December 6, 2009

"We have learned to be a little sad and a little lonesome, without being sickly about it."

"This feeling is caught in the song of a thousand juke boxes and the tune whistled in streets and homes, 'I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas.' When we sing that song we don't hate anybody. . . . Away down under, this latest hit of Irving Berlin catches us where we love peace."

19 comments:

traditionalguy said...

Peace on earth and good will towards man is the Christmas present most people want to recieve today as much as our parents did in 1942. Let it be so.

Chip Ahoy said...

When I imitate Elvis Presley singing that song I do make it sickly -- with extra sobbing sounds and slobbering sniffling. I also put on a sad doggy face with forlorn droopy hound dog eyes and add a tone of resentment that does blame someone. Isn't that how it's supposed to be done?

Fred4Pres said...

Garland/Martin's Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas strikes emotion far more than Crosby/Berlin's White Christmas ever did (at least for me).

There has been a gradual change to the lyrics (even the Meet Me In Saint Louis lyrics were changed from the rather morose: "Have yourself a merry little Christmas, it may be your last, Next year we may all be living in the past" to "Let your heart be light, Next year all our troubles will be out of sight").

That theme is best left unsaid (especially given its timing in 1944), which makes that song far better.

Bissage said...

White Christmas. Wow. That really brings back some memories.

When I was a little kid, that song seemed hopelessly old-fashioned and hokey to me. Just like Bing Crosby, himself. Just like all those little doilies that my grandmother would put under all those dishes of hard candy. Funny, but I never saw anybody ever take any of that candy and yet every Christmas we’d go over to Grandma’s place and there’d they be. She was Bing Crosby’s biggest fan and she’d play that song over and over and over but I’d never listen to it.

Then I got a little older and I was off on my own and I caught that death imagery thing at the end: Through the years we all will be together, if the Fates allow. Hang a shining star upon the highest bough.

Boy, that really grabbed me! What a great song! What a shining moment!

Too bad Grandma wasn’t around to be a part of it. She had already died from diabetes.

ricpic said...

The article hints that Berlin may have been inspired by Frost's Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening. No dig against White Christmas, it's a superior piece of sentimentality, but to compare it to the resistance to sentimentality in Stopping is a stretch.

Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.


Well, I just read Bissage's comment so maybe I'm wrong about the total sentimentality of White Christmas. Damn that Bissage.

SMGalbraith said...

but to compare it to the resistance to sentimentality in Stopping is a stretch.

Yes, but as Berlin says in the article, songs make history and history makes songs.

Try reading Frost and imagining that the observer is going off to war.

paul a'barge said...

Watched it last night on TV ... twice in a row.

It was pretty good.

Richard Lawrence Cohen said...

Imagine the guys in the Pacific, amid the palm trees and artillery barrages, longing for soft white snowfall. As in the song from "South Pacific": "How far away, Philadelphia, P-A, Little Rock A-R-K, how far away."

SMGalbraith said...

Imagine the guys in the Pacific, amid the palm trees and artillery barrages, longing for soft white snowfall

Part of me envies them. Or that "feeling" they must have had.

Something along the lines of Robert E. Lee's statement that "It is good that war is so horrible or we would grow fond of it."

A bigger part of me weeps for them. Yeah, I cry at war movies. I do.

edutcher said...

Richard Lawrence Cohen said...

Imagine the guys in the Pacific, amid the palm trees and artillery barrages, longing for soft white snowfall.

Or North Africa, it was raining there, so bad the drive into Tunisia stalled in the mud.

The only place were there was snow for Americans that year was the Aleutians, and that was the one place they didn't want any.

In any case, one of my wife's nephews will be probably having his last Christmas at home this year - he goes off to college in the spring. All of his family lives withing 15 minutes of each other and the kind of holiday he's used to will be a thing of the past for him.

Beth said...

There's a dark, somber quality to "Have yourself a merry little Christmas," even after the requested revisions - the father has announced that the family will move, and no one is happy about it. Lines like "from now on our troubles will be far away" and "next year all our troubles will be out of sight" reflect that they themselves will be out of sight, far away, from their beloved family home in St. Louis. I love the song's understated irony.

William said...

"White Christmas" manufactures a nostalgia for a Christmas that you never had and will spend your lifetime trying to recreate. I don't mean that as a knock. Christmas is more often an aspiration than a memory. Let us light this gutted candle of a song and reflect kindly on the shadows it illuminates on the walls.

edutcher said...

William said...

