Every family has a movie they traditionally watch every year for the holidays. In mine, we have two films that are mandatory: A Christmas Carol, the superb 1984 George C. Scott version, and White Christmas.
I believe it mostly started as a tradition because my younger brother, who is obsessed with classic musicals, insisted on watching it. I used to resist. But White Christmas grows on you. It’s got great dance numbers, funny lines, good ol’ WWII-era jingoism, fantastic retro outfits and timeless songs. (It’s also fairly minimal on the sexism and racism for a ’50s movie, which is nice.)
Rosemary Clooney totally steals White Christmas: She’s captured at the height of her sultry glory, and she swans about in luscious gowns and elbow-length gloves. If you’re not highly invested in the movie’s innocence, I recommend watching the DVD version with commentary from Clooney. The voiceover track was recorded decades later when she was a whiskey-voiced lounge lizard, and she relates anecdotes about various sexual advances made by actors during the filming.
White Christmas also brings my family together every year and reminds us that for all our differences, we are giant smart-asses. We’ve developed traditions in watching it over the years, like we always root for Danny Kaye and Vera-Ellen to fall in the water during the elaborate outdoor Florida dance sequence. We repeat “mutual, I’m sure” in the one chorus girl’s high-pitched squeal, gasp over Vera-Ellen’s impossibly teeny waist. And we fast-forward through the interminable “Snow” song.
One thing my family would never do—none of us can really carry a tune in a bucket—is sing along to White Christmas. So I’ll leave that business up to the Missoula Community Chorus at this week’s Roxy Theatre sing-alongs. The earlier ones—1 and 3:30 p.m.—are kid-oriented, with visits from Santa and photo booth with costumes. The evening one includes adult beverages like beer and holiday cocktails. And remember, the most fun traditions are the ones you make up as you go along.—Kate Whittle