Plot: What’s it about?
Bob Wallace (Bing Crosby) and Phil Davis (Danny Kaye) have just returned from their tours of duty in World War II, looking to become a popular song and dance team. The two are close friends and since they both possess the skills, it seems like the task won’t be too much of a hassle in the end. And of course, the two take little time to climb the ladder of show business and become sensations. The former soldiers still knock ‘em dead, but now in front of audiences on stage, as opposed to on the battlefield. Soon enough, Phil decides to play their hand at romance and hooks them up with a pair of performing sisters. Betty (Rosemary Clooney) and Susan (Vera-Ellen) also have tremendous skills, so it seems natural for these two pairs to perform together and perhaps even take things further than a professional relationship. So when the sisters trek off to an in to perform, the fellows follow and discover that their former general runs the place, but is in serious financial troubles. So the guys team up with their new ladies in an effort to save the inn and the general, but will their plan work?
This film has become somewhat of a tradition come the holidays, though perhaps not as much as It’s A Wonderful Life or A Christmas Story. But good holiday films are always welcome, so I am pleased that Paramount has issued White Christmas, especially in such fine form. A new transfer, sound mix, and selection of extras have all been packed on, which means this is a real winner in all respects. As is the case with most holiday movies, this one has some moments heavy with sap, but come on, you have to expect that to some degree, right? It never goes too far or becomes too deep though, so the film doesn’t sink into the sappiness in the end. I find this to be a very warm and likable movie in all respects, but it never gets too complex, so don’t expect much beyond light entertainment. It has a few sparks into more than that, but it lacks the heartstring pullers of the true Christmas classics. But that doesn’t mean this isn’t worth a look, as I know it will be given a few spins once the tree goes up. If you’re a fan of holiday cinema or just love this movie, this disc is more than worth the price, whether you purchase or rent.
I’m sure you’ll all recognize the name of Michael Curtiz, although this isn’t one of the films he usually known for. This might be fluffy entertainment, but Curtiz still brings a skillful hand to the table and delivers it in fine form. While Curtiz was never among the very best in his craft, he was among the better filmmakers and this film is a perfect example of his work. He takes the elements he has, weaves them together, and it all turns out better than you might expect. I think Curtiz was a very well rounded filmmaker for his time and even after all these years, his work still holds up well. Other films directed by Curtiz include The Adventures Of Robin Hood, Mildred Pierce, The Jazz Singer, Yankee Doodle Dandy, and Casablanca. The cast of White Christmas is headed up by Bing Crosby (Holiday Inn, Stagecoach) and Danny Kaye (The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty, Birth of a Star), both of whom are in typical fine form. Also in the mix here is Rosemary Clooney (Red Garters, Radioland Murders), who I feel is the real show stealer in this picture. All three leads combine to deliver a wonderful film and display some terrific chemistry. The cast also includes Dean Jagger (Alligator, Game of Death), Vera-Ellen (The Belle Of New York, On The Town), and Mary Wickes (Cimarron, Sister Act).
Video: How’s it look?
There was a previous Blu-ray edition that was put out in 2010 and this appears to have the same 1.78:1 AVC HD transfer as that one. That’s not a bad thing, however. Having seen this movie a few times, I can say that this image is, far and away, the best the film has ever looked. The VistaVision seems to resonate and project the colors off the screen. Yes, this has a dated look and feel to it, but the level of detail is amazing, colors (as mentioned) tend to jump off the screen and it’s so much of an improvement over the DVD that there’s almost no comparison. For those that have been looking for the best home version of this film – you’ve found it.
Audio: How’s it sound?
A couple of audio tracks occupy this set. The DTS HD Master Audio is the one I chose to listen to and the songs resonate out of the channels. As you might expect, this isn’t going to shake the room, but hearing “White Christmas” in its uncompressed glory is really quite the experience. Vocals are rich and crisp, never once giving a hint of distortion. Surrounds are actually surprisingly active and given the “mood” of the 50’s sound architecture, I was pretty surprised. This is a good, solid mix and a DTS Mono mix has been included for those that feel the need to only have one channel do the work.
Supplements: What are the extras?
As mentioned, there was an Anniversary Edition put out by Paramount a few years ago, this version expands upon that with a few new extras. As is the case with most of these double dips, though, if you already own that version, anteing up for this one is a tough call.
Disc 1 (Blu-ray)
- Feature film with optional Sing-Along Subtitle Track – This is a new feature exclusive to this Diamond Edition.
- Audio Commentary – Rosemary Clooney gives an…interesting track, though it’s chock full o’ holes from time to time. Still, it’s a nice addition to have to this timeless classic holiday film.
- Classic Holiday Moments – New to this edition are five classic holiday moments.
- Assignment Children – A new feature with an introduction by Michael Bublé
- Backstage Stories from White Christmas—The production boasted the #1 and #3 box office stars of its time and the director of Casablanca. It featured the most popular song in American history and became the highest-ranking film at the box office in 1954. From little-known production details to behind-the-scenes trivia, this segment offers insights about the timeless holiday classic.
- Bing Crosby: Christmas Crooner—Crosby’s family members offer personal memories of the film and discuss the crooner’s Yuletide connection. The piece also includes film historians sharing rare stories about Crosby and White Christmasand a visit to Crosby’s hometown of Spokane, Washington.
- Danny Kaye: Joy to the World—Some people only know him as the silver screen’s ‘court jester,’ but Danny Kaye was a true humanitarian who helped children around the world as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. This moving tribute sheds light on the multi-talented actor, who won two honorary Academy Awards®, including the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, and spread joy beyond the Hollywood spotlight.
- Irving Berlin’s White Christmas—Many people don’t know allof the lyrics to the most popular Christmas song of all time or that Irving Berlin wrote it while sitting poolside at an Arizona Resort. This fascinating feature sheds light on the genesis and enduring popularity of the best-selling single in American history.
- Rosemary’s Old Kentucky Home—Take a tour of Rosemary Clooney’s home in Augusta, Kentucky, which has become a historical landmark.
- White Christmas:From Page to Stage— The legacy of White Christmas continues with a hit Broadway musical, nominated for two Tony awards.
- White Christmas: A Look Back with Rosemary Clooney
- White ChristmasPhoto Galleries – New are four photo galleries.
- “White Christmas” by Bing Crosby on December 1, 1976
“White Christmas” by Bing Crosby featuring Michael Bublé on December 10, 2012
“Silent Night” by Bing Crosby on December 12, 1948
“Jingle Bells” by Danny Kaye and Nat King Cole on December 25, 1963
Danny Kaye reads from A Christmas Carol on December 22, 1965
Disc 2 (DVD):
- Audio Commentary – This is the same commentary track that appears on the Blu-ray (Disc 1).
Disc 3 (DVD):
- Same special features listed above in standard definition with the exception of the optional sing-along subtitle track
Disc 4 (Bonus Music CD)
- Winter Wonderland – Rosemary Clooney
Deck the Halls/Away in a Manger/O, Little Town of Bethlehem/The First Noel – Bing Crosby
Waltz Around the Christmas Tree – Danny Kaye
Marshmallow World – Bing Crosby & Ella Fitzgerald
The Christmas Song – Rosemary Clooney
Just What I Wanted For Christmas – Bing Crosby
Santa Claus Is Coming To Town – Rosemary Clooney
Jingle Bells – Danny Kaye & Peggy Lee
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer – Bing Crosby & Judy Garland
Home For The Holidays – Rosemary Clooney
Some Children See Him – Danny Kaye
The Night Before Christmas – Bing Crosby