* Prices may differ from that shown
Yet again the month of December, and more importantly, Christmas, has come around. It has perhaps arrived a little faster than I realised, and I've only just gotten around to watching one of my traditional Christmas movies - two days after Christmas Day! But technically it is still Christmas, so it's allowed!
The film in question is White Christmas - a firm family favourite. The film begins during World War 2, with the Crooner himself, Bing Crosby (playing Bob Wallace) serenading the troops on Christmas Eve with a tune that is dreaming of a White Christmas. Alongside him is Phil Davies (played by Danny Kaye), who after saving Bob's life and injuring himself slightly (a joke that continues throughout the film) asks a favour. Cue the end of the war and a showbiz headline stating that Wallace (previously a famous one-man act) and Davies have teamed up and are taking America by storm; going from being the floor show at glamorous clubs and restaurants, to having their own radio show and Broadway musical. After the performance of the show in Miami, the men go along to see the floor show of the sisters of a friend in the army - Betty Haynes (Rosemary Clooney) and Judy Haynes (Vera-Ellen). Phil notices that Bob is instantly attracted to Betty, so whisks Judy off for a romantic dance, where the pair also hit it off (not that Phil notices). However, the evening is ruined by the girls' landlord insisting the Sheriff arrests them - so Phil & Bob cover in a humorous fashion so the girls can make their escape. After an eventful evening and a train journey, the four end up going to Vermont, America's Winter Playground, where the girls have been booked for Christmas. However, there is no snow, and the inn they are staying at is struggling for guests and money. A surprise blast from the men's' past encourages them to stay in Vermont and try and give everyone a Merry - if not snowy - Christmas.
A bit of a background more than a plot, but if I go into much more detail, it will spoil some of the surprises of the film! However, the main thing I have neglected to mention is perhaps a key element of the movie - it is a musical! There are several numbers, sung by Clooney, Ellen, Kaye and Crosby), including the infamous White Christmas and my personal favourite, Minstrel Show. There are also a lot of dance numbers, mainly danced by Vera-Ellen and a professional dancer, which are at times mind-bogglingly good! I think one of the things I love about this film is how it manages to incorporate a lot of the performances, especially the dance routines - cast dress rehearsals are used to portray the performances. They don't necessarily move the story along, or have much at all to do with the story other than the fact they are part of the Wallace & Davies show, but they do provide a few minutes of entertainment, generally followed by a wow.
The main four cast were brilliantly picked, and most were quite famous in Hollywood in the 50s - and perhaps their names a still almost as recognisable today too. After a bit of research, I found that Kaye and Ellen had worked together and danced together previously, whilst Crosby and Clooney had also worked together. This means that there was already a natural friendship and chemistry between them that clearly came across in the film. However, I think that my favourite character has to be Emma Allen (Mary Wickes - also a favourite from Sister Act) - the no nonsense, busy body housekeeper at the Pine Tree Inn, Vermont. She comes out with some cracking lines, and really is a highlight of the film.
White Christmas is a romantic musical, with just the right amount of comedy, and of course some drama that may jeopardise the happy ending that is in sight! The songs are gentle and will have you at least humming them after watching the film, and definitely marvelling at some of the routines you have seen. Even the sets are incredible, considering when this was filmed and the resources available. It's a film that gives you a warm, fuzzy feeling, and, if you're me, can bring a tear of happiness to your eye. A classic Christmas film (that I don't just relegate to Christmas) that is suitable for the whole family - and my family will be watching it for years to come.
FILM ONLY REVIEW
Bob Wallace and Phil Davis are serving in the Second World War together when Phil saves Bob's life. As a result he gets talked into singing a duet with him on a new song he has written. He duet is a massive success at the end of the war and the pair see themselves going to new heights with their fame and they are soon directing shows and helping people sing and dance.
They receive a letter from a old War colleague asking them to go and watch his sister perform as they need help to get further with their career but thing take a different turn and the men end up helping the women escape from their latest show and they all end up going to Vermont.
