White Christmas may digress a bit much, but I'd watch it for Kaye alone
I very much enjoy White Christmas despite the fact that it suffers from some of my pet peeves regarding musicals of the era. Not the least of which is the penchant to digress into song-and-dance numbers that have little to no connection with the story. Take "Mandy" and "Choreography" as two of the most egregious offenders in this arena, for example, but they pale in comparison to "Gotta Dance" from Singin' in the Rain in 1952.
That aside, I'm a real fan of Danny Kaye and I love to watch this one around the holiday season.
White Christmas follows two old army buddies, Bob Wallace (Bing Crosby) and Phil Davis (Danny Kaye) who start up a two man show after ending their tours. They become big time producers and meet Betty and Judy Haynes (Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen), two dancing sisters of a pal they met in the army. After a bit of a run-in with local law enforcement, the four find themselves on a train to Vermont. There, they find that the inn where they'll be staying is owned and run by Bob and Phil's old commanding officer, Major General Thomas F. Waverly (Dean Jagger). Business has been poor since they haven't gotten any snow yet and the two hatch a plan to put on a show to lift the spirits of their former C.O.
There are good performances by all four of the main characters, and Kaye and Crosby have good chemistry and timing together. Originally the filmmakers were hoping to reunite Crosby with Fred Astaire after their success with Holiday Inn, but Astaire had retired by that point. The part was reworked for Donald O'Connor until he pulled out and Kaye was brought in.
I find that oddly funny considering one of the key points of Holiday Inn was brought up in song where Astaire points out that Crosby can sing, but his dancing is almost nonexistent, and Crosby points out that old twinkle-toes Astaire may have fast and deft feet, but his singing is merely passable.
Then in comes Danny Kaye. He sings, he dances, he's got impeccable comic timing. He's the whole package.
And Clooney and Vera-Ellen are both lovely and talented. Even though Vera-Ellen didn't actually sing her songs. Trudy Stevens sang all but "Sisters" where Rosemary Clooney sang both parts. But she's a great dancer and apparently her legs reach all the way to the floor. I expect that's a big advantage for a dancer.
This all hinges on whether you like musicals from the 50's. There are many many digressions into song—some more directly connected to the story than others—and at times the acting can seem a bit ridiculous, but fun.
If you watch through the second performance of "Sisters," and you can put up with that kind of shenaniganism, you should do fine for the whole movie.
This one gets an 8 / 10.
White Christmas has not been rated but there's seriously nothing offensive beyond the occasional song-and-dance that runs a bit too long.
- Christmas movies - what makes them classic and just how many of them do we need?
Christmas is coming. Which means a whole new batch of movies to tell you how to celebrate it. But what about all those Christmas movies that are already out? What made them Christmasy in the first place.