Bing It On

Mr. Night rediscovers the meaning of Christmas. Thanks, Mr. Crosby!

Nov 30, 2005 at 4:00 am
Who just said "this holiday business is for the birds?" C'mon now, admit it. You're a hip product of the late '70s/early '80s; you were raised on irony and an unshakeable sense of foreboding about the future. Cynicism is your meat, and the sardonic put-down is your potatoes. God and country may have been enough for the Greatest Generation, but you, you have apathy. Or maybe you don't — what do you care?

Son, we need to talk. This holiday time of year always gets Mr. Night to thinkin', which usually leads to drinkin', and that starts with "D" which rhymes with "B" and that stands for Bing. You are in desperate need of a big shot of vitamin B, a.k.a. Bing Crosby.

Now don't roll your eyes: Mr. Night feels the whole generational-angst thing; he was sitting in a cold apartment the other night, stewing in his own stink because the water was shut off and he was a few days overdue on the shower deadline. The CD player was rumbling through Sunn's Black One on infinite repeat, his floor was dotted with cat poop (ol' Phoenix doesn't always hit the box), and that bottle of rye was getting dry — in other words, pre-holiday "blah" was lowering the boom on the Son of Doom.

But rather than let the lapping waves of depression wash over his head for the final lights-out, Mr. Night fought back with another viewing of Irving Berlin's White Christmas. And by the time the final rendition of the titular song was over, the world was a much better place, and Mr. Night was glad to be a part of it.

Just to refresh you on plot, in White Christmas Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye play a song-and-dance team who take a sister act (Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen) under their wing and collectively attempt to save an old Army buddy's Vermont resort by moving their Broadway show to said resort on Christmas Eve. Is White Christmas cheesy? Uh, yeah. Is it just a colorized remake of Holiday Inn? Absolutely. Does the whole "let's put on a show" aspect of the second half beggar your suspension of disbelief past what is normally acceptable in a big-screen musical? Indeed it does, my friend. But you know what else White Christmas has? A sense of decency and hope that cannot be denied. Chalk it up to the power of Irving Berlin, and of Hollywood.

Strangely for such a big-budget production, White Christmas also has three moments where you see something of the humanity of the players beneath the patina of "Hollywood musical" that has been slathered on them. During the throwaway song "Snow," Der Bingel's eyes wander toward the cocktail being prepared by a bartender on the left side of the screen, and you see a man who just desperately wants a drink but keeps singing instead; during Vera-Ellen's show-stopping dance number "Mandy," you see how frail her real-life anorexia has made her, yet she keeps dancing with almost supernatural fervor; and when Rosemary sings "Love, You Didn't Do Right by Me," there is something in her eyes that speaks of heartache beyond acting. These stars are people, flawed and sad. And yet they set aside their troubles to make something beautiful that outlasted their lives. That's Christmas. Embrace it with an open heart.