I’m not what you would call a Christmas person. It’s the rare day in December that finds me voluntarily listening to holiday music. I don’t spend the day after Thanksgiving pulling out the twinkling lights and decorating the tree. I dread snow, postpone gift wrapping until the last possible minute, and avoid tacky sweater parties whenever possible.
There is, however, one Christmas tradition I have affectionately kept every year since I was four – and that is an annual viewing of White Christmas.
Over the years, this movie schooled me on everything from the ins and outs of double dating (best to sit “boy, girl, girl, boy.”) to inexplicable 50’s slang (“Well, I like that. Without so much as a kiss my foot or have an apple.”) to a wholly ridiculous view of the WWII era military (“A million handsome guys with longing in their eyes – and all you had to do was pick the age, the weight, the size.”)
Of the many – true and false – things White Christmas has taught me, these are just a few:
Trains are brimming with vintage Romance
By the time I finally took an extended train trip, I was in college. I had been idealizing the prospect for years, imagining a cozy club car adjacent to the bedrooms – complete with a full menu, a jolly bar tender, and well dressed couples engaged in all night sing alongs. Imagine my dismay when I discovered that there were no bedrooms and the club car consisted of three tables the size of tv trays. The food was stale, the bar tender was monosyllabic, and no one was singing a single note about Vermont. When it comes to trains, I’ll take vermouth swilling, suit wearing fiction over peanut serving, florescent lighted reality any day.
“The best things happen while you’re dancing.”
Truthfully, I’ve never attended a formal, benefit, or gala without this song playing in the back of my mind. I credit it for the eternal optimism that keeps my feet moving and my hips swaying long after my legs have grown tired. Thanks to Danny Kaye, I can’t seem to shake the conviction that dance floors are brimming with Mr. Rights, just waiting to “hold a girl in their arms that they’ve never held before.” So, while I am well aware that men my age are more likely to stand in the corner with a beer in hand or grind up from behind as the night wears on, I can’t step foot on a dance floor without half expecting someone to spin me onto a riverside patio, lift me atop an overturned boat, and waltz me into the sunset.
“Everybody’s got an angle.”
Complex depictions of human nature are not the first thing I expect in golden era musical comedies, but that’s exactly what White Christmas offers. Phil parlays a good deed into a lucrative career. Judy takes advantage of her sister’s romantic complications to get herself engaged. Yet, Bob performs a truly selfless act when he saves the General’s inn. At the end of the day, White Christmas leaves room for both hope and cynicism. People are basically decent, but, in the immortal words of Bob Wallace, “everybody’s got a little larceny operating in ’em.”
If you think your boyfriend might be exploiting military veterans for profit, maybe you should ask him about it.
Closely related: If you’re going to eavesdrop, at least have the decency to listen to the whole conversation. This entire sub plot drives me crazy. In the phone call snippet overheard by Emma, Bob barely says two words. There is no earthly reason why she would infer that he agrees to use the General’s plight as free advertising. And there is even less reason why Betty would accept Emma’s secondhand account, without so much as broaching the topic with Bob. Yet, that’s exactly what happens. As a result, Betty spends half the movie passive aggressively pouting, expecting Bob to know why her delicate sensibilities are suddenly so offended. Blech. Of course, just when you can’t stand the sight of Betty, she brings down the house with Love, You Didn’t Do Right By Me. And all is forgiven.
The only thing more fashionable than a body suit is a body suit with a crinoline train
False. Take it from a girl who spent her 1st grade winter break dancing around with a tablecloth stuffed into the back of her bathing suit. This look only works on Vera Ellen.