White Christmas (1954)
December 18, 2014 6:51 AM - Subscribe

and Holiday Inn. In White Christmas, Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney, and Danny Kaye put on a show to save the General's Inn. In Holiday Inn, Bing Crosby opens an inn that only puts on shows on holidays.

Tom and Lorenzo on White Christmas. They didn't like it.
posted by drezdn (26 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

New York Times Holiday Inn review.
posted by drezdn at 7:07 AM on December 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

I used to love T&L but that linked review was so tone deaf and mean-spirited that I stopped reading them a year ago.

I've watched this movie dozens of times and I love it. All of it. It's gorgeous to look at. The costumes are grand. I like the songs. I weep equally at the teary-eyed general, the count your blessings song, Vera Ellen's impossibly tiny waist, the way Rosemary Clooney's face softens after she watches the television broadcast and realizes the true plan. Danny Kaye is delightful from beginning to end.

It was one of my dad's favorites, and now he's gone, I love it even more because of him. I've watched it in April and July. And I'll be watching it Christmas eve again, too.
posted by mochapickle at 8:00 AM on December 18, 2014 [8 favorites]

For me, White Christmas is wrapped up in so many layers of memories. When I was a young kid, it was one of the first movies my parents ever bought on VHS. I remember staring at the box trying to figure out what was going on.

Now, it appeals to my love of the bright colors of musicals, the little bits of camp, nostalgia for vaudeville, and sentimental-ness about the holidays.

Looking at it critically, the plot definitely has issues, but it's a fun ride that I try to take at least once a year.

(And mochapickle, I agree about the T&L review.)
posted by drezdn at 9:10 AM on December 18, 2014 [4 favorites]

Holiday Inn on the other hand doesn't have the same history with me. I've only seen it because I actively sought it out on either a musicals or Christmas movies binge a few years ago.

It's a really interesting film though, as it's almost a proto-Romantic comedy, plus Fred Astaire is always amazing, and lacks the negative baggage of Bing Crosby.
posted by drezdn at 9:13 AM on December 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Holiday Inn is the High Society to White Christmas's Philadelphia Story.
posted by Naberius at 10:53 AM on December 18, 2014 [7 favorites]

For a long time, I had a rant ready to launch as often as possible about how Holiday Inn was a far, far superior film to White Christmas and how the latter film unjustly got all of the holiday rewatch love, simply because it was in color. "But Holiday Inn does ALL of the holidays!" I'd rant, "Have you ever seen the firecracker dance for July 4th? It's awesome."

"Why is this wonderful movie so unjustly forgotten?" I wondered aloud, over and over again.

Thing is, I based my opinion on this movie on seeing it aired on AMC. Their version--as I would find out when I saw the unexpurgated film on home video last year--omits the "Abraham" number, which is in fucking blackface.

And if there was ever a rock solid reason for a movie to be left off the annual holiday family fun watching rotation, surely "it has a fucking blackface number in it" is such a reason.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 1:55 PM on December 18, 2014 [9 favorites]

Can I Stream It?: White Christmas and Holiday Inn
posted by the man of twists and turns at 4:53 PM on December 18, 2014

White Christmas isn't without its own weird racist baggage. "I'd Rather See a Minstrel Show" [Or is it called Mr. Bones??] is a lil' ditty frequently expurgated from TV airings.

My favorite tweet about White Christmas.

And I don't understand why I'm supposed to feel bad that the General owns a kickass lodge in Vermont.

The best costumes in the movie are those worn by the General's granddaughter.
posted by mmmbacon at 6:58 PM on December 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

White Christmas is just so lovely. It's old but it hasn't really aged, and the pacing is great. The minstrel number does make me cringe, but at least no one is in blackface.
posted by chainsofreedom at 7:59 PM on December 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yes, they're just singing a song about how much they wish they could be!

In reality, and pursuant to the tweet, I think this is a really interesting movie that, like The Best Years of Our Lives, and, to a certain extent, It's a Wonderful Life, complicates our historical understanding of The Greatest Generation and takes some of the shine off WWII as The Good War. For that - and for Mary Wilkes, and for not being able to hear any of the songs without hearing my dad harmonizing along with the low parts - I still have a soft spot for it.
posted by kickingthecrap at 8:58 PM on December 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Because you can't ever see it enough: The Firecracker Dance.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:15 AM on December 19, 2014 [6 favorites]

Bing Crosby's character in White Christmas is almost the exact opposite of his character in Holiday Inn, at least when it comes to work. In WC, he's obsessed with work, and it's led to him ignoring relationships. In HI, he opens the inn because he doesn't want to work constantly.
posted by drezdn at 1:24 PM on December 19, 2014

Hadn't noticed this before... The Abraham song that is in blackface in Holiday Inn is also in White Christmas except as a jazzed-up instrumental dance number.

Is there any significance to the gift (a horse with rider, IIRC) that Rosemary Clooney's character gives to Bing Crosby's character?
posted by drezdn at 3:12 PM on December 19, 2014

It's a knight in shining armor. Early on at the Inn, there's an exchange between Bing and Rosemary about a knight , and then later about how that knight may have fallen off his horse. The gift at the end is Rosemary's way of saying that she sees Bing as that good knight after all.

