White Christmas, the 1954 Yuletide rom-com musical classic features the Bing Crosby song of the same name, which is not only the biggest selling single of all time, but also the most covered Christmas song ever (the Bob Marley & the Wailers version is a corker) and was the first film to be produced in VistaVision utilising the then new wide-screen format. We know it is the first because before we even see the Paramount logo it says “Paramount proudly presents the first picture in VistaVision”.
It opens Christmas Eve, 1944, in war torn Europe, where Bob Wallace (Bing Crosby) and Phil Davis (Danny Kaye) are performing a show for the troops of 151st division. How else are they going to prepare for the obligatory no man’s land Christmas Day football match? Three and a half minutes in, Bing’s singing the title song and I’m thinking; “Doesn’t Charlie Brown (Peter Robbins) also put on a show in A Charlie Brown Christmas? Bing Crosby and Charlie Brown share initials too… Heh, and they look a bit alike… And B.C is wearing a C.B style hat!”
I tune back in as Bing finishes dreaming all our Christmases white and the troops start singing to their Commanding Officer: “We’ll follow the old man wherever he wants to go… Because we love him, we love him. Especially when he keeps us on the ball.”, that impending match obviously at the forefront of everyone’s minds. The song finishes and no sooner has the commanding officer jumped into a jeep and sped off back to base when, **BOOOOOM – RATT TATT TATT TATT – BOOOOM** – a full on attack from above (I suspect in an attempt to injure 151st best players). Bing switches the Charlie Brown hat for his M1 standard government issue helmet pretty bloody quick, I can tell you.
Davis is injured, Wallace saves his life, they form a song and dance act.
We then get a quick time-lapse scene of Wallace & Davis’ rise to fame culminating in their own T.V show called… “The Wallace & Davis Show”. One night after the show Wallace turns down Davis’ offer of a night out with a couple of dames, and instead drags him along to see a new song and dance act, “The Haynes Sisters” played by Vera-Ellen [Judy] and none other than George Clooneys aunt, Rosemary Clooney [Betty]. The chaps, after seeing their act find out the sisters are in a spot of bother with their landlord, help them welsh on their rent and flee to Vermont. Again, my mind wanders back to A Charlie Brown Christmas where Lucy Van Pelt (Tracy Stratford) and Charlie discuss presents:
I never get what I really want.
What is it you really want?
Property, or more precisely a lack of property ownership also appears in It’s a Wonderful Life. I guess it’s some kind of celluloid throwback to the old “no room at the inn” Joseph-and-Mary thing?
We next find ourselves on the train to Vermont and the quartet treat us to the song, Snow “snow snow snow snow… SNOW!”
We are not treated to anyone threatening to rip out someone’s eyes and piss on their brain, like in Trading Places, but as festive film train rides go, it’s still pretty good. The four arrive at their destination only to find… No snow! HA! Bing gets a “fuck it” look on his face and breaks into “Snow” again, but embarrassingly backs out when the others don’t join in.
It turns out the Inn where they are staying is run by the old 151st commanding officer. That’s right, the same commanding officer who suspiciously fled just before the bombs hit back in WWII. He’s having a hard time, with no snow equalling no guests, so Wallace & Davis come up with the idea of putting on a show at the Inn on Christmas Eve and inviting all their old army buddies. Meanwhile, Charlie Brown is kind of coerced into putting on his show when he gets the blues due to receiving zero cards and Lucy decides it’s a good way to teach him the true meaning of Christmas.
Wallace calls New York and arranges a T.V spot to invite all the still living 151st troops to the show on Christmas Eve, but Ed Harris, the Wallace & Davis Show producer, tries to talk Bing into filming the show.
Wait a second! Lucy was telling the truth when she said that Christmas is a big commercial racquet run by an eastern syndicate?!?!
“Well, this is one play that is not going to be commercial.” Charlie responds.
Bing also refuses to commercialise on the old man’s hard luck. I thought that was a bit selfish considering the footfall the old man would get in the new year following the broadcast. The place where Wallace & Davis filmed their Christmas special? Forget about it.
Now we get the climax of the “rom” storyline when Bing’s girl, Clooney Aunt, leaves the Inn after a misheard phone call which has led everyone to think Bing is going to commercialise on the old man’s hard luck, the very same thing he is not doing. Oh, and not Bing and not Clooney Aunt announce their engagement. But this is a fake engagement anyway, done to try to get Bing and Clooney Aunt together. I have no idea why they thought that would work.
Clooney Aunt comes back and it’s on with the show, which kicks off with The Old Man song where the attending ex-troops again sing about following and loving the old bastard.
Okay, so, both balding, bug-eyed leading men claim to not want to commercialise their shows but Charlie Brown’s ends with the gang making his lousy looking twig into a proper tree. I’m not sure if he learnt the true meaning of Christmas, but he joins in singing “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing” anyway.
Bing’s ends with all the performers in Coca-Cola red and white Santa outfits singing White Christmas again but I’ll tell you this, you cannot buy the little ice crystal miracle that is Vermont finally getting covered in a blanket of snow snow snow snow SNNOOOOWWWWW!!!!