Not rated, you know, because it is so offensive. There's some weird criminal activity in the movie. I suppose the movie has the 1954 attitude of men dressing in women's clothing might be a bit regressive. But White Christmas is the old timey holiday movie that's not the super racist one. You're probably mistaking it for Holiday Inn.
DIRECTOR: Michael Curtiz
Okay, I was in it for the dancing. That's only partially true. My wife really wanted to have the picturesque,, Norman Rockwell's America family evening as the fireplace roared. She wanted to share this with the kids and have them cuddle her as they all sipped hot apple cider and remembered that time we all made an amazing family memory. It didn't play out that way. It played out with threats being made, mostly by the kids. There were temper tantrums and the movie was promptly shut off before the last fifteen minutes of the movie. It wasn't the ideal way to watch this film. Now, I've seen it before. But the problem with old timey musicals is that the plots all get jumbled. What I'm saying is that I wish the kids were better behaved during this movie not just for my wife's sanity and expectations, but also so I had a better understanding about the dynamics of a complex plot.
I didn't remember this movie being so darned patriotic. I get it. It's 1954. It's Christmas. It's sentimental enough that there's all kinds of Christmas things to hold onto with this movie, but the patriotism thing? Geez. White Christmas almost dares its audience to not feel emotional in this thing. Single handedly, White Christmas is 1954's direct response to the Red Menace. (Not Santa Claus. Read a textbook.) I was always wondering why White Christmas never really hit my emotional film list. I mean, if you want to get me really choked up, it's because I'm a sucker for Christmas movies. But there's something almost artificial about the setting being at Christmas.
Because White Christmas isn't just about the setting, is it? It's definitely a Christmas movie, and not in the Die Hard sense. The final sequence in the movie is the entire cast in Christmas attire singing around a tree. There's a big Christmas number and this is all a gift to their sarge, who apparently needs this? (I'm really fuzzy on the needs v. wants element of this film.) But really, I want to strip away the Christmas from this movie and see if it actually holds up to the close scrutiny of the Christmas conceit. Could White Christmas technically be called Sarge's Holiday Bungalow or something like that? Christmas movies tend to be about a handful of things (assuming that you aren't binging the Hallmark Movie Network or anything). They tend to be about redemption, faith, and change There's something about having dynamic characters at the center of the Christmas movie that tends to be important. Ebenezer Scrooge goes from being an old miser who hates Christmas to a charitable man who experiences life for the first time in his old age. George Bailey realizes that his life is worth living. Buddy the Elf changes everyone's mind about the importance of Christmas. But White Christmas has only minor character change in Bing Crosby's Bob Wallace. While I give so much credit to Crosby's amazing crooning skills, his performances definitely need to be helped by Danny Kaye. Just saying.
Bob Wallace isn't interested in anything but his career. But Wallace is a very good man. He hasn't necessarily met the right woman, but he has the heart of a soldier and the compassion of a saint. He takes Phil under his wing because he's just a good dude (and Phil saved his life in the war). But there's nothing wrong with Bob Wallace. I would even argue that Bob Wallace is the same man that he is from the beginning of the movie as he is at the end. It's only a matter that he's now kinda / sorta in love. Is "in love" a character choice? White Christmas is really trying to sell the love angle as a redemption bit. Part of it comes from the idea that love is a bunch of hooey. I know that the movie states that, but I never really get why Bob Wallace isn't someone interested in dating. He is a professional, but Judy and Betty are both in the same club as he is. Sure, he's a big time performer, but they get the hours and commitment to the craft.
So I guess I'm kind of left with the notion that the movie doesn't ramp up any tension. Betty and Judy are nice, but this is one of those Shakespearean relationships that is almost put together on a dare. Maybe I'm accidentally dunking on Much Ado About Nothing (a play that I quite enjoy), but I don't really get why these two have to get together. Yeah, they end up together and they're perfect. But Bob Wallace isn't exactly tripping over Betty. He thinks that she's nice, but is perfectly content in just that brief meeting. Similarly, it really seems like Betty isn't that into Bob. Is Phil just that clairvoyant that he thinks that these two, with their tepid interactions, were meant for each other? I'm not going to hate on this movie too much, but I never really understood the chemistry of the two leads to make this work. I mean, Phil and Judy make sense from moment one. But Bob and Better don't really hold the movie up in the way that I thought that they were supposed to.
Also, Betty kind of comes across as the worst. To tie it back into Shakespeare, there's a clear misunderstanding in the film that is meant to create tension in the story. At one point, Bob decides to call up some of his showbiz friends to generate some buzz about the show that will be at Sarge's resort. He tells the whole backstory to the host of the show over the phone, but part of the message is taken out of context by an eavesdropping receptionist who really likes to gossip. The information that she takes out of context is the idea that the Sarge will be on TV because his hotel is failing that much. Everyone really gets mad at Bob, especially Betty, for putting Sarge in that situation. My wife and I were confused about this. I'm going to play Devil's Advocate (not the film with Al Pacino and Keanu Reees) and say that Sarge might be one of the most humble human beings in the world and being on TV would embarrass him. The easy thing would to be just to talk to Bob and tell him that it is a bad idea. But everyone starts accusing Bob of taking advantage of the Sarge, which is an emotional leap to say the least. Even out of context, there had to be a real rush to judgment to determine that Bob, a celebrity in his own right, was trying to strike gold on this old man's remote hotel. So when Betty runs out on Bob, it doesn't exactly sell her in the best light.
I think I've mentioned this pretty recently with my Fred Astaire movie blogs, but I don't necessarily love when musicals are about performers. There's a lot in this movie that is distracting from the central plot. There are always these scenes that are in the film as an excuse to add separate numbers and it never really does anything for me. It's especially rough with the Betty and Judy sequences because that duo apparently only has one song in their act that we have to keep seeing. I had to look up some elements of the plot, but I for sure have the tune for "Sisters" stuck in my head because they kept on playing that song. So, you know...not my favorite.
I know that White Christmas has to be on some people's lists. For me, it was simply an enjoyable musical with some over the top patriotic vibes. For a classic musical, it nails it pretty much. But for a Christmas film, it doesn't really do anything for me. At the end of the day, it could be stripped of anything saying Christmas and it would, for the most part, be the same movie. Also, that gift at the end was dumb.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.