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The worst offender by far though it the super-racist “Abraham” number which is about Lincoln freeing the slaves. I would have preferred to have shown her Holiday Inn, which is what I went to Netflix looking for, but this knock off was the closest thing that I could find. And it has been translated into 25 different languages. Dinner is always endangered by Danny Kaye. But the past use of these songs in associations with minstrelsy and blackface also can’t be erased. Enjoy our Christmas songs. Holiday Inn is a 1942 American musical film directed by Mark Sandrich and starring Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire, with Marjorie Reynolds, Virginia Dale, and Walter Abel. Learn how your comment data is processed. And, for what it’s worth, I wasn’t critiquing the modern dance itself, which I found interesting. And, just now, as I was putting her to bed, she told me that she thought she’d like to take a modern dance class. I’ve never smoked and would have an asthma attack after about 10 seconds of hopping around like him. Company on Amazon Music. But there was a snag: Fred Astaire didn’t like the script and refused to participate. The “choreography ” number is poking fun at Martha Graham and her technique. No one likes a bragger, Peter “I’m Mostly White” Larson. The contrasts of The Jazz Singer and the first use of “Blue Skies” are emblematic of so much of how early and golden age Hollywood dealt with race. And it also became the first music ever used in a movie when it was sung by a Jewish character in blackface in The Jazz Singer. While “Mandy” is innocuous when taken alone, the number in White Christmas that proceeds it, when Crosby, Kaye, and Clooney sing of their longing for “The Minstrel days we miss” is more complicated taken in context. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nOTWN8apuA8. She's a trained lawyer and opera singer as well as a mom and author. I’ll check it out. Reply Delete But the song is awful, the orchestration cutesy and overbearing, and Danny Kaye so smarmy that my dinner may emigrate. [2] Did they remove it with CGI? I just introduced Alro to him for the first time a few days ago. And dance to a song like this: The lyrics to "Mandy" are as follows: I was strolling out one evening by the silv'ry moon I could hear somebody singing a familiar tune So I stopped a while to listen Not a word I wanted to miss It was just somebody serenading something like this Mandy There's a minister handy And it sure would be dandy A check of the Google says yes: Interesting! This song, like other racially icky songs, is actually used in White Christmas in a non-racist way. The Irving Berlin songs, the dance numbers, and yes, the "schmaltz" are just the right combination to put even the Grinchiest person in the Christmas spirit. I suspect that I’m right, but I don’t know. The three leads singing so fondly about shows that were just so funny seems quaint…until you realize they’re lamenting the loss of a racist, harmful artform that went out of style half a century before. And thanks for the link, ATF. Yeah, not a great movie by any stretch, Doug. And that’s what brings us back to White Christmas where this song and so many other are scrubbed of their racial and formerly racist context. If you ask me what movie I put on first thing in December to get in the holiday spirit I’ll tell you right away that it’s White Christmas. Irving Berlin, the composer of “White Christmas” and “God Bless America” was a Jewish, Russian immigrant who came to America when he was only a child. White Christmas is a musical based on the Paramount Pictures 1954 film of the same name.The book is by David Ives and Paul Blake, with music and lyrics by Irving Berlin. Minstrel shows and blackface arose first among white performers in the 1830s and involved those white performers painting their faces in caricatures of black slaves. White Christmas has endured recordings by various artists — there are over 500 known versions! Have a tip we should know? starring Bing Crosby, … Ah! The idea to make a movie based on the song “White Christmas” itself, which already had been featured in a movie, might have been a cash grab that came from the fact that the song became such a touchstone for soldiers serving in World War II (Bing Crosby talks about how singing it for the troops was a deeply emotional experience, one that’s recaptured in the film). White Christmas exemplifies the best of classic Hollywood…but it’s also an interesting sort of rosetta stone for some of the worst tendencies of Hollywood’s golden age when it came to race: that rather than be inclusive of in anyway interrogate America’s