"White Christmas" manufactures a nostalgia for a Christmas that you never had and will spend your lifetime trying to recreate. I don't mean that as a knock. Christmas is more often an aspiration than a memory. Let us light this gutted candle of a song and reflect kindly on the shadows it illuminates on the walls.

Maybe for you, but don't include everybody else. There's a lot in that song that resonates with my past.

p.t. fogger said...

Well, pumping up the sentiment & schmaltz a notch, "White Christmas" begat "The Christmas Song" (chestnuts roasting on an open fire etc) from just a few years later, written by Mel Torme. IIRC, he wrote it during a heat wave in California.

Another Jewish songwriter creating a hit associated with a Christian holiday, and also, IIRC, first recorded by Nat King Cole. Wotta Country!!

vbspurs said...

I've never watched Holiday Inn, nor White Christmas, nor in fact, Miracle of 34th Street.

Am I am a subversive pinko commie?

vbspurs said...

wv: europoph! Aha. I am an Europoph.

newton said...

""White Christmas" manufactures a nostalgia for a Christmas that you never had and will spend your lifetime trying to recreate. I don't mean that as a knock. Christmas is more often an aspiration than a memory. Let us light this gutted candle of a song and reflect kindly on the shadows it illuminates on the walls."

Maybe you haven't, but I did once. Christmas Eve/Christmas Day, 2004. Snow fell over South Texas on that date for the first time in a hundred years. No one who lived in that area all of their lives without leaving ever saw snow until that night.

Sure, I moved there years before it happened. But I must agree with most there: it was the most magical Christmas ever!

Go ahead and gut out that song. Most people in Corpus Christi will be singing it - and mean it.

Christopher said...

"Am I a subversive pinko commie?"

No, you're not, Victoria, but you ought to watch WC at least once. I've never seen "Holiday Inn" or "Miracle," so I can't offer any defense of those. I will never again watch "It's A Wonderful Life" - I like Jimmy Stewart, but that movie grates over my nerves like a cheese shredder.

Anyway. WC really isn't a "Christmas" movie as such. We hear the title song twice, at beginning and end, and that's it. As the movie opens, Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye (in a role turned down by Fred Astaire and Donald O'Connor - thank goodness on the latter's choice) are with their division on Christmas Eve 1944, entertaining the troops. Bing sings "White Christmas," and director Michael Curtiz lingers on the faces of young, almost babyish soldiers thinking to themselves, holding back tears and - in one chilling bit - working a rifle chamber back and forth as if knowing this will be his last Christmas. William calls the song "a nostalgia for a Christmas you never had," and, I think, Curtiz is making the same point in this opening. "Christmas" is home. Not just presents or weather or a family. Home.

The rest of the time, WC is about the efforts of Kaye to get Crosby married so he can have a little time to himself off the show business whirl: "I want you to get married. Have nine kids. And if you only spend five minutes with each kid, that's forty-five minutes. And I'd at least have time for a cup of coffee!"

In any event, although I adore the movie, I can never watch it without crying most of the way through. Not because of the schmaltz factor (though there's a lot of that, especially at the end), but because I'm crying for a Hollywood that doesn't exist anymore. You couldn't make WC today. For those of you who know the film, imagine the horror it would turn out to be if Dreamworks or Disney put it out - the general's grandchild would be either a sulky goth from a broken family or a potty-mouth slacker. The housekeeper would be a sassy black earth momma and the general would be a dimwit (probably with PTSD, as well). There'd be cracks at Bush galore, sneering at the Catholic Church and a couple of jiving woodland animals to "keep it real."

Wallace and Davis would have to be a mixed-race team, and there's be sniggers about white women or jungle fever in regards to the Haynes sisters. And no one - absolutely NO ONE - would play the movie without a greasy, sloppy larding of irony. The whole thing would end up being as friendly and cheery as "Santa Clause 3."

Sorry for going on like that. I love the movie. I love the fake world it shows. And I cry for the lost world that could give us that movie.

Old RPM Daddy said...

I'm a little late to this party, but when I think about these songs, I tend to think about the timing. 1942 was a rough year -- the Philippines had fallen in May, and while the U.S. Navy had handed the Japanese a severe defeat at Midway, the ground combat in New Guinea and Guadalcanal was just getting started in earnest. Meanwhile, U.S. troops were just starting to tangle with the Nazis in North Africa. Nobody knew how long it would last or what it would take to win. I'd like to think I can understand the yearning behind "White Christmas" and the others, but maybe I really can't.