Friday, December 13, 2013

White Christmas (1954)

1 Nomination, 0 Wins

Nomination: Best Music, Original Song - Irving Berlin for "Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep"

You would have to be a true grinch to hate White Christmas.  Sure, the plot is thin with minimal conflict or character development, but the film has become a holiday classic for good reason.

I'm sure I saw White Christmas at least once or twice growing up, but I had given the film little thought prior to meeting my wife.  This was heresy to her and her family, as she had watched the film at least once and often several times each holiday season throughout her childhood.  She has tried to get me to watch it during each of the five holiday seasons I have known her, and though I have been in and out of the room during her annual viewings, I had little interest in watching a trivial holiday film with Bing Crosby constantly mugging for the camera  After watching The Court Jester for the first time earlier this year during Bill Hader's run as host of "The Essentials" on Turner Classic Movies, I had a newfound interest in the work of Danny Kaye, so I halfheartedly agreed to give White Christmas a shot this year.

White Christmas is far from The Court Jester, featuring little of the silliness and wickedly clever moments of the latter film.  With the exception of a few great Danny Kaye moments here and there through the movie, there's not a lot of hilarity in the film.  There are few memorable set pieces, and the sole conflict of the film is due to a silly misunderstanding and is resolved all too easily.  Yet despite all of this, the film is engaging due almost entirely to the stellar foursome of Crosby, Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, and Vera-Ellen in the leading roles.  The four have an obvious and deep chemistry, and they bring such warmth to the characters that the lack of character development is hardly noticeable, similar to the way in which the Rat Pack charmed audiences in their film efforts despite little characterization with which to work.

It's a shame that the sole song from White Christmas that received a nomination was "Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep."  Many of the film's best songs, including "Snow," "What Can You Do With a General?," and the title song were recycled from previous films or stage shows, and thus ineligible for the Oscar.  Instead, the nomination went to a generic ballad so boring that its listener will have no need to count sheep nor blessings in order to fall asleep.  The Academy Award went to the Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne standard "Three Coins in the Fountain."

Despite its shortcomings, there is much to love in White Christmas.  It has stood the test of time as one of the most beloved holiday classics for a reason, and it is a pleasure to watch.  Despite my reluctance to watch the movie, next year I'll make sure to sit down and watch it with her.  As every married man is used to saying regularly, my wife was right.

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