racism, they just ignore it completely even when the now-classic songs have racists history. Print instantly, or sync to our free PC, web and mobile apps. Raised the son of a synagogue cantor, Jewish music was a huge influence on his early life and music. Remember a few paragraphs back when I told you about Irving Berlin’s time in the army in WWI? Amazon's Toys & Games store features thousands of products, including dolls, action figures, games and puzzles, advent calendars, hobbies, models and … Boots reboot… Here’s what happened a week ago tonight, when Boots Riley and The Coup liberated Ypsilanti, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nOTWN8apuA8, http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=543803, 106 members of Congress are guilty of sedition, Florida ramps up the negligent homicide bodycount in the run-up to the GOP convention. It was nostalgic racism in 1917, and maybe made more sense then, but just it’s just weird in 1953. 2020 Was the Year of Everyone Thirsting Online, A Trans/Non-binary Person’s Perspective on the Grogu vs. Baby Yoda Debate, Science Fiction and Fantasy Books to Gift Every Member of Your Weird and Cranky Family, Stop What You're Doing & Come Watch Meg From, “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” Hits Different This Year, Let’s Settle This: A Unified Theory to Define “Christmas Movies”, Guillermo del Toro, Rian Johnson, and Edgar Wright Want You to Help Save FilmStruck, Classic Film Scenes as Ottoman Miniatures Fuse Cultures. And one of those people was the greatest American songwriter in history, Irving Berlin. Every movie and song and piece of art has a story, it’s not always merry and bright. Read the original review. If you don’t know what a minstrel show is, the song is perfectly fine…but if you do, its a very weird thing to hear in a musical that is otherwise pretty far removed from minstrelry. on to this post. The set on the Paramount lot was refurbished for the next Christmas classic. See more ideas about white christmas, vintage dance, 1950s dance. That this is still talked about in and of itself speaks to her talent and versatility. Did there used to be? The dancers are fine. show her any of rosas danst rosas! I thought the dancers were lovely, actually. Franklin Pierce (1853-1857) is believed to have been the first President to put a Christmas tree in the White House. The “Abraham” number in White Christmas is purely a dance break. White Christmas is a classic movie that I love and its music is iconic in many ways. I don’t know if Irving Berlin knew or felt that blackface was racist at the time, because The Jazz Singer wasn’t Irving Berlin’s first or last interaction with blackface and the larger minstrel tradition it arose from. There is no comparison on film. “Blue Skies” in particular only gained racist associations with blackface after it became popular. The song White Christmas was written by Irving Berlin and was first recorded and released by Bing Crosby with Ken Darby Singers and John Scott Trotter and His Orchestra in 1942. Brascia was a featured dancer with Vera-Ellen in White Christmas (1954) and with Cyd Charisse and Liliane Montevecchi in Meet Me in Las Vegas (1956). The way “Blue Skies” sounds, according to musical historians, was clearly “Jewish” to many listeners in the 20s, but it still became a hit. Through one number after another in "White Christmas", Vera Ellen astonishes in her ability to dance through a number of choreographic styles with grace and authority. Or to keep it anonymous, click here. Jessica Mason (she/her) is a writer based in Portland, Oregon with a focus on fandom, queer representation, and amazing women in film and television. Thanks for the great stories and “go Clementine ” They had their own tropes, stock characters, jokes, and musical language. Most of the songs were not written for the movie, and it’s just a tour through decades of Irving Berlin’s music, including many songs he wrote when he was in the army because White Christmas is about a pair of WWII veterans. Linette has a story about choreographing and performing a modern dance in high school, in gym class or something, and being slapped by another girl in the class, who, I guess, found it offensive in some way. The touring production at the Benedum Center wraps popular songs and big dance numbers in a shiny holiday package. With Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, Vera-Ellen. “White Christmas ” I just laugh so hard at the choreography The same goes for Irving Berlin himself, who was part of a larger American cultural tradition that was suffused with racism, and he did his part both to perpetuate and subvert it. In the spirit of