On Christmas Eve Anne and I watched White Christmas for the first time in who knows how long. I wrote about this movie toward the end of my second novel. For me it’s the novel and not the movie that induces nostalgia:
…He wondered if there was anything Portalic in those old Bing Crosby holiday musicals. Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye, both self-consciously ridiculous as frilly drag sisters, lisping their way through that corny Irving Berlin number. Bing and Danny marching in full uniform with the rest of the boys across that Vermont ski mountain, reassuring Dean Jagger that even a retired Army hero occupied a very special place in the post-War nostalgia. Bing seated at the piano in the chalet, singing White Christmas to an enraptured Rosemary Clooney. Yes, of course that was it: that was the Portal.
Prop remembered reading somewhere that in real life Bing had been rather a cold-hearted bastard. This spiteful allegation had endeared the Crooner to Prop in a way that the smooth, schmaltzy screen persona never had. Bing wasn’t simply being himself up there: he was an artist who had created an alternate version of himself so consistent and compelling that the public bought it. Prop wondered whether the on-screen Bing wasn’t more real than the brooding and insular workaholic chain-smoking in his trailer between takes. A mean SOB singing a Jew’s Christmas song to a lush: this combination, this synergy, had opened a Portal so pure and powerful that it still worked more than half a century later…
It turns out that Prop remembered it wrong. Bing sings the song at the very beginning of the movie, in the WWII trenches. Then the whole troupe sings it at the very end. Bing sings a different song to Rosemary in the chalet.