, it doesn’t get any better than this – except for the deception, confusion and exaggerating busy-body Emma Allen (who causes most of the trouble). But, without it, there goes the story.
The musical numbers are superb, the scene settings classic and the casting perfect.
We need to mention Vera-Ellen as well. Although she did not make a great number of movies, it is this reviewers opinion that she was the best female dancer ever to appear on film. If you have an alternative viewpoint, please post a comment.
White Christmas is a very special movie that this reviewer feels will never be equaled. The movie comes to a climax at the end and will not disappoint.
Although the song “White Christmas” was introduced in the movie “Holiday Inn” some twelve years earlier, it’s back, and as the theme of this film. We get to hear the song twice; Once at the beginning and then again during the spectacular finale.