White Christmas, Paramount’s belated follow-up to the 1942 hit Holiday Inn, was the studio’s first VistaVision production. A veritable warehouse full of oldie-but-goodie Irving Berlin tunes are woven into the film’s simplistic plotline, along with a handful of new songs, of which “What Can You Do With a General?” is the least memorable. Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye (replacing an ailing Donald O’Connor) play nightclub entertainers Bob Wallace and Phil Davis, while Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen are cast as singing-sister act Betty and Judy. The foursome travel to Vermont to visit Bob and Phil’s WII commanding officer, General Waverly (Dean Jagger, who looks and sounds like Dwight D. Eisenhower!), who now runs a rustic old inn. Discovering that the general is in dire financial straits, the four entertainers secretly make plans to bail the old guy out with a big musical show, enlisting the aid of Bob and Phil’s army buddies. Corny in the extreme, White Christmas evidently struck a responsive note with film fans; it was the high-grossing picture of 1954, and a decade later proved to be a ratings bonanza when it was given its network-TV premiere. Of the four stars, Crosby comes off best, especially when singing the title song at the beginning and end of the film; Kaye is a bit overshadowed this time out, though he’s quite funny camping it up in a “drag” version of Irving Berlin’s “Sisters.” Still a big favorite on the home-video circuit, White Christmas may not be the best Bing Crosby musical on the market, but it’s certainly one of the most heartwarming.
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