Every year during the holidays, my wife makes me watch White Christmas. I say “makes me” because I am not generally inclined to watch a film more than once, let alone every single year… though if I were telling you this in my wife’s presence, she’d immediately run off a list of what she would call exceptions to that general rule. (She’s probably right; she usually is.) In any event, my disinclination to watch the film every holiday season is not in any way a comment on the quality of the film itself; I might not be as crazy about it as my wife is, but I like it just fine… and there are things about it I genuinely love. Danny Kaye’s modern dance routine? The cross-dressing bit? The simple beauty of “Count Your Blessings (Instead of Sheep)?” The pathos of the title song? There’s a lot to treasure.
Almost nothing moves me quite as much, however, as the quiet authority of Bing Crosby’s presence throughout the movie. Forget about his singing and dancing, both of which (I’m sure you’ll agree) are enchanting: I’m just thinking here of his upright, non-pretentious being. You don’t see actors like that on film any more. I wish you did. It gets tiring, after a while, seeing so many jaded and quirky and smug and beautiful faces. It feels a bit alien, too.
Now: I’m not so naive as to idolize Bing. His politics alone are enough to put me off of him entirely… so I’m just going to ignore them, frankly, the way I’d want him to ignore mine. I’ll focus instead on his slightly hangdog face, his bright eyes, the purity of intention in his voice… and I’ll note once againâ€”as I do every yearâ€”that even with his pants off (in what is arguably the most important scene in what proves to be a somewhat homo-erotic movie), Bing remains graceful and dignified. We should all be so lucky as to be able to pull that off.