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  White Christmas Just Like The Ones We Used To Know
Year: 1954
Director: Michael Curtiz
Stars: Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, Vera-Ellen, Dean Jagger, Mary Wickes, John Brascia, Anne Whitfield, George Chakiris, Barrie Chase, Johnny Grant, Percy Helton, I. Stanford Jolley, Sig Ruman, Grady Sutton
Genre: Musical, Comedy, Drama, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 2 votes)
Review: Ten years ago it was 1944 and the Second World War was in its latter stages, but the fighting was still going on and American troops in the heart of Europe needed cheering up more than ever before. Fortunately, there was entertainment put on when they could find the opportunity, and two of the soldiers in this platoon, Bob Wallace (Bing Crosby) and Phil Davis (Danny Kaye) have arranged an impromptu show as the bombs fall in the distance - it is Christmastime after all. As they sing and dance, their general, Waverly (Dean Jagger) meets his replacement who is incensed that such a performance be staged, so Waverly merely agrees and sends him off on a wild goose chase until the show is over.

And in the meantime, Der Bingle has begun his rendition of the most successful song of all time, White Christmas, which was enough to get the punters in back in the mid-fifties and still makes the movie a Yuletide staple on the television schedules to this day. He had already sung it in a movie made some time before this, Holiday Inn, which introduced the tune to the world, with its creator Irving Berlin immensely proud of his achievement, not that he really needed to blow his own trumpet when so many others were loving his work. So this movie was not so much a sequel or remake to the previous effort, and more a spin-off (some say cash-in) on the celebrated song.

Only put across in regulation nineteen-fifties musical style, the last decade when the genre was producing box office hit after box office hit: like the Western, it would be revived time and again in the cinema, but be more of a novelty than par for the course, unless you were watching a Bollywood production. Unlike the cowboy flicks, this sort of show continued to thrive in the theatre and the bigger the better, though just because something was a success on the stage didn't mean it translated to the same in the movies, as the likes of Rent or Rock of Ages would attest. Funnily enough, this traffic went both ways, and a well-received version of this film transferred to the theatre, which either proved live action was behind the times, or that it provided quite a bit of what the movies were lacking.

White Christmas as a film was neither the best of its era's musicals nor the worst, it was of middling quality coasting on the warm currents of nostalgia, and the title ditty was only heard at the beginning and the end, as much of the rest of it was a basic backstage drama with comedy asides. Now in the present (for 1954) Bob and Phil have teamed up for a world-beating musical act for which they write all their own songs (actually penned by Berlin), but they are concerned that they may have to settle down sometime soon when they still haven't met anyone to settle down with. Step forward sister act Betty (Rosemary Clooney) and Judy (Vera-Ellen) who catch the boys' attention with their talent and presently they have agreed to team up for a show in Vermont.

This taking place at a Holiday Inn of sorts, owned and run by retired from the Army Waverly who has bred a huge amount of goodwill in his former troops, so Bob and Phil are only too pleased to help out. With romance in the air the scene is set for marital bliss, but then in a tiresome plot that would have been solved all too easily with a simple discussion dismissing any misunderstanding, Betty walks out on the show and Bob when she thinks the occasion will be horribly commercialised by television. This is confusing to say the least when Bob does indeed go on TV to assemble the old platoon and publicise the event, so better off to watch this for the big numbers, although it's hard to ignore Vera-Ellen's obvious anorexia no matter how accomplished her dancing was (and she was excellent, outshining her co-stars when she starts hoofing). Kaye got a comic song lamenting the modern way with musicals, rich considering Bob Fosse was co-choreographing, the minstrel tribute was unfortunate and Bing crooned nice tunes, but you know the one you wanted to hear, and they were stingy with it.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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