This all-singing, all-dancing vintage piece of celluloid dates from 1942, when Elvis was just a kid and White Christmas was a brand new song.
That this is a quintessentially wholesome picture that pre-dates any form of cynicism is obvious from the first five seconds, as three young boys ring in Christmas Eve with bells in a classic snow-drenched street scene. It’s also festive to the hilt, with the titular ballroom only opening 15 days a year for all your favourite Yankee holidays.
The aforementioned best selling yuletide song of all time gets its dbut treatment in this black-and-white musical, which was filmed decades before the coining of the phrase ‘political correctness’.
And it shows. Feminists are sure to be disgusted by the following snatch of dialogue, which has a certain comic value to it when heard by the modern listener:
Marjorie Reynolds: “Was that a proposal?”Bing Crosby: “Well, it will be when I get a few bucks from the bank.”Marjorie Reynolds: “Well, I guess I’m sort of engaged!”
Racial equality was some way off sixty years ago as well, as laid bare by the dancing number where all the characters have their faces painted black, or the song in which the black housekeeper refers to her own race in song as ‘the darkies’. Roll on, Martin Luther King.
As if racism and sexism weren’t enough, there’s propaganda thrown into the mix as well. In the Fourth of July number, Song of Freedom, the proceedings take an unexpectedly jingoistic turn, with the refrain “our boys of freedom” sung by cheerleaders in stars n’ stripes dresses accompanied by footage of American war planes, tanks and invading ground troops. Well, it was released mid-way through World War II, I suppose, though it does scotch any theory that media manipulation is a new phenomenon.
As for the music, well it’s one classic song-and-dance romp after another, and the movie’s double act Fred Astaire and Bing Crosby manage to croon and cobble their way through two separate love triangles, before the whole show comes to an improbable, if rather predictable, happy ending. The viewer never suspects otherwise, however.
Films of this era are unlikely to hold much sway with the modern movie fan, delightfully quaint and unintentionally hilarious as they are, though in the niche grannies-with-DVD-players market, it’s this Christmas’s sure-fire hit.