Classic Christmas films such as “It’s a Wonderful Life” (1946) and “A Christmas Story” (1983) capture the spirit of the holiday season. “White Christmas” seems to be able to not only capture the holiday spirit through song but the winter atmosphere as well.
“White Christmas” (1954) is set after WW II when army buddies “Bob Wallace” (Bing Crosby) and “Phil Davis” (Danny Kaye) have become successful song-and-dance team, “Wallace and Davis.” Through hilarious circumstances, which include a wonderful imitation that Wallace and Davis do of song-and-dance-team The Haines Sisters act (which Crosby and Kaye originally did in fun but was so well-liked by the director it was included in the final cut), Wallace and Davis follow The Haines Sisters (Rosemary Clooney and Vera Ellen) to an inn located in snowy Vermont, which happens to be not-so-snowy this Christmas. The Haines Sisters are booked to perform during the Christmas season. However, the lack of snow will mean a lack of patrons, thus shutting down the inn. It is discovered that the inn, which is facing financial collapse, is also run by Bob and Phil’s former commanding officer. To help the general, and, of course, to stay close to the Haines Sisters, Wallace and Davis decide to stay and help put on a show.
It may come as a surprise that Bing Crosby’s famous rendition of “White Christmas” was not initially heard in this namesake film. In fact, the popular Christmas tune was first featured in an earlier Bing Crosby/Fred Astaire film “Holiday Inn” (1942). Crosby sang it then; it won Academy Award for Best Original Song that year.
Other interesting performers also appeared in “White Christmas.” Watch the Rosemary Clooney “Mandy and Love” number. One of the handsome slim dancers is George Chakiris, who later appears in the role of “Bernardo” in the timeless film version of the musical “West Side Story” (1961). Chakiris would win an Academy Award for his West Story Story role.
The popularity of “White Christmas” has crossed into other media including print. A book titled, “Irving Berlin’s ‘White Christmas’” was published by the Rutledge Hill Press in 2004. Its sixty-five pages are jam-packed with biographies of the film’s major and minor players, beautiful artwork, quotes from the film’s stars, recipes, crafts and tips including on to make a perfect snowball.
In 2004, “White Christmas” received the musical revival treatment. One of the previous casts included Lorna Luft, daughter of Sid Luft and Judy Garland, played the role of “Martha.” The 2008 cast was featured in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.