Guilt Trip: White Christmas (1954)

The column of shame takes a festive turn this week, as Alice Wilson breaks out the mince pies and mulled wine and takes a look at White Christmas. Was her viewing experience merry and bright?

Alice Wilson
12th December 2016

White Christmas features all the worst parts of a traditional Hollywood musical: terrible sets, teeth-clenchingly cheesy acting and some truly astonishing outfits. The likelihood of any normal adult getting as excited about snow as Bob, Phil, Betty and Judy do on the train to Vermont is very slim, but for the purpose of this musical, the thought of frozen water falling from the sky sends them into such a frenzy of anticipation, they simply have to sing about it and miraculously conjure up an orchestra to accompany them.

The excitable energy which constantly pulses out of Judy and the slapstick nonsense that falls out of Phil is enough to make you actually feel like chundering on the settee. The stiff-upper-lip-no-nonsense-you-can’t-help-me stubborn General is a character so cliché even a Martian would call it stereotypical. And yes, the cringey convenience of Bob knowing everyone in the television industry enabling him to culminate just the right amount of money to keep the hotel up and running is all rather unbearable. Oh, and of course the central love story of Betty and Bob which keeps the evolution of the characters flowing throughout the movie, seems to be reconciled by the world’s shittiest Christmas present ever (seriously, watch it and you’ll see).

But, I love it. Even with its disgraceful one-liners, wearisome clichés and ridiculously far-fetched plot, it’s one of the all-time greats. I could not be more ignorant of show and ballroom dancing, and yet even I can appreciate the excellence of the choreography, and the effort with which such exquisite showmanship is brought about. In addition, there are some absolute bangers in there, whether it is the girly duet of Sisters, the glorified war chant of Gee, I Wish I Was Back in the Army, or, of course, the title track White Christmas, which has been the soundtrack to everyone’s Yuletide for decades. And these songs are truly done justice by the immortal baritone of Bing Crosby, the mellifluous melodies of Rosemary Clooney (who, by the way, is George Clooney’s aunt - fun fact) and the intricate and graceful dancing of Danny Kaye and Vera-Ellen.

And anyway, when you’re layered up with five jumpers not only because it’s very cold outside but also because you need to hide the evidence of the copious amount of mince pies and shortbread you’ve eaten, whilst sipping on a Lemsip to nurse the cold you seem to have had for about three months, do you really want some weird psychological thriller which will make you feel stupid and depressed? No. What you need is an uplifting, heart-warming, if slightly mind-numbing, easy-to-watch movie about love, music and nostalgia. So you’re welcome, Merry Christmas!

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