Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

White Christmas (1954)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

White Christmas (1954)

In director Michael Curtiz' heart-warming and sweet-natured romantic comedy musical - the perennial holiday favorite was a very loose remake of Paramount's earlier Holiday Inn (1942). (The 1942 film had debuted "White Christmas" - it was also heard in this film and performed twice by Bing Crosby, and it involved an inn as well as featuring Irving Berlin songs). Crosby's singing of White Christmas (in a flashback to Christmas Eve in 1944 during the war years) was bookended and reprised in the finale during the Christmas Eve benefit.

Also notable was that the film was Paramount's first VistaVision wide-screen production, and it was the highest-grossing picture of 1954, and up to that time, the highest-grossing musical. On a budget of $2 million, it grossed $30 million (domestic revenue).

This 50s film was filled with Irving Berlin songs (such as "Blue Skies" and a new version of "White Christmas", that had already been introduced by Bing Crosby in Holiday Inn (1942)). Irving Berlin's original song "Count Your Blessings (Instead of Sheep)" was the only song in the film to receive an Oscar nomination. The title song had already won Berlin his only Academy Award in 1942.

The main characters were two ex-Army GIs, buddies returning from WWII, paired ("Wallace and Davis", or "Bob and Phil") or partnered, due to Phil's match-making with sisters of one of their old army pals - two blonde singing/dancing sisters:

  • Bob Wallace (Bing Crosby), serious and quiet, cynical, work-oriented
  • Phil Davis (Danny Kaye), carefree, hammy, playboyish, marriage-shy

  • Betty Haynes (Rosemary Clooney), the older one, motherly and more serious
  • Judy Haynes (Vera Ellen), Betty's leggy "younger" sister

During the war, ex-Broadway entertainer Captain Bob Wallace and wanna-be entertainer Private Phil Davis had performed for their fellow troops (of the 151st Division) in Europe on Christmas Eve, 1944. The farewell Christmas show was in honor of their battle-fatigued Major General Thomas F. Waverly (Dean Jagger), who was subsequently relieved of his command.

After the show, the troops were attacked and Davis saved Wallace from a collapsing wall. In appreciation, Wallace reluctantly agreed to go into show business with Davis. Now ten years later in 1954, the twosome (who became a duo act, as announced in Variety newspapers) were producing and performing very popular shows as a song and dance act - first in nightclubs, then on the radio, and finally, they scouted new talent as producers of Broadway revues - seen on TV as The Wallace and Davis Show.

The female siblings' signature tune "Sisters" - seen by Bob and Phil during an audition at Novello's nightclub in Florida - was lampooned in a reprised performance by Wallace and Davis lip-synching and dressed in half-drag with blue feather boas.

Watching the Sisters' Act

Betty and Judy Haynes Singing "Sisters"

"Sisters" Lampooned and Lip-Synched by Bob Wallace and Phil Davis

A series of incidents found them traveling from Florida (where they had become successful producers) by train northward to New York, in the company of the Haynes sister act (on the run from their landlord and an arrest warrant for allegedly damaging a rug). Much to Bob's chagrin, Phil offered the sisters their sleeping-room train accommodations so that they could travel together. The foursome sang "Snow" in the train's dining car on their way northward.

Rather than staying to rehearse their latest show in New York, Phil were easily convinced (with Bob) to pursue the two sisters and bring their Broadway-level hit Christmas musical show ("Playing Around") to a financially-struggling inn and ski lodge in Pine Tree, VT, known as the Columbia Inn.

They were surprised to discover that the Vermont inn was owned by their old Army superior during WWII, Major General Waverly. But because it hadn't snowed since Thanksgiving, the lodge was about to go bankrupt with warm temperatures (68 degrees) and green grass - and no guests.

With a "making a show" theme - Wallace and Davis hoped that their show ("Playing Around"), brought up from New York ("to test new material") before its Broadway debut, would financially revive the lodge, and serve as a Christmas Eve benefit for their ex-veteran commanding Major General - the owner/manager of the struggling and financially-failing Vermont hotel!

