140 Character Movie Review – #140RVW
Beautiful Irving Berlin music (except the minstrel number), excellent screwball dialogue & fine performances, especially by Clooney & Kaye.
Spoiler-free Movie Review of White Christmas:
Yes, this review certainly is out of season. So what? After a period of low output, I’m getting back into somewhat of a good groove with the reviews and want to finalize many of these half-written pieces from the back end of 2014, including this one, written for the 60th anniversary of White Christmas in December. (Besides, the holiday setting is really the only thing that makes it a holiday movie, per se.)
White Christmas is sort of a greatest hits album of a film. Like Singin’ In The Rain, it’s largely a collection of music from other, less popular or unproduced plays and films. It’s interesting that this picture is revered and loved, while Holiday Inn, the original home of the classic song White Christmas, is more often thought of as the answer to a trivia question than for its own merits (which are considerable).
But if that introduction seems to indicate that White Christmas is a retread or a lesser work, that is in no way the reality. White Christmas is a wonderful film, a holiday classic without qualification.
Filmed in Technicolor, the colors are rich and sumptuous, popping off the screen. More importantly, it was the first movie released in VistaVision, and remains a gorgeous spectacle to show off that storied format. The expanded scope of the format makes for great, sweeping dance numbers. I always found it interesting that Gene Kelly disliked scope films, feeling that the 1.33:1 “full” format made for better blocking and film choreography of dance scenes. I have no intention of disagreeing with such an amazing filmmaker, but I quite like the widescreen 2.35:1 or even 2.40:1 frame for musical numbers – provided, of course, that they use it in the planning. If you’re just trying to track a couple, 4:3 or 16:9 does work better.
The film was helmed by Michael Curtiz – so many great movies on that resume. It has always amazed me that when people discuss the legendary & prolific directors like Ford, Welles, or their modern contemporaries like Spielberg, Curtiz’s name seldom comes up. He was attached to so many landmark films.
The music, of course, is the big draw, with so many great Irving Berlin tunes. Upon watching the film for the first time with my daughter this holiday season, I was astonished that the song she sang the most in the days following was the Army song “The Old Man”. Guess you can never tell…
The highlight may be the title song, but not the traditional performance at the end of the picture. In the first scene, set in wartime Europe, Crosby understates it wonderfully accompanied only by Kay grinding the melody out on a music box. The song has never sounded better.
(The lowlight, of course, is the Minstrel number – I completely forgot about this thing. Blocked it out, more likely. While I’m not one for fiddling with films after the fact, I think you could make a pretty good case for cutting this number completely out.)
The song that has in some ways become the centerpiece of the picture, “Sisters”, is accompanied by Crosby & Kaye sending it up; a late add, included when the stars were seen goofing around on set.
What a knockout cast. Rosemary Clooney is nearly as entertaining as an actress has she is a singer. Her chemistry with the somewhat flat Vera-Allen, who is here for her phenomenal dancing, makes the girls portions of the story at least as interesting as the Crosby/Kaye scenes. (There is some truly wonderful dancing by Kaye & Vera-Ellen.)
Danny Kaye may be the most overlooked talent in Hollywood history. No, Donald O’Connor, probably… (who actually was attached to the project before leaving due to illness). Can you imagine this film with Fred Astaire, whom the part was written for? No knock on Astaire, but this thing would have been too stuffy without Kaye.
It’s a good story, being something slightly more than just a vehicle for the songs. The Army buddies dynamic of the two male leads is an inspired premise and keeps the motivation for all of the characters actions believable. “Let’s just say we’re doing it for a pal in the Army, huh?”
The dialogue is snappy and fun and helps the pace, which would otherwise suffer a bit. As great as this picture is, I have no idea why they felt the need to drag it out for two full hours. But the screwball comedy wit from veterans Norman Krasna, Norman Panama and Melvin Frank is textbook stuff and should be taught in classes as such…
White Christmas really is a great film to watch at any time of year. There’s nothing about Clooney’s performance of “Love, You Didn’t Do Right By Me” that will have you thinking about anything cool. Highly recommended…
The Representation Test Score: C (6 pts)
|Main Cast||Bing Crosby Bob Wallace, Danny Kaye Phil Davis, Rosemary Clooney Betty Haynes, Vera-Ellen (as Vera Ellen) Judy Haynes|
|Release Date||Thu 14 Oct 1954 UTC|
|Genres||Comedy, Musical, Romance|
|Plot||A successful song-and-dance team become romantically involved with a sister act and team up to save the failing Vermont inn of their former commanding general.|
|Tagline||First and unforgettable picture in VISTAVISION|
|Writers||Norman Krasna (written for the screen by) &, Norman Panama (written for the screen by) …|