Christmas, we created a list of popular Christmas songs that have the word Christmas in the song title. The original St. Louis production starred Lara Teeter, Karen Mason, Lauren Kennedy, and Lee Roy Reams, and the 2004 San Francisco production starred Brian D'Arcy James, Anastasia Barzee, Meredith Patterson, and Jeffry Denman We began watching Go West. The fading of these shows from the scene led some to be nostalgic for them, including a younger Irving Berlin. One of Berlin’s first big hits and the second song we hear in White Christmas is “Blue Skies.” Originally composed for a forgotten Ziegfeld production called Besty, “Blue Skies” has one of the most complicated racial histories of any song out there. I wasn’t expecting, when Clementine and I set out to watch White Christmas this evening, that I’d find myself delivering an impromptu, barely comprehensible lecture on modern dance… I know that I’d seen the movie before, but I had absolutely no memory whatsoever of this incredibly out-of-place little scene featuring Danny Kaye and half a dozen painfully serious young women in drab, utilitarian dresses, who look as though they were plucked right off the streets of Leningrad. He only made it about five minutes in, but that’s five minutes longer than he’s ever watched anything before. Explicitly and textually it’s not racist…but that’s only because there are no black people in it aside from one bartender in the club car in the “Snow” scene. Have a tip or story idea? Much of what was problematic has been removed from these songs – except their history. 15 Things You Didn't Know About "White Christmas" Some trivia about the 1954 Christmas classic ( now streaming on Netflix !) A successful song-and-dance team become romantically involved with a sister act and team up to save the failing Vermont inn of their former commanding general. Huh? I’m laughing so hard at this whole post. Sep 6, 2014 - Explore Robin Stelly's board "White Christmas Dancers" on Pinterest. ... dances and musical numbers Joseph J. Lilley ... music director / vocal arranger ... Christmas Movies Ranked a list of 40 titles But it’s important to understand the cultural context of the movie and the music to see where it fits in a larger, longer story of American culture and race. The number is not only performed by Bing Crosby in blackface (along with the band and dancers), there’s a section where the Mamie character (that’s her actual character name!) White Christmas is a 1954 American musical film directed by Michael Curtiz and starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, and Vera-Ellen.Filmed in Technicolor, it features the songs of Irving Berlin, including a new version of the title song, "White Christmas", introduced by Crosby in the 1942 film Holiday Inn.. While Minstrel shows themselves fell out of popularity in the 20th century, blackface persisted and so did the many tropes and stereotypes from those minstrel days, such as “Mamie” characters, or the visuals of a black or blackface character wearing white gloves (see: Mickey Mouse). I don’t think there’s an answer here, only a conversation. When I watched on Netflix, there was no blackface during the minstrel number. General Waverly's Columbia Inn in fictional Pine Tree, Vermont, made it's debut a decade before, in Holiday Inn. We just watched First, a detour. Enough said. Holiday Inn stars Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire and is about a hotel that’s only open on Holidays (which seems dumb) and they start scraping the barrel for holiday songs really fast. You should have an “I’m mostly white” button made the next time the Klan comes to town, Pete. I read somewhere that Danny Kaye smoked like 5 packs of cigarettes a day yet could still shake his ass like that (not saying it’s *great* dancing but that it’s very active). Now, back to White Christmas. About Amazon Toys & Games. Thanks for the great stories and “go Clementine ” Dance to your hearts content !! “White Christmas” – the song, is the most popular song of all time and it was written by a Jewish man during the summer in California. −  http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=543803. White Christmas is what we’d essentially call a jukebox musical nowadays. The thing that struck me was the fact that the filmmakers had decided to critique modern dance here, in this way… by showing the “beautiful” woman in hot pink descending from above into this pit of drab, expressionless women. Dance. the type of the dance or what it was called and stumbled Choose from White Christmas sheet music for such popular songs as White Christmas, Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep, and Sisters. Why show children this crap? People who faced discrimination themselves – antisemitism in the case – still engaged in racist things, like blackface. Email us. Dance to your hearts content !! It was covered by Bill Perry [1], Blue Seven, Tim McKee, The Overtones [GB] and other artists. Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment. The “Abraham” number in White Christmas is purely a dance break. Robert Alton is actually credited with being the choreographer (Dance Director) for White Christmas. http://youtu.be/zS_kWttptS4 Personally, I lack the background to make sense of it, but I found it fascinating, and it made me wonder what was going on at the time to have pushed Berlin and the filmmakers to expend the energy. And, yes, Doug, I think that Danny Kaye found himself vomited on my dinner companions quite often. “White Christmas ” I just laugh so hard at the choreography Dance. Dec 23, 2016 - Director Michael Curtiz (left) walks through a dance number with Bing Crosby (center) and Danny Kaye (right) on the set of "White Christmas", 1954. And thanks for letting me find the name of the Dance “Modern Dance”, Your email address will not be published. The shapes and costume, are pulled right from Graham’s choreography. Your email address will not be published. Check out White Christmas by D.J. While it is performed each holiday season, it seems to get an unusual amount of attention from the military. Boom Chicka Boom Christmas is one of our most popular Christmas songs for kids. Stream ad-free or purchase CD's and MP3s now on Amazon.co.uk. Directed by Michael Curtiz. The 1954 musical is a classic for a host of reasons: the sparkling dialogue, the incredible dances with Vera Ellen, the comedy of Danny Kaye, the fantastic costumes by Edith Head, and the indelible voices of Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney. }. Bosley Crowther reviewed “White Christmas” for The New York Times on Oct. 15, 1954. even more utilitarian and powerful. But it always matters. sings a verse to her kids…in the kitchen. This action, dance & camp song is a hit with kids of all ages! But I like to think it also might have to do with the fact that, while White Christmas isn’t a really racist film…Holiday Inn certainly is. But, I made something up, and we paused the movie for a few minutes, so that Clementine could try out a few moves. Bob Fosse did some of the choreography as well but wasn't credited. White Christmas was the first movie to be filmed in the new VistaVision process, in Technicolor. White Christmas was supposed to reunite Bing Crosby with Fred Astaire, who’d appeared together in both Holiday Inn and Blue Skies (1946). I told Clementine that I thought it spoke to the fact that there were warring factions within the theater community at the time. one A song where white people in blackface and a black family that’s kept in the kitchen praise a white man for freeing the “darkies?” It’s appalling to watch now. We actually hear “Abraham” only in an instrumental version as Vera Ellen dances her tail off. Watch Lamentation, Heretic and Celebration from her “long woo lens phase” and you will see it clearly. The movie on its face has the same problems as most films of its era: it was made by white people for a white audience and carried with it the inherent racism of Hollywood and its time. I’ll have to see if I can convince her to tell the story someday. With dancer and wife, Tybee Arfa (1932–1982) , he formed the dance team Brascia and Tybee , which, beginning in 1957, began appearing as the opening act for artists like Frank Sinatra , Lena Horne , Tony Martin and George Burns , among others. Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye sing “Blue Skies”. I was searching all over to find the name of the type of the dance or what it was called and stumbled on to this post. KKT, seriously? Clooney, Kaye and Crosby look back fondly on the minstrel days they miss. The racist parts of it aren’t there. Download sheet music for White Christmas. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. I’m sure they’d love to have you join them on their side of the police barricade. The same goes for “Blue Skies” which is just a brief song we here in a montage. Christmas is celebrated by Christians marking the birth of Christ. They didn’t seem painfully serious to me, just dancing without a lot of arch showboating. Stream ad-free or purchase CD's and MP3s now on Amazon.co.uk. Well, that was before he had ever heard of talking pictures or contemplated Al Jolson (who gets a shoutout in White Christmas) singing about a “Mamie” on screen, but blackface and minstrelry were part of his cultural vocabulary so much even then that he wrote several numbers for his