If you are older than 90, please correct me if I’m wrong: but I read that Bing Crosby was THE superstar of the 1940s.
Apparently, he was bigger than Elvis.
In addition to being the top-selling recording artist, Bing Crosby had a hit radio program and he was one of the biggest movie stars. While Elvis churned out B-movies, Crosby starred in multiple films that were the top-grossing hits of the year.
“White Christmas” is a testament to Mr. Crosby’s enduring superstardom. It was by far the biggest film of 1954. And that is not because it is great.
Crosby stars as Bob Wallace. When we meet him in 1944, Bob is a famous singer back home but right now he’s serving in Europe. A GI named Phil Davis (Danny Kaye) saves Bob’s life. In return, Bob agrees to let Phil join his act.
Fast forward a few years: the war is over and Bob and Phil are a hit.
Their only problem is that Bob is sad and lonely because he can never find a good woman. It is not clear whether the idea is that Bob sleeps around with a lot of floozies or if he is a 50-year-old virgin.
Either way, when the fellas meet a talented duo called the Haynes Sisters (Vera Ellen and Rosemary Clooney), they drop everything to try to win their hearts.
Bob and Phil take a train with them all the way up to rural Vermont, where the Haynes Sisters have a December gig at a ski lodge.
And this is where the movie takes a shocking turn. What began as a Christmas musical suddenly becomes sci-fi fantasy. When they get to Vermont, it is 68 degrees.
The total lack of winter and snow is a disaster for the ski lodge owner, who happens to be Bob and Phil’s beloved General from back in their army days. The guys have two tasks: save the ski lodge and win the Haynes Sisters’ hearts.
Now I watch a lot of old movies and say to myself: “wow, I see why that actor is a timeless legend.” I did not say that about Bing Crosby. He was … fine. I liked him fine. He sang fine. He didn’t blow me away.
It reminds me of my feelings about Taylor Swift. I have nothing bad to say. Swift and Crosby are blandly likable. I just can’t understand how they became the most beloved stars in showbiz in their respective eras.
If I had gone into “White Christmas” knowing that one of the actors was a huge superstar, I would have assumed that it was Rosemary Clooney. Unlike Crosby, Ms. Clooney blew me away with her talent and charisma.
With her beautiful, expressive face, I could see Ms. Clooney being a star in any era. She could have shared the silent screen with Greta Garbo and Joan Crawford. Clooney’s solo – “Love, You Didn’t Do Right By Me” – is the film’s most passionate song.
“White Christmas” is charming and watchable. But it’s not a great Vermont movie. It’s not a great Christmas movie. And Bing Crosby – at least here – is not a great superstar.