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December 25, 2017

White Christmas (1954) --- "Not All Christmases Are White But Bing Crosby Sure Knows How To Make It Feel Like IT."

Plot Summary
Singers Bob Wallace (Bing Crosby) and Phil Davis (Danny Kaye) join sister act Betty (Rosemary Clooney) and Judy Haynes (Vera-Ellen) to perform a Christmas show in rural Vermont. There, they run into Gen. Waverly (Dean Jagger), the boys' commander in World War II, who, they learn, is having financial difficulties; his quaint country inn is failing. So what's the foursome to do but plan a yuletide miracle: a fun-filled musical extravaganza that's sure to put Waverly and his business in the black! (1)

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Hello, Movie Buffs! 
     The song “White Christmas” made its first film debut in the 1942 classic, Holiday Inn starring Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire, this was Crosby and Astaire’s second Irving Berlin (music composer) film. By 1954 the song had become a timeless holiday classic so it was inevitable that the film would be made around it and who better than Bing Crosby to be one of the main stars. Originally Fred Astaire was going to be Crosby’s co-star in White Christmas, with this being their third Irving Berlin film, but in the end, the role went to Danny Kaye and together they proved to be an auspicious blend.

     The film is about ex-soldiers Bob Wallace (Bing Crosby) and Phil Davis (Danny Kaye), a song and dance duo who've now expanded into the production end of show business. One night they meet a singing sister act, Betty (Rosemary Clooney) and Judy Haynes (Vera-Ellen), at an event/gala and instantly the men are smitten by their beauty and performance. The sister head to another job at a resort in Vermont and after a little bit of persuasion of seeing Christmas snow in Vermont, the love-struck men follow along. However, upon arrival to Vermont, the group finds that it is an unheard of 68 degrees F◦ in early December. In addition, the group discovers that resort is owned by Wallace and Davis’ former WWII Army commander, Major General Thomas F. Waverly (Dean Jagger) who is about to lose the resort and his pride due to the lack of snow. So without further ado, the unlikely quartet go to work to save the resort.
     White Christmas (1954) is one of my favorite holiday films and by far my most favorite classic film to date. This film is a masterpiece of sheer entertainment and I have to find another film that generates that same amount of respect from its fans like this film does. The film’s cinematography and costumes are beautiful; with the red dress in the final scene being my favorite. The songs and the music score by Irving Berlin are timeless and outstanding. The title song “White Christmas” is one of my favorite Christmas songs and is a great choice for a film, while the rest of the songs fit in without fail; especially “Choreography” and “Sisters”. In addition, the choreography within each song was energetic, clever, and fitting.
     An even better aspect of the film was the performances. Bing Crosby is perfect as Bob Wallace – a guy that is calm and reserved yet witty, wise-cracking, and somewhat cynical – and his vocal talent is enormous not to mention evidently throughout the film. Danny Kaye was hilarious and gave a life to his character Phil Davis, who is full of jokes and very intent on getting Bob to settle down. It's a real treat to see Crosby and Kaye crack up while performing their rendition of a particular feminine song. Vera-Ellen was a gorgeous and delightful as she sang and danced throughout the film in her portrayal of the younger and more naive Haynes sister, Judy. Rosemary Clooney is positively riveting in a more suitably calm and subdued performance as  Betty Haynes, who she portrayed to the fullest and it is a treasure to see her perform her solo "Love (You Didn't Do Right By Me)".
     Overall, just like the song that inspired it, White Christmas (1954) is an excellent and timeless holiday film. I will forever smile when Haynes sisters first appear in cloud of blue costumes, laugh when Danny Kaye rubs his elbow in mock hurt, gasp at Vera-Ellen’s single tap that seems to go on forever, gaze longingly at the magnificently scalloped dress that Rosemary Clooney wears when she sings "Love, (You Didn't Do Right By Me),” and my heart will always melt when the film ends to Bing Crosby singing his bestselling hit, “White Christmas”. I highly recommend this film to everyone as it is a holiday classic that should never be missed. And yes it’s true that “the best things happen when you’re dancing.”

