White Christmas was developed after the success of the song in the 1942 film Holiday Inn. It has become one of the most popular Christmas movies and is one of my personal favourites. White Christmas has singing, dancing, and a sentimental story at the heart of it, so a perfect Christmas film where you can forget about your worries for a couple of hours!
White Christmas starts on Christmas Eve 1944, showing the 151st division of the US Army in World War Two. Captain Bob Wallace (Bing Crosby), an entertainer, and Private Bob Wallace (Danny Kaye), an aspiring entertainer, put on a show for the troops. Word has reached them that their commander, Major General Waverly (Dean Jagger), is going to be leaving, so they bid an emotional farewell to him. After the performance, they suffer a bombing attack and Phil saves Bob’s life. And Phil certainly does not let Bob forget this and uses it fully to his advantage!
Fast forward several years and Bob and Phil have become big names in showbiz. One day they receive a letter from an old army pal, asking them to watch his two sisters perform their act. Bob and Phil go to watch, and are immediately taken by them- Bob with Betty (Rosemary Clooney) and Phil with Judy (Vera-Ellen). Phil and Judy hit it off and are keen for Bob and Betty to do the same, but they don’t get on so well straight away! After helping the two girls escape from their landlord who they owed money to, Bob and Phil join the sisters on their trip to Vermont (much to Bob’s dismay).
In Vermont there is no snow, and Bob and Phil also discover the inn the girls are booked to perform at is run by General Waverly! He is struggling and in danger of closing down as he put all his money into the business, and with no snow and therefore no guests, things look very bleak. To help, Bob and Phil arrange for their production to move to the inn, to attract guests. Bob and Betty get along better, and when Bob finds out the army has rejected the General’s request to join the army, he thinks of a plan to show the General how much he means to his old division.
Bob arranges a television appeal for all those who served under Waverly to come to the inn. However, the housekeeper (Mary Wickes) listened in on the conversation and got the wrong end of the stick as she thought Bob was talking about free advertising and exploiting the inn and the General’s situation. When the housekeeper tells Betty, Betty decides to leave to take a job in New York, despite the attempts of Bob/Phil/Judy to make her stay. Only after seeing Bob’s broadcast does Betty realise she was wrong, so makes her way back to the inn.
Everyone performs at the Christmas Eve show, and when the General enters he sees all the members from his old division. Everyone gets a bit emotional, Bob and Betty and Phil and Judy declare their feelings for each other, and everybody sings “White Christmas” as the snow starts to fall.
With such a good cast, it isn’t surprising that White Christmas is such a popular Christmas film. Both the dancing and singing are fantastic, and so it is very hard to pick out a favourite song/dance sequence!
Admittedly, the story is fairly light and the music/dance does dominate, but this is only a bad thing if you don’t like it! For any musical fans, this film is an entertaining watch.
It isn’t just meaningless fluff however. There is a lovely, touching story about troops supporting and getting behind their old General, showing him he still has value even after he has left the army. This key element adds a more moving and meaningful layer to the film, and you would have to have a heart of stone to not get a little bit emotional!
My favourite scene in White Christmas is undoubtedly towards the end when General Waverly sees all his old troops. You can see how touched he feels, and also how much the troops love and respect him. Their rendition of “The Old Man” makes me shed a little tear every time!
On the other end of the scale, a scene which makes me laugh every time I see it is when Bob and Phil perform “Sisters”. The ending where Phil/Danny Kaye becomes so enthusiastic and over the top cracks me up every time!
I have two favourites, for different reasons. One is General Waverly as he seems like such a decent man. I really felt his frustration and resignation at being supposedly worthless now he was no longer in the army; and I also felt his happiness and emotion when he was reunited with his troops. It is impossible not to warm to this character!
For her dancing I would also have to say Judy is one of my favourites. She stood out in every single dance and, although I understand Vera-Ellen had some issues she was battling, I felt she stole every scene in terms of performance and technique.
Phil (to Bob): I want you to get married. I want you to have nine children. And if you only spend five minutes with each kid, that’s 45 minutes, and I’d at least have time to go out and get a massage or something.
So White Christmas is certainly a good option, but my favourite song that I like to listen to is “Gee, I wish I was back in the army”. I love the tune, lyrics, and the performance by all four main characters, and I can’t help singing along to it!
Overall, if you enjoy musicals and just want to switch off, relax, and forget your stresses, this is the film for you! The story is easy to follow and has a lovely, heart-warming end, whilst the musical numbers provide fantastic entertainment. The musical numbers can seem to take over, but they are excellent so I think we can excuse that!