Sisters Betty and Judy Haynes misunderstand the motives of Bob Wallace and Phil Davis when they arrange a special variety show at the struggling Vermont ski lodge of their old wartime commander, General Waverly.
Despite not being able to read or write music and being incapable of composing in any key but F#, Irving Berlin knew from the moment he completed `White Christmas' that he had written an enduring standard.
It was first performed on screen by Bing Crosby and Marjorie Fielding in Holiday Inn and Bing reprised it in his 1946 reunion with Fred Astaire, Blue Skies. However, it's best known in the context of this popular, if derivative musical, which became the genre's fifth most successful entry of the 1950s. Donald O'Connor was to have partnered Crosby, but he broke his leg and had to be replaced by Danny Kaye for the comic sidekicking and John Brascia for choreographer Robert Alton's more demanding dance routines to `Mandy' and `Abraham'. However, Kaye holds his own with Vera-Ellen for `The Best Things Happen When You're Dancing' and he contributes some typically pantomimic mugging to the Martha Graham parody, ‘Choreography’. But the songs don't rank among Berlin's best. Crosby croons happily to `Count Your Blessings' and Rosemary Clooney delivers a mournful rendition of `Love, You Didn't Do Right By Me'. But the majority of the numbers are presented in rehearsal or performance situations and, thus, don't always form an organic part of the narrative. The Haynes duet `Sisters' admittedly explains the basis of their relationship (and Kaye and Crosby's later lip synch'd version is splendidly silly), while `What Can You Do With a General?' sweetens Crosby's tele-appeal for the old unit to reform. But the latter is hardly up to the standard that Berlin set in* *This Is the Army (1943), while `Gee, How I Wish I Were Back in the Army' smacks of that picture's biggest hit, `Oh, How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning'. Ultimately, a surfeit of plot prevents this otherwise genial entertainment from sparking, while Curtiz's studio-bound direction rather wastes the VistaVision widescreen on its debut outing. But how can you knock a movie that's still a festive institution over 50 years after its release?
Great songs, gentle humour and a dose of syrup which is not to everyones tastes, but worth buying to keep that Christmas spirit going until next year.