12 Films of Christmas: White Christmas | Film reviews, news & interviews
12 Films of Christmas: White Christmas
A squeaky-clean, bright-eyed bit of holiday-tuned candy
White Christmas is named so you know that gorgeous song is inside it somewhere. Yes, this is the 12-year-younger and lesser remake of Holiday Inn that also stars Bing Crosby and also features the cry-your-guts-out, I-regret-everything holiday tune by Irving Berlin. The big difference is that in White Christmas, Bing sings along to a music box.
The plot centres on Danny Kaye and Bing as a duo of WWII entertainers who find success a decade after the war. Wildly popular, they’re on TV, on Broadway, wherever there’s an audience, that’s where they’ll be. One’s a lady’s man, the other isn’t. Both meet the girls of their dreams with sisters Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen, who are also, conveniently, performers. It doesn’t go too smoothly as one set of lovebirds isn’t getting along while the other pair decide they ought to. A trip to Vermont, and a hotel without guests run by the boys’ old commander General Waverly (Dean Jagger), sets up a place to put on the darnedest show you’ve ever seen. As the original New York Times review says of this part of the film, “Someone's nostalgia for the war years and the U.S.O. tours has taken the show awry.”
Directed by Casablanca’s Michael Curtiz, this is a squeaky-clean, bright-eyed bit of holiday-tuned candy that has few sparkling moments but – like many other memorable films before and after it – it’s the theme song that makes the whole trip worthwhile. Filmed in brilliant Technicolor and VistaVision – Paramount’s then novel wide-screen technique – the remake lacks the tang and sass of the original, pretty though it is. Like many remakes and many more to come, its attempt to follow its luckier predecessor fails: it plays it a little too safe and a little too carefully to come up with anything really zingy. The best way to enjoy White Christmas is to listen to the theme tune, wipe away a tear and get back to the turkey til the tune comes around again. It's holiday schmaltz but it's just the right kind of holiday schmaltz - on the right side of corniness, smack dab next to sincere.
We at The Arts Desk hope that you have been enjoying our coverage of the arts. If you like what you’re reading, do please consider making a donation. A contribution from you will help us to continue providing the high-quality arts writing that won us the Best Specialist Journalism Website award at the 2012 Online Media Awards. To make a one-off contribution click Donate or to set up a regular standing order click Subscribe.
With thanks and best wishes from all at The Arts Desk
Olivier Assayas recalls his heady, heavy days as a soixante-huitard
Melancholy meets irrational optimism in Bob Rafelson's New Hollywood classic
BFI reissue of the mother of all vérité docs
Brit crime caper hits new lows, despite strong cast
Robert Siodmak's brooding film noir shockingly subverted gender stereotypes
Nihilism stared down in Alexei Balabanov's bleak look-back to Russia in the Nineties
Baz Luhrmann's Fitzgerald-spawned epic is busy and brash and big - but great? No, except for Leo
Not quite the perfect classic, Visconti's movie is a halting monument to Sicilian decadence
Fine filmmaking and decent performances work hard to redeem an infantile musical
Documentary paints the legendary Cream drummer Ginger Baker as an irresponsible genius
Some subtleties lost in adaptation of Mohsin Hamid's bestselling plea for understanding
theartsdesk recommends the half-dozen top movies out now