When arriving in Vermont they discover that there is no snow and the ski lodge is deserted but they soon learn the ski lodge is owned by their old General and he needs help. Bob, Phil, Betty and Judy take it upon themselves to help out but can they get visitors to the lodge even with no snow and can they all find love so Phil can get his 45 minutes to himself each day?
I have to confess that I was made to watch this film as part of my education from hubby as it is another classic which I have never seen. I am pleased that did as it really got me in the festive spirit and despite being old and a musical I enjoyed every part of it. I did find the story rather predictable but it was still very good to watch and the acting only made this more so. The story was original for the year this was made and I loved the slight humour which was added.
The role of Bob was played by Bing Crosby and this is the first time I have seen him act, he was excellent in the role and really bought the character to life. He was natural and delivered his lines with ease. He had a good comic timing when working with the role of Phil and they seemed very at ease together. He was a sweet man who always wanted to help when he could and this was easy to see from the way he acted and spoke about people. He did bring some fun to the role and he had some good one lines. The role of Phil was played by Danny Kaye and he too was brilliant in his role. He was a more relaxed person and spend the majority of his time doing what Bob asked him to, this is why he was desperate to get him a wife and family so he cold have some time to himself each day. He brought the most comedy to the film and had perfect timing.
The roles of Betty and Judy were also great and Betty was played by Rosemary Clooney and Judy by Vera Ellen. They both worked very well with their chartacers and made them believable and pleasant to watch. They worked well with the men and there was a good on screen chemistry right from the first scene they starred in together. They did not look much like sisters but managed to see past this and just enjoy the roles for what they were. They were very different people and Judy was more of a mother hen and wanted to see Betty settled and happy before she thought about finding this for herself.
The film is a musical but I have to say I found there was not a lot of songs included, the ones we had were great and the vocals were fantastic for the age of the film. The songs were all in keeping with the storyline and despite the few corny ones I did enjoy them. I was actually surprised by how many of them I knew despite never seeing the film before. I wish the women would have showed off their vocals more and not just sang the song 'sisters' when performing together. The dance routines were amazing and I was mesmerised when Rosemary Clooney was dancing, she was brilliant and consistent throughout, her vocals were not the best or strongest but she made up for this with the dancing. She moved with ease and it all looked natural and no special effects were used or needed.
The film is old and was made back in 1954, this is very apparent from the opening scene. The costumes and sets were all in keeping with the year and I did enjoy the gowns and dresses which the women wore throughout. The men all looked smart and sharp throughout and I found the sets looked pretty good. The backdrops were another matter and they were dreadful compared to today's standard. Think they would have looked good when this film first came out thought. The explosions which we had at the start of the film was poor and so to were the backdrops used for the train scenes. I can forgive all of this as the film is very old and I enjoyed the story and acting.
This is a film only review so there are no bonus features to speak about. The running time of the film is 120 minutes which found to be a good length and the rate is a U and I agree with this. The DVD can be bought for just a few pounds on the internet and I think it is worth buying, especially this time of year.
I am happy to give this film a good sold 4 stars. I have dropped one due to the age and the effects. The songs are catchy and the acting is great. I think this is one we should all watch to get in the festive spirit.
For me Christmas isn't Christmas without present wrapping in front of a log fire watching White Christmas. As a fan of Hollywood musicals, this DVD always hits the spot - featuring as it does a plethora of songs from Irving Berlin.
Starring Danny Kaye and Bing Crosby as two old war comrades who become a singing duo - the duo then meet and team up with a sister act played by Rosemary Clooney - aunt to George Clooney - and Vera Ellen). Eventually the foursome arrive at an old inn run by their former army general who is in financial trouble on account of there being no snow and therefore no visitors - cue the music.
As with most movies of this style and song or dance routine is never far away and almost irrelevant to the story. However, and I am trying not to give away the story here in case you have escaped this movie, certain parts never fail to bring a tear to my eye.
As a generally feel good preparation to Christmas this movie is certainly worth watching. It never seems to be on television anymore so I have bought my own copy just to ensure I can have my own secret viewing - its almost a guilty pleasure!
