Phil and Bob follow the Haynes Sisters to Vermont, where the girls are scheduled to perform at a holiday resort. In their surprise, they learn that the inn is run by Tom Waverly (Dean Jagger), a retired general who commanded their unit during the war. The inn is doing very poorly financially, so Phil and Bob decide to put on a big show to drum up business.
It’s a thin premise for a two-hour musical, but it works amazingly well. The dance numbers are staged energetically, with the highlight being Danny and Vera-Ellen dancing outside a nightclub to the melodic “The Best Things Happen While You’re Dancing.” A lively performer with sex appeal, Vera-Ellen makes an ideal partner for the graceful, athletic Kaye. The two appeared together in two previous Kaye comedies (The Kid From Brooklyn and Wonder Man), though Virginia Mayo played the lead opposite Danny in both films.
Crosby and Clooney generate a more subdued, but no less effective, chemistry. Their duet “Count Your Blessings” was the big hit song from the film.
The most effective pairing in the film, though, is the one between Crosby and Kaye. They’re a sensational team, whether doing musical numbers or comedy (their version of “Sisters”, done originally as a joke on the set, is hysterically funny). Their relationship reminds me of Crosby and Bob Hope in the Road movies—which makes sense, considering that writers Norman Panama and Melvin Frank also penned the wacky Road to Utopia (as well as The Court Jester, Danny’s best film). Incredibly, Kaye was not the first choice to play Phil Davis. He took over at the last minute when Donald O’Connor dropped out of the film.
The postscript to White Christmas is a bittersweet one. Vera-Ellen made only one more movie and retired from acting at the age of 36. Rosemary Clooney never had another good film role. Director Michael Curtiz, who helmed such classics as The Adventures of Robin Hood and Casablanca, suffered a declining career. Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye would also make fewer films, but each had one more memorable role to go: Bing in The Country Girl (which earned Grace Kelly an Oscar) and Danny in his finest role in The Court Jester.
My wife and I were lucky enough see the theatrical re-release of White Christmas in the 1980s. It looked splendid on the big screen in VistaVision (it was the first film produced in that widescreen process). In 2004, White Christmas was adapted as a stage musical and had a limited run on Broadway.