And that Vermont Inn *IS* pretty fabulous. But I think it's supposed to be tragic because the inn is struggling, and the general's true happiness and sense of place was the comraderie of the soldiers who loved and respected him. What do you do with a general who's retired?
posted by mochapickle at 3:40 PM on December 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

What do you do with a general who's retired?

Put him to work as a lobbyist for a beltway bandit?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 4:15 PM on December 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

Fun facts: Dean Jagger (the general) is the same age as Bing Crosby (both born in 1903). Vera-Ellen is about seven years older than Rosemary Clooney, and is supposed to be playing the younger sister.

The best lines are from Mary Wickes (the eavesdropping housekeeper).
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 7:47 PM on December 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

And I always forget that George Chakiris is an uncredited dancer in Rosemary Clooney's "Love, You Didn't Do Right By Me" number.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 8:02 PM on December 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

Another fun fact: Rosemary Clooney does both voices for the Sisters song. The only time you hear Vera Ellen's real voice is during the Snow song, and it's surprisingly smoky!
posted by mochapickle at 9:26 AM on December 20, 2014 [5 favorites]

When I first saw this years and years ago, I remember being really puzzled by the whole "General" plot [Army Guy House, I guess]. It makes no sense, especially if you know Holiday Inn and wonder why this military story is inserted. As it turns out, Irving Berlin had to provide some musical filler for this movie, and drew on a Broadway play he had written called Stars on My Shoulders (which I think was never produced) that focused solely on a General/Army story, without having any holiday plot. So WC is sort of a mashup of HI and that music, which accounts or a lot of its oddness. At the same time, considering they had to stitch together a bunch of unrelated parts, it's amazingly well done. Pacing, dialogue, sets, costumes, music, dancing. I listened to part of Rosemary Clooney's commentary on my DVD version, and she says they had some unheard-of amount of time to rehearse this film, which never happened even then. She said it was like clockwork when they performed for the cameras, they all just knew their beats and places so well.
posted by Miko at 8:08 PM on December 20, 2014 [5 favorites]

I know it's only open on holidays because dude is lazy, but that business plan is not going to work, even if they charge up the wazoo per night.
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 2:53 AM on December 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

“The Best Things Happen While You're Dancing”

What else needs to be said?
posted by ob1quixote at 10:25 PM on December 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

And I don't understand why I'm supposed to feel bad that the General owns a kickass lodge in Vermont.

Well, for one thing, it seems like he's on the brink of losing the lodge because they haven't had any customers.

But it's only as I've gotten older that I've come to appreciate all the emotion coming across in Dean Jagger's performance. He was wounded and didn't get to finish out the war with the men he had grown so close to. He spends most of the movie slumped over, shuffling and unkempt, but when he sees at the reunion that he's still considered part of the old unit and that he made a difference to the men, he stands up straight and it's like the years fall off his shoulders. He's gotten his pride back, even if he does lose the inn. (He won't, because of the packed house from the show and the guests that the snow will bring in, and because it's Hollywood.)
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:14 PM on December 31, 2014 [5 favorites]

I agree that Jagger does a good job of lending sincerity and dignity and emotion to the part, but you really have to suspend disbelief about how much a bunch of GIs would honestly care 10 years after the war about whatever happened to their general, who would have been an abstract personality to most of them anyway, known only in limited ways if at all. My Army veteran dad always scoffs at this plot element - as if a bunch of people drafted into the service are going to pick up their lives on Christmas Eve and travel to some random in in Vermont to help celebrate the guy with all the bling on his suit who put them in harm's way for a long time and with whom almost none of them would hav e had any semblance of a personal relationship. That plotline would never survive a remake intact.
posted by Miko at 10:30 AM on January 1, 2015 [2 favorites]

Eep! I missed there was a thread made for this. So many thoughts!

I have always preferred White Christmas over Holiday Inn, despite the 1950s post-war conformity, the minstrel-loving song, the overall weaker selection of music, and the plastic optimism. I ascribe it to the strength of the top 4, the superior supporting cast, the awesomeness of Rosemary Clooney, the fact that Bing's character isn't so passive, and a stronger romantic plot. The things I appreciate about HI - the caddish Fred Astaire, the darker side of intrapersonal relationships, the very late 30s/early 40s nature of the setting (including the WWII elements shoehorned into the 4th of July piece in particular after Pearl Harbor happened during shooting), the better songs - don't reduce the sense I have that the movie isn't quite ... finished. Like it needs 10 minutes in an oven, or something.

I went to the White Christmas exhibit at the Frazier in Louisville (on loan from the Rosemary Clooney House) over Christmas. If you are around that area, I recommend it (and the gilded age exhibit one floor up). The costumes are tiny, the props are charming, Edith Head's notes are fascinating, and the pictures are great.

Also, the commentary track on the White Christmas DVD is Rosemary Clooney, and it's a bit like sitting down and watching the movie with her. If you love her (she's my favorite Clooney) and the movie, it's wonderful.

Among the things I learned from her commentary: White Christmas ended up being Chikiris' big break. The studio got so much mail about the gorgeous young man in black during Clooney's big solo that they moved him up from the dancing extras rank.
posted by julen at 4:50 PM on January 4, 2015 [3 favorites]

They must have keyed up Bing's eyes in this scene in White Christmas, they are positively glowing.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:13 AM on December 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

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