The cast members stroll to the Christmas tree in sumptuous red satin with white fur trim, while little girls pirouette around them in tutus. Bing Crosby opens a gift behind the Christmas tree, a toy knight on a horse, and kisses Rosemary Clooney. Danny Kaye and Vera Ellen follow suit. Then the barn doors open, and the long-awaited snow is falling softly on Christmas Eve in Vermont. And everybody arranges themselves into a complicated, symmetrical tableau. And sings.
It’s the cheesy, over-the-top finale of the film White Christmas, and though I know it’s a silly movie with sexist dialogue, gaping plot holes, and overly simplistic relationships, it sucks me in every time.
Sure, it contains some lame moments. Every time Bing Crosby calls the adult Haynes sisters, “girls,” I want to punch him. The outdated “Mr. Bones” minstrel show song is cringe-worthy. And nobody ever explains how there’s still room left at the inn for the paying customers they’re trying to attract once Wallace and Davis’s entire theatrical troupe and crew members descend on the place, along with dozens of soldiers of the 151st Division. Still, when the curtains open in the old barn in Vermont and the uniformed soldiers start to sing to General Waverly, “We’ll follow the old man wherever he wants to go,” echoing the first scene of the movie, I’m swept up in the moment.
And Rosemary Clooney was pretty darn fabulous.