Just forget the words and sing along

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Fishing in the Discount Bin - White Christmas

Here we go again on Fishing in the Discount Bin.  You know the routine, I watch a movie and blog about it.  Because of how far I work ahead, we now get to that awkward part of the summer where I do Christmas movies.  It's May, but this entry is in my notes at December 30, 2017, when I finally had a chance to sit down and watch White Christmas.  

I always questioned the logic of buying a Christmas movie on home media.  I
mean, the one time of year you're going to watch it is the one time of year it's on TV constantly.  But, as I grow older, I'm starting to see the appeal.  I mean, as I first discovered, in this day and age, it's the only way to watch them unedited, as over the years they trim out more and more to fit in more commercials.  TV viewing habits are starting to shift more to streaming video services, and you find that your favourites aren't on streaming video.  Hell, this past Christmas, Netflix Canada had to issue a public apology for not having Home Alone.  And while it may be on TV constantly, you just may never get the chance to sit down and watch it.

As happened this past Christmas with me and the 1954 holiday classic White Christmas.  Every time it came on TV, it was in the middle, or I was just catching the last 10 minutes, and I was always missing it.  I figured I'd be able to watch it when I went home for Christmas, but whenever it came on TV at home, Mom would go, "Oh, we don't need to watch this.  I've already watched it.  Let's watch something your Dad will like."  So Mom would change the channel to something like True Crime: Moncton, Dad would only half-watch it with his nose buried in the newspaper, Mom would start watching Netflix on her tablet, and I'd be stuck watching True Crime: Moncton when I really wanted to watch Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye save Christmas once again.  MARKIE NEEDS HIS BING AND DANNY!

And so, when I saw White Christmas in the clearance bin at Shoppers Drug Mart as they start clearing out the Christmas stuff, and I cashed in some Shoppers Optimum points to get it at half-price, I'm finally watching White Christmas just a few days before New Years. 

So, yeah.  I guess I'm buying Christmas movies now.  It used to be that every couple of years I'd by a few new Christmas albums to spruce up my music library.  2018 will probably be the first year I do that with Christmas Blu-Rays.

But on to White Christmas, the 1954 classic that established the formula for Christmas-based romantic comedies for years to come.  Long regarded as a loose remake of Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire's 1942 classic Holiday Inn, although I can't speak to that as I've never seen Holiday Inn.  I've been told that White Christmas and Holiday Inn both take place at an inn during the holidays, but that's where the similarities end.  In fact, it was hoped to re-team Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire, but Astaire felt the script wasn't up to snuff and passed on the project.  They brought in Danny Kaye and the rest is history.

The film opens on Christmas Eve in 1944, on the front lines in the European theatre of World War II.  Bing Crosby is Bob Wallace, a singer who's doing his part for the war effort by enlisting.  Danny Kaye is Phil Davis, a young singer and dancer with stars in his eyes.  They're putting on a show for their unit when their commanding officer, General Waverly, shows up.  It's the general's final night, as he's being rotated out.  Once they say their farewells to the general, the shelling starts, and Davis pulls Wallace to safety, injuring his arm in the process.  Wallace makes a fateful offer to Davis, "Anything you ever need from me, you just call," and so Davis proposes that they make their show business partnership permanent once the war ends.  Wallace is reluctant, but Davis uses his arm injury to guilt Wallace into it. 

Through a montage, we see the war end, and Wallace and Davis rise through the ranks to become the hottest duo in the USA.  The plot picks up in Florida, where Wallace and Davis have just finished a tour of their hit Broadway revue, and are about to break for Christmas -- except for Wallace and Davis, who'll be doing a publicity tour in New York.  Davis has become obsessed with getting Wallace a wife, as their recent run as producers has turned Wallace into a workaholic, and he's starting to worry about his partner.  Before they leave Florida, though, they promise an old war buddy that they'll check out his sisters' act, the Haines Sisters, for possible inclusion in their show. 

They take in the Haines Sisters' act, and Wallace and Davis are instantly smitten:  Wallace with Betty Haines, and Davis with Judy Haines.  While Davis and Judy hit it off right away, they both concede that their hetero life mates are going to need a little nudging.  Davis does a little mild trickery to change his and Wallace's plans, and they soon wind up following the Haines Sisters to their next gig at an inn and ski lodge in Vermont.  They all arrive, and in one of those Hollywood coincidences, the inn is run by their old CO, General Waverly.  Wallace and Davis soon learn that the General is in dire straights.  He's sunk his life savings into the inn and, thanks to an unseasonably warm winter with no snow, it looks like he'll be closing up after the season.  Wanting to help out their old CO, Wallace and Davis decide to bring their whole show up to the inn, incorporate the Haines sisters, and ensure that the General can stay in business. 

And this sets the stage for a series of beautiful and wonderful song and dance numbers as Wallace and Betty begin to grow closer together.  Of course, true love always has its obstacles.  Wallace finds out that the General had hoped to re-enlist, but his old buddies at the Pentagon laughed at his request to do so.  Wanting to show the General that he's still appreciated, Wallace and Davis decide to try to get as many members of their old unit up to the inn for an impromptu reunion.  In order to reach as many people as possible, Wallace pulls a few strings to put out a plea on TV.  Betty develops the impression that Wallace is doing this to exploit the General's unfortunate situation for his personal gain, but doesn't believe that Wallace's intentions are noble until Wallace puts out his plea on TV. 

The show goes on, the General is loved, the inn is saved, and love conquers all!

It may be cliched as hell, but it's still just a fun, holiday treat. 

And I just love the look of the film.  Having been visiting the tourist mecca that is Jasper National Park since I was a kid, I just find it fascinating that the general architecture of the inn looks like so many lodges and hotels in Jasper.  It's like a slice of life from the early days of the tourist trade.  I look at the film, and I understand why things are the way they are in many of the elder hotels in tourist spots. 

Anyway, it's just not Christmas without White Christmas, and now I can enjoy it whenever I want.

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