Sunday, December 15, 2013

"White Christmas" (1954)


As I mentioned here, this is my absolute favorite Christmas movie.  It's also one of my favorite musicals.  I can still remember the first time I saw it -- I was probably six or seven, and I got to stay up a bit late to finish watching it when our local PBS station aired it.  I didn't see it again for a few years, until we borrowed a bunch of movies from my aunt while on summer vacation.  I bought my own copy shortly thereafter, and watching it became a Christmas tradition.  I took it to college with me, and my dear friend ED and I discovered that it would not snow on our college campus until we had watched it together.  Pattern held true all four years.

Anyway, the movie begins in 1944, with American troops overseas watching a hastily assembled Christmas production put on by Captain Bob Wallace (Bing Crosby) and Private Phil Davis (Danny Kaye).


 Their commander, Major General Tom Waverly (Dean Jagger) is being replaced by a younger general, and they give Waverly a musical send-off to assure him they won't forget him.


Right while they're singing, bombs begin falling all around.  Phil Davis saves Bob Wallace from a falling wall, breaking his arm in the process.  He then uses his broken arm to convince Wallace to team up with him once the war is over, and the two make it big in show business and song-and-dance men.


Ten years later, they're wildly famous, but both getting tired of their lonely lives schlepping from one gig to the next.  Enter Betty (Rosemary Clooney) and Judy Haynes (Vera-Ellen), sisters who do a floor show.


Their brother (Freckle-faced Haynes the Dog-faced Boy) was in the army with Wallace and Davis, and the girls cash in on that to get the famous producers to come see their act, maybe get a little free advice.  Instead, the boys end up getting the girls out of a jam by taking over their place in the floor show.


Um, yes.  And then they all wind up in Vermont, where General Waverly now owns a ski-lodge that is foundering.


It's December, and there's no snow!  No snow means no people at the lodge means no money for General Waverly means everyone needs to somehow rescue him without him knowing they're rescuing him.  Which leads to lots of musical numbers, people falling in love, the usual.


 And then at the end, I cry happy tears and clap.


It's splendid, I tell you.

It's also the first movie ever presented in VistaVision, which is a nifty little bit of trivia.

Is this a family-friendly movie?  You bet!  No bad language, no violence (other than a few bombs falling off-camera), no innuendo.  A few costumes that look like a modest bathing suit are the closest it gets to objectionable material.

Speaking of costumes, I realized while watching this that I spent a lot of time as an adolescent dreaming of what it would be like to be a grownup and wear clothes like these.  I just grew up fifty years too late.  I know I don't talk a lot about costumes most of the time, but I want to share some of my favorites.

These are the Haynes sisters' dressing gowns.  I love them both.  I think Betty's classic red is my favorite, but the little clasp things on Judy's are really cute.


Then there's this pink dress of Judy's.  I love the way the skirt flares out!  And those sleeves!


Here's another shot where you can see how sparkly it is.  I really thought when I was a kid that some day I would get a dress just like this.  Still haven't.


Here you can see the sleeves and bodice more.


Here's an amazing, elegant dress on Betty.  Look at those unique shoulder straps!


It has such a cool silhouette too.  Although I like Judy better as a character, I like Betty's dresses better.  Maybe because I'm shaped more like her.


And this is my favorite dress in the whole movie.  It's a gorgeous dark green, which is hard to tell here because honestly, my DVD is not made from the clearest print and everything's a little dark.


There are almost no full-length shots of this dress, alas.  But doesn't it have the most interesting neckline/bodice thing going on, with those criss-crossing straps?  They're echoed on the back.  I did actually manage to find a dress once that reminds me of this one, dark green with short sleeves and a full skirt.  Mine is ankle-length instead of just below the knee, doesn't have the nifty straps, and instead of being totally velvet like this one appears to be, mine has a velvet bodice and a shiny skirt.  But I love it anyway -- I wore it on my first real date with Cowboy.