WHITE CHRISTMAS is a perennial Christmas treat - it is always shown on TV at Christmas and this year is even having a re-release in cinemas.
The film tells the story of two guys who met in the military but are now a double act - these two guys are played by Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye, two of the most amusing and lovable film stars ever to be preserved on celluloid. They end up having to put on a show to help out an innkeeper in Vermont - who just happens to be their old commanding officer from when they were in the forces.
This really is a heart-warming film. It is always amusing, the song and dance numbers are very enjoyable, and Crosby and Kaye really make a fantastic double act and it is a real shame that they didn't make many more films together. The music, composed by Irving Berlin, also makes this film a must-see.
I cannot recommend this film strongly enough - if possible see it with an audience on the big screen, you won't be disappointed.
Bing Crosby as Bob Wallace
Danny Kaye as Phil Davis
Rosemary Clooney as Betty Haynes
Vera Ellen as Judy Haynes
Dean Jagger as Major General Thomas F. Waverly
Mary Wickes as Emma Ellen
It's 1944 and we see Phil and Bob performing on stage to the rest of the Army troops. One night the base is bombed and Phil saves the life of Bob, and ends up with a wounded arm as a result. When the war is over their double act continues, and they are a huge success around the world. They eventually team up with The Hayne Sisters another famous act, and end up in Vermont where the sisters are performing. When they arrive at their lodgings, they find the person running it is their old Army General Major Thomas F. Waverly. Things aren't going well and the Inn is not generating enough money.
All is not lost however as Phil and Bob along with the Hayne sisters, decide to put on a show in order to fill up the place.
This film has been out since 1954, and believe it or not this is the first time I've watched it. When Christmas comes there's nothing better than settling down to a good old fashioned musical. After viewing it for the first time, I can tell you now that it's something I will be watching over and over again from now on. It's quite simply a musical that you'll know the outcome from the start, but won't really care as it just leaves you feeling all warm and fuzzy inside.
A semi remake of Holiday Inn which also starred Bing Crosby, This film charts the success of Davis and Wallace as they want to use that fame in order to help out their very much respected Ex Army General. Along the way things get a little mushy as Phil and Judy desperately try to set up Bob with her sister, while all Judy wants is for Phil to notice her in that way to.
So the plot may be a little on the thin side, but that doesn't stop it form being a very touching and entertaining musical.
Phil and Bob are like and old married couple, they fight a lot but at the heart of it they're best friends who really care about one another.
The two of them had a great deal of respect for their General during the war, and it's touching to see that although they have fame they decide to use it to help someone less fortunate than themselves. They know that the general wouldn't want charity, so along with the sisters they convince him that they need the lodge to rehearse their acts.
Of course amongst it all you've got the romantic element to carry the film along. You see that although Bob appears to have everything he wants, the one thing he hasn't got is a woman to share his life with. This side of the story is developed at a gentle pace, and is not as over the top as I'd thought it would be.
Seeing as the film is called White Christmas, we see very little of the white stuff as it hasn't snowed for months in Vermont. The title song does feature a couple of times during the film, and we do see the odd Christmas tree but that's about it.
The Story concentrated more on the good will theme of helping others in their greatest time of need.
It's a beautiful story and one that should inspire us all to think of others a little more, and not be taken up with our own lives all of the time.
If you think the story sounds all slushy and sentimental then you're wrong, carefully woven into the story is a great amount of humour between Bob and Phil. This allows the story to appeal to children and adults alike, and will become a treasured item for a long time to come.
Every one of the actors in the film put in memorable performances, not forgetting Mary Wickes as the Generals nosey housekeeper. Although she didn't have a huge part to play, her piercing eyes and interfering ways made her an entertaining character to watch. You could see she had a deep affection for the general, and would do anything for him.
Bing Crosby with his smooth velvety voice was charming as Bob, as he oozed sex appeal every time he was onscreen. Danny Kaye was also charming but mainly hilarious as he kept playing the old wounded soldier card to his partner. Kaye just has this aura about him, which makes you fall in love with his childless ways.