The film's most memorable moments before the stage-show finale included:

  • "I'd Rather See a Minstrel Show" - performed by Bob and Phil, without blackface
  • "Count Your Blessings (Instead of Sheep)", Bob Wallace's love song with Betty Haynes as their romance blossomed, sung by a late-night fire in the lodge [Note: The age gap between them was tremendous, Crosby was 51 and Clooney was 26 years old.]
  • "Choreography," first sung by Phil Davis with his impression of modern ballet, then danced by Judy (and Joe (John Brascia)) in a jazzy, avant-garde rendition - one of the film's best dance numbers
  • "Love, You Didn't Do Right by Me," glittery black-gowned Betty's torchy rendition of her new act in New York

Typical of romantic musical comedies, there were the usual romantic pursuits and misunderstandings between the couples, mostly between Bob and Betty, due to the local innkeeper and resident eavesdropper Emma Allen (Mary Wickes). By listening to only half of a phone call, she had mistaken the aim of Bob's phone call to help publicize and create publicity for General Waverly on The Ed Harrison Show. Instead, she thought that Bob was attempting to take advantage of the General's misfortune and humiliate him on the show. Emma relayed the misunderstood information to Betty, who then - without asking questions - dropped Bob, and soon after left for a gig in New York. Phil and Judy turned meddlesome (they staged a phony engagement) in an attempt to bring them back together.

By Christmas Eve, after things were straightened out between Bob and Betty, and free advertising for the show and publicity had been obtained on The Ed Harrison (Johnny Grant) variety show/program, the lodge was packed with customers (including a reunion with members of the 151st Division showing up to honor the respected, popular and retired General).

The General was tricked into reluctantly wearing his old uniform to the opening of the show held in the lodge's ballroom; he was completely surprised when he entered and was greeted by a standing round-of-applause from veteran soldiers from his former division (his entire 151st Division), and a 10th Anniversary Cake. He stood amazed as the on-stage show began - he listened as they sang a chorus of the Irving Berlin tribute song, "The Old Man," and tears formed in his eyes.

Surprise Stage Show For Gen. Waverly in His Lodge

"The Old Man"

Waverly's Mock Inspection: "You're a Disgrace to the Outfit!"

After the song was performed, ending with two rows of soldiers forming a path to the stage, Waverly walked between the two rows in a mock inspection, when he firmly stated: "I am not satisfied with the conduct of this division....You're a disgrace to the outfit. You're soft! You're sloppy! You're unruly! You're undisciplined!" - and then he disclosed his real feelings: "And I never saw anything look so wonderful in my whole life! Thank you all."

He also listened as they performed the number: "Gee! I Wish I Was Back in the Army" performed by Phil Davis and Bob Wallace:

"A soldier out of luck / Was really never stuck / There's always someone higher up where you can pass the buck / Oh, gee, I wish I was back in the army")

They were also joined by the two sisters, Betty and Judy Haynes who sang: ("The Army was the place to find romance / Soldiers and WACs / The WACs who dressed in slacks / Dancing cheek-to-cheek and pants-to-pants."

As the holiday benefit show was coming to an end, to top off the evening, it began to snow just before the title song finale. The General was notified that snow had begun to fall - it would be a perfect Christmas. The film's final number was a declaration of love (and engagements) between Bob and Betty, and Phil and Judy, wearing Santa Claus costumes.

Bob With Betty, Phil with Judy

The Christmas Eve show

"White Christmas" (reprised)

The film concluded with kisses between Bob and Betty, and Phil and Judy, and the reprised singing of "White Christmas." Everything ended with a toast using the song's last line:

"May your days be merry and bright; and may all your Christmases be white."

The First Singing of
"White Christmas" by Captain Wallace (Bing Crosby)

(l to r): Private 1st Class Phil Davis (Danny Kaye), and Captain Bob Wallace

The Team Performing: Bob and Phil

Escaping From Landlord in Florida

Foursome Singing: "Snow" on the Northbound Train

The Retired General in the Columbia Inn in Vermont

"I'd Rather See a Minstrel Show"

Bob to Betty: "Count Your Blessings" - A Late Night Song

Judy's Song-Dance "Choreography"

Betty's "Love, You Didn't Do Right By Me - Sung in New York

"Gee! I Wish I Was Back In the Army"


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