 The guys get some super fun outfits too -- this one from the "Minstrel Show" number is my favorite, just because the red and black are so striking, and the red gloves are amazing.  What do you suppose Bing whispered to Danny here?


I didn't take many screencaps of the more every-day clothes, other than this one just because it's a fun shot.


One thing I love about this movie is that some of the costumes get worn more than once -- both Judy and Betty have a couple of outfits that they wear at least twice, which is so realistic for two girls living out of suitcases!

So, anyway, there you have it, a whole lot of my thoughts on one of my favorite movies.  "May your days be merry and bright, And may all your Christmases be white!"

10 comments:

  1. I am so looking forward to watching this movie! I think I'll probably love it, after seeing bits of it last year and now having read this lovely review. And besides, it's a musical and a Christmas movie, plus it's old and has Bing Crosby in it, so that's basically a guarantee that I'm going to love it. :-)
    I love these costumes! I think the pink dress is probably my favorite, but they're all very pretty. If only I were born seventy years earlier......: P
    Loved this review! : )

    ~Emma

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    1. I hope you love it! I don't see how you can fail to be enchanted :-) Either comment here again once you've seen it, or post on your blog! I'm eager to hear what you think.

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  2. I think I can see the dress in its original dark green by click-and-dragging to select the picture.

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    1. The bigger version of the second picture of the green dress does show the color a bit better, you're right!

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  3. This is one of my all-time faves. Nice take on your love of the film.

    I always preferred Clooney over Vera Ellen. Her voice was quite spectacular, but then Vera Ellen could dance the socks off of anybody. Oddly enough, the older Vera Ellen played the younger sister.

    I think my favourite scene is the impromptu second version of Sisters that was written in after Michael Curtiz found the crew laughing at Crosby and Kaye doing the number during an off filming time.

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    1. Thanks!

      I realized this year that I understand Betty more now than I did as a kid. When I was younger, I was like, "You idiot! Just go ask Bob what's going on! Stop believing hearsay!" Now I can at least understand her reluctance more. But I still like the spunkier Judy better.

      I didn't know the Crosby/Kaye version of "Sisters" wasn't in the script! That's hilarious -- thanks for sharing! I like that scene even better now. And they are both having the most fun ever there -- the bit where Crosby starts smacking Kaye in the stomach never fails to make me laugh aloud.

      Thanks for stopping by!

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  4. I am doing a research paper on the history of broadway and am doing a section on Irving Berlin. I have yet to see this movie but after reading about Berlin i really want to now

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    1. I'll bet that's fascinating! Berlin's output was staggering, wasn't it? Something like 800 or 900 songs? Almost unbelievable!

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  5. Elisabeth and I watched "White Christmas" after Mom suggested that since she and I were growing so close (mainly on account of C!), we should learn how to sing 'Sisters' together. :) So we sat down in the middle of December - it'd been the first time I watched the movie in seven years, and I LOVED it. (I loved it so much, I watched it two times in less than forty-eight hours, which is really rare for any movie I watch, no matter how much I like it.) Elisabeth and I have decided that we should watch it every Christmas time (along with Stalag 17), along with whenever else we feel like watching it throughout the year.

    I love the songs and the dresses and story...and I cry happy tears at the ending too. (Also a few bittersweet ones after Judy announces her [fake] engagement and Betty's crying, but not letting Judy know.) It's a lovely movie, and this review was great. :)

    ~Eva

    P.S. Thanks for all the screenshots you used in this post - they made a wonderful addition to my Pinterest account. ;)

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    1. Hee hee -- we sing "Sisters" to my two daughters now and then. I try to watch this every Christmas season too, though last month I'm afraid I ran out of time.

      I'm glad you liked the screencaps! I discovered there was a terrible dearth of good ones on the internet and had to remedy that. And now you've ferried them off to Pinterest, where they can spread cheer :-)

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