Here is some more interesting information on the main quartet of the film, according to Wikipedia:
Harry Lillis "Bing” Crosby Jr. (May 3, 1903 – October 14, 1977) was an American singer and actor whose trademark warm bass-baritone voice made him the best-selling recording artist of the 20th century, having sold over one billion records, tapes, compact discs and digital downloads around the world. The biggest hit song of Crosby's career – which stayed at No. 1 on the charts for 11 weeks – was his recording of Irving Berlin's “White Christmas”, which he introduced on a Christmas Day radio broadcast in 1941 and then appeared in his 1942 movie Holiday Inn. The song remains the bestselling single of all time (over 100 million copies sold worldwide) and became so popular that Crosby was obliged to re-record the song in 1947 using the same musicians and backup singers after the original 1942 master had become damaged due to overuse. Bing Crosby was so dismissive of his role in the song's success, saying "a jackdaw with a cleft palate could have sung it successfully” and it is this type of charm that is evident through his performances. (2)
David Daniel Kaminsky (January 18, 1911 – March 3, 1987), also known as Danny Kaye, was an American actor, singer, dancer, comedian, and musician. His performances featured physical comedy, idiosyncratic pantomimes, and rapid-fire novelty songs. His films were popular, especially his performances of patter songs and favorites such as "Inchworm" and "The Ugly Duckling". Kaye was enamored of music. While he claimed an inability to read music, he was said to have perfect pitch. A flamboyant performer with his own distinctive style, who "easily adapted from outrageous novelty songs to tender ballads," according to critic Jason Ankeny. In the 1960s and 1970s, Kaye regularly conducted world-famous orchestras, although he had to learn the scores by ear. Kaye's style was praised by the likes of Zubin Mehta who once said, “Kaye has a very efficient conducting style"; despite his conducting being accompanied by unpredictable antics like when he traded his conducting baton for a fly swatter for "The Flight of the Bumblebee" (go to 1:09:44). (3)
Vera-Ellen Westmeier Rohe (February 16, 1921 – August 30, 1981) was an American dancer and actress, who is known for her animated performances with classic film legends of the 40’s and 50’s. She danced with Gene Kelly in the musicals Words and Music (1948) and On the Town (1949), appeared in the last Marx Brothers film Love Happy (1949), received top billing alongside Fred Astaire in the musicals Three Little Words (1950) and The Belle of New York (1952), and co-starred with Donald O'Connor in Call Me Madam (1953). Vera-Ellen's last two film roles were the 1954 blockbuster hit White Christmas (1954) and the 1957 British production Let's Be Happy. (4)

Rosemary Clooney (May 23, 1928 – June 29, 2002) was an American singer and actress. She came to prominence in the early 1950s with the song "Come On-a My House", and continued recording until her death in 2002. She also had success as a jazz vocalist but her career languished in the 1960s, partly due to problems related to depression and drug addiction. However, Clooney’s career was revived in 1977, when her White Christmas co-star Bing Crosby asked her to appear with him at a show marking his 50th anniversary in show business. In 1995, Clooney guest-starred in the NBC television medical drama ER (starring her nephew, George Clooney), where she received a Primetime Emmy Award nomination for “Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series”. In 1996, she sang "When October Goes" (lyrics by Johnny Mercer and music by Barry Manilow) from Manilow's 1984 album 2:00 AM Paradise Cafe, and discussed the excellence of Manilow the musician. Rosemary Clooney was awarded “Society of Singers Lifetime Achievement Award” in 1998 and the “Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award” in 2002. In 1999, she founded the Rosemary Clooney Music Festival in her hometown of Maysville where the proceeds benefited the restoration of the Russell Theater in Maysville and she performed every year until her death in 2002. In addition, some of her children, including Miguel Ferrer and Rafael Ferrer, and her nephew, George Clooney, also became respected actors and entertainers. (5)

[singing] "... And may all your Christmases be white. MERRY CHRISTMAS!"
-- Phil Davis (Danny Kaye), Bob Wallace (Bing Crosby), Betty Haynes (Rosemary Clooney), Judy Haynes (Vera-Ellen)

Final Vote
Worth Seeing:  5 of 5 star
Worth Buying:  5 of 5 stars

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Movies Similar 
Blue Skies (1946)
Call Me Madam (1953)
The Emperor Waltz (1948)
Follow the Fleet (1936)
Going Hollywood (1933)
Here Comes the Groom (1951)
Holiday Inn (1942)
Merry Andrew (1958)
Mississippi (1935)
On the Avenue (1937)
Riding High (1950)
Road to Bali (1952)
Road to Maorocco (1942)
Road to Rio (1947)
Road to Utopia (1945)
Road to Zanzibar (1941)
Sing You Sinners (1938)
There's No Business Like Show Business (1954)

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