all-soldier army revue that were either about or influenced by minstrel shows and one of those songs was “Mandy” and the so-called “Minstrel Number” that eventually made it into White Christmas nearly four decades later. A radical departure from the other widescreen formats of the era, VistaVision did not extend the width of the screen as much as it raised the height, which produced a significantly clearer image. tips@themarysue.com. Many of the army related songs we hear in the show are from the same revue – called Yip Yip Yaphank – that “Mandy” comes from while others are repurposed from the 1943 movie Holiday Inn, where the song “White Christmas” was first heard on screen. Funny you should mention Keaton, Doug. The Ypsilanti Public Library has Holiday Inn, though at this time of year you’ll be waiting a while for it. The same is true of the minstrel number, which has only the slightest hint of minstrel or blackface imagery in the caricatures we see on some of the backdrops. I love Holiday Inn too (although the black face scene does make me cringe). For a reminder of the beauty of deadpan, some Keaton! White Christmas (1954) - … I can’t dance at all and I’m mostly white. Sorry you almost lost your dinner over it, old friend. Check out White Christmas by Ballet Dance Jazz J. It was during the Abe Lincoln song, right? But that’s because White Christmas is a showcase for Berlin songs that were sort of stitched together from everywhere, including other far more problematic properties. One of many army-centric numbers repurposed for White Christmas. Having “Blue Skies,” “Mandy” and “Abraham” in the film as they are is certainly better than the way they were presented in other movies and shows; and without context, they’re fine songs. We still live with minstrel relics in our culture – White Christmas being just one of them. Christmas trees were banned by President Teddy Roosevelt in the White House in 1901 because the President was concerned about the environmental effects, but his sons decorated a small tree cut on the White House grounds and hid it in a closet until Christmas morning. White Christmas (1954) cast and crew credits, including actors, actresses, directors, writers and more. White Christmas (1954) was the first film photographed in Paramount's widescreen VistaVision process. But is that okay? Required fields are marked *. White Christmas might as well be called White-washed Christmas because it does sweep so many elements of its songs that were used in racist ways in the past under the rug. White Christmas ties directly into Hollywood’s checkered history with blackface, minstrel shows and the complicated legacy of one of America’s greatest songwriters: Irving Berlin. Santa & The Dance Squad on Amazon Music. And thanks for letting me find the name of the Dance “Modern Dance” If you think we should add a song to the list, be sure to comment it in at the bottom of the page. I was searching all over to find the name of display: none !important; I’m not going to mine for outrage and call White Christmas a racist movie. .hide-if-no-js {  =  I reminded Clementine of the Merce Cunningham videos that we’d watched at the Andy Warhol Museum, and tried to put the whole thing into historical context, but I think I did a pretty pathetic job of explaining why it is that, in 1954, Irving Berlin, and the people who made White Christmas, would want to divert from their storyline in order to critique modern dance. The Klan might just cut off my leg to make it official. White Christmas is just a fun movie, and I highly recommend it for holiday viewing. Black performers eventually joined in these performances as well, and their versions often sought to subvert and mock the stereotypes in these shows. He came up in the teens, garnering success as a songwriter and served in the army, writing songs for all-soldier revues during World War I (we’ll come back to that). “The only thing is,” she said, “I don’t know if I could keep my face like Wednesday Addams for that long.” I told her that, during practice, you were probably allowed to smile, and that it was just during performances that you were required to look suicidal. I would very much encourage her to dance, the body positivity that comes from it is such a life saver. In “Holiday Inn,” the song and dance numbers were performed in the dining room: For “White Christmas,” the stage was moved into an attached barn: In real life, Rosemary was originally part of an act with her sister Betty: & camp song is awful, the orchestration cutesy and overbearing, and maybe made sense. That this is still talked about in and of itself speaks to her and... 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