Friday, December 21, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—White Christmas (1954) ****

NR, 120 min.
Director: Michael Curtiz
Writers: Norman Krasna, Norman Panama, Melvin Frank, Irving Berlin (songs)
Starring: Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, Vera-Ellen, Dean Jagger, Mary Wickes, Anne Whitfield

Well, I guess since the end of the world didn’t happen, we should get back to some Christmas movies.

Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas” is one of those movies that is on many annual Christmas watching lists. It isn’t on mine, which makes it all the more special when I do watch it. This year was only the second time I’ve seen the movie, and it may just get added to the regular rotation.

What “White Christmas” has that most other Christmas movies don’t is big Hollywood musical production numbers. These are some of the most glorious ones there are, too. Forget that basically this is a “let’s fix up the old barn and put on a show” movie. This is the most expensive barn show you’ll ever see. But, you can’t deny the beauty of these Technicolor musical numbers. The “dress rehearsal” of the Minstrel Number is absolutely gorgeous. And to think, that’s only the dress rehearsal. “Choreography” might seem a little out of left field, but it’s still an impressive number.

Then there are the smaller numbers. “Snow” makes for one of the most charming quartets to be found in any musical. “Sisters” is funny in both of its performances; first by the sisters, then by the men. Danny Kaye and Vera-Ellen’s first dance sequence is just delightful. And, if you’re going to introduce a new Christmas classic in a movie, you can do a heck of a lot worse than “Count Your Blessings” as sung by Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney.

While the drama of the story is corny and formulaic, it benefits greatly from the non-traditional casting. None of the leads are made up of typical leading material. As such they do a much better job connecting with the comedy than your more dashing and dazzling leading men and ladies. I greatly enjoy the way the screenwriters work World War II into the plot of the film. For someone who leans more toward war films than big Hollywood style musicals, that makes it a whole lot easier to settle into this joyful romp.

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