Vera Ellen and Rosemary Clooney were also on form as the sisters with voices like angels. They were just as humorous as the boys, and made their characters very real and like able. They were also a good role model to all women, as they were very strong willed characters, who knew what they wanted from life.
Dean Jagger was simply magnificent as the General, who still wished he was in the Army. His character although a top figure in during the war, was able to show a soft side to himself. Jagger made the character warm, lovable and a man that all people regardless of sex could embrace.
Music and Dance
The musical score was composed by Irving Berlin whose work features on The Polar Express, The Aviator, and Billy Elliot. His musical talents have captured the hearts of millions since 1926. As you well know a musical is nothing if it doesn't feature well written and composed pieces, and Irving is true to form in producing totally magical pieces of art. The title song is my favourite piece, as its heart warming and holds the true spirit of Christmas. Out of the big show numbers 'Sisters' is without doubt my favourite, especially when Kaye and Crosby sing it. It's one of those songs that you can't help but sing a long with, and tap your feet to.
The choreography throughout is very impressive, in particular the tap dancing numbers as I wondered how much longer they could go on before their feet dropped off. The rest of the music featured evolves mainly velvety ballads alongside plenty of toe tapping tunes to get you dancing. I won't go into any more detail on this, as I feel that there will be no surprises left for you if I reveal everything. Those who wish to know the rest of the song/dance numbers can take a look here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_Christmas_(film)
Directed By Michael Curtiz of Casablanca fame, he manages to keep the musical running at a steady pace and knows how to hold your attention. The only thing that disappointed me a little was some of the earlier scenes at the war camp. To me they weren't believable as the set looked very flimsy. Apart from that Curtiz has put together an entertaining and engaging musical that will be watched by young and old for many years to come.
White Christmas was filmed in Technicolor as well as being the first to feature Vista Vision. For those of you who haven't a clue what this is then let me explain. Paramount used a wide screen filming process, which resulted in their images having finer detail and richer colours added to them. As a result the stunningly designed costumes just leapt of the screen, and Crosby's eyes were as blue as the ocean. Some people would say that this technique made everything look unnatural, but I would beg to differ, and think that it really brought the musical to life.
If you have yet to see a musical or indeed one that captures your heart, then I highly recommend you see this one. With Toe tapping songs, and memorable performances I know this is something I'll never tire of watching.
Running Time - 115 mins
Certificate - U
Available at amazon used and new from £4.18.
Every year when we buy the pre-Christmas TV or Radio Times I scan the pages (passing all the 'not yet scheduled' ones) to look for White Christmas as, although I can never really remember if it is this one or Holiday Inn I like best, I love to watch it. I like Bing Crosby. One of the films is in colour and the other is black and white, I think White Christmas is the black and white one...which adds more appeal to me. Everyone in the world must know that wonderful Christmas song by Bing (written by Irving Berlin) White Christmas. If you like the song you will like the film. There is a good deal of singing and dancing and tom-foolery. I really can't remember the story line even though I have seen the film many times over the years. All I know is I love to watch it, it is very good and most enjoyable.
This semi-remake of Holiday Inn (the first movie in which Irving Berlin's perennial, Oscar-winning holiday anthem was featured) doesn't have much of a story, but what it does have is choice: Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, an all-Irving Berlin song score, classy direction by Hollywood vet Michael Curtiz (Casablanca, The Adventures of Robin Hood), VistaVision (the very first feature ever shot in that widescreen format), and ultrafestive Technicolor! Crosby and Kaye are song-and-dance men who hook up, romantically and professionally, with a "sister" act (Clooney and Vera-Ellen) to put on a Big Show to benefit the struggling ski-resort lodge run by the beloved old retired general (Dean Jagger) of their WWII Army outfit. Crosby is cool, Clooney is warm, Kaye is goofy, and Vera-Ellen is leggy. Songs include: "Sisters" (Crosby and Kaye do their own drag version, too), "Snow", "We'll Follow the Old Man", "Mandy", "Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep" and more. Christmas would be unthinkable without White Christmas. --Jim Emerson