I love the movie, and the song, White Christmas beyond all reason. The film stars Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney, Danny Kay and Vera Ellen,and I think I watched it with my grandfather every year, curled by the fire.We laughed and sang the songs together, and knew many of the lines.
The movie is ridiculous. (go watch it, NOW) Crosby and Kaye are terrible cross-dressers. Vera-Ellen needs to eat something. Who bursts into song on the train? And how on earth does that rustic little inn have the soundstage for those dance numbers?
None of this matters. Somehow, this confection, conceived in sunny Hollywood with a hit song written by a Jew manages to evoke the most perfect nostalgia and longing for the perfect Christmas that never was.
I’m home snuffling with a cold/flu thing, looking at my one string of lights and missing all my bygone family, who would be getting on my nerves if they were here, and feeling all these pangs of longing for home. Of course, it’s been a big year for me, moving beyond the householder’s life and embracing a new simplicity. With it comes freedom and a lightness. Out goes the tree and the three boxes of ornaments.
I heard composer Rob Kapilow describing what makes the song so great, on the Kojo Nnamdi show the other day. It was a hoot to hear Nnamdi say “I grew up in Guyana and never knew what snow was, and this song still gets to me. Thank you for explaining why.”
Rob Kapilow is known for his talks and performances of “What Makes it Great?” which is now also a book. He’s brilliantly enthusiastic about music, and believes that everybody loves music, given a chance to really listen and understand it. In this video he attempts to explain the genius in Irving Berlin’s song. “You can just feel the pang of memory!”
The love for this film, and song, lives on. The song is covered again and again but it will always belong to Crosby. The film gets trotted out every year, shared with new generations. It’s in the mash-up culture: here’s Vera Ellen dancing, brilliantly, to Run DMC: