Author note: I’ve noticed that a lot of people find this blog entry because they are searching for the name of Vera Ellen’s dance partner from White Christmas. Personally, I hate when I’m searching for random things and end up all over the internet with no more information that what I started with. In the spirit of making this inane blog somewhat useful, I wanted to let those people searching know that the lead male dancer in White Christmas is named John Brascia. Looks like he was an accomplished dancer in his time, even working with Vera Ellen on multiple films. I hope that bit of information made your click to this page worth your time.
During the Christmas season, as has been the case for the past twenty-five years or so, I will watch the movie White Christmas at least once. This is the holiday classic starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Vera Ellen. There is something very comforting and traditional about watching it, and after all these years, it still brings me an unexpected amount of joy. However, I’ve started to scrutinize it and perhaps think about it a little bit more than it was intended to be thought about, as is bound to happen when you watch the same movie 30+ times. Here are some things that I will always love – and other things that will always bug me about - Irving Berlin’s White Christmas:
* I never really considered the implausibility of the opening scene before; but last night, I thought about these men putting on a Christmas show – complete with painted backdrop!! – in the middle of WWII-torn Europe. After having watched Band of Brothers, this now seems especially absurd. Also, wouldn’t this have taken place at roughly the same time as the Battle of the Bulge, when the soldiers as depicted in Band of Brothers were surrounded in the woods in Belgium in the miserable, freezing cold and risked getting blown to smithereens every time they poked their heads out of their foxholes? Where was this supposed to have been? And no matter that the scene ended with a battle and fake wall fakely falling and narrowly missing Bing Crosby’s Bob Wallace – by today’s grittier filmmaking standards, this doesn’t really hold up. Granted, you have to suspend a serious amount of disbelief anytime you are watching a musical where people earnestly sing to each other, but this still crosses the line to just plain silly.
* I love the montage after the war has ended that helps explain how Bob Wallace and Phil Davis have taken the entertainment world by storm – and the mash up of those classic standards such as “Blue Skies” and “Heat Wave” is fabulous. I’d go see them perform it tomorrow if they weren’t dead.
* Even though it’s slightly creepy – almost like watching my grandpa undress – I love the scene with Crosby and Kaye in the dressing room as they discuss Bob Wallace’s love life (or lack thereof) because it gives us two of my favorite lines: 1) “Go to Smith?! She couldn’t even spell it!” and 2) “How can a guy that ugly have the nerve to have sisters?”
* Crosby and Kaye performing the “Sisters” song with their pants rolled up and dancing around with enormous turquoise feather fans never fails to make me laugh, especially towards the end when they themselves can’t even keep it together.
* Vera Ellen!! From the first time I saw this movie, I have been fascinated by watching her dance. Her legs go on forever! That tap thing she does with her toes at the beginning of the “Choreography” number is insane! And I don’t even know what it’s called (UPDATE: It’s called “Abraham”), but I love the routine in which she dances with the lead male dancer to that jazz number (in the lime green dress). Amazing!! Most of all, the routine with her and Danny Kaye outside the club in Florida will always be one of my favorite Hollywood musical dance sequences ever. She practically floats.
* Vera Ellen. She is a horrible role model for young girls. Every time I see that movie, I think, how can I get my legs to look like that? Well, it seems that the answer would be: 1) a lifetime of dance and 2) starvation. She was anorexic, which caused her to age prematurely, which is why she wore a turtleneck in every single scene. Apparently she had nasty grandma turkey neck.
* I would like to go back in time and bitch slap the housekeeper, then Betty, then the housekeeper again for the ridiculous misunderstanding that is the central plot point and “obstacle” for our main characters to overcome in order to be together. First, the housekeeper: she listens to half a conversation, gets herself in a tizzy and starts spreading rumors about something that isn’t even true! Then Betty, who up until that point seemed like a fairly normal and reasonable individual, gets the Passive Aggressive Wacko of All Time award for being mad at Bob about something that didn’t concern her and wasn’t true…and then she doesn’t even tell him why she’s pissed! What?! Further baffling is the fact that, after Betty leaves for NYC because she can’t bear to be around Bob and his supposedly self-promoting ways, the housekeeper is happily in cahoots with the rest of the gang for the same plan that had earlier horrified her and caused her to blab to Betty this fabricated and slanderous story. The nerve! The kicker is that when Betty finally returns, what does she do when she sees the housekeeper? She gives her a hug!! Wouldn’t a normal person at least say something like, “You bitch!! What the hell is wrong with you?!” The housekeeper deserved some type of comeuppance for that stunt.
* Is it really even remotely possible that hundreds of people would show up in Vermont on Christmas Eve – having only heard about this reunion event for the General the night before? Again, I should suspend disbelief….but I can’t quite jive with that. Also, just how big is the Pine Tree Inn? If the cast and crew of the musical sensation “Playing Around” have been staying there to practice for this big show, how many rooms can possibly be left?
* Poor Captain Joe. When we first meet him, he is essentially General Waverly’s bitch. Ten years later at the reunion for the 151st Division, he doesn’t even get to sit down and watch the show or have dinner – he’s apparently outside waiting for it to start to snow so he can come in and tell the General about it. Isn’t that not his job anymore? After ten years, doesn’t the poor guy deserve to sit down and enjoy a meal with everyone else?
As I pick on these points of this film, it is still with a huge amount of affection since it will always be my favorite holiday film of all time. And, apologies for the dissertation. Normally I keep it shorter than this, but I haven’t written for a while. So consider this your holiday present from me! It’s better than a lump of coal, right?