Take Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, Vera Ellen mix in a bunch of Irving Berlin tunes, and throw in a light but solid plot to put them all together. That's more or less what this film is.The two male leads play Bob Wallace and Phil Davis respectively, a mid-level entertainer and a nobody who meet up as they fight in World War II in the same unit. In the wake of an at-the-front Christmas show thrown as a farewell to their respected leader, General Waverly, Phil saves Bob's life, taking a minor injury in the process.Phil — himself a wannabe entertainer — uses both Bob's gratitude and his guilt over the injury to convince him to try a partnership after the war. Despite Bob's initial misgivings, the pair not only work, they become one of the biggest acts in the country, moving in ten years from club gigs to their own radio show and ultimately to writing and producing their own Broadway revue.A few days before Christmas on tour in Florida with the show, they receive a letter from Benny Haynes, another soldier from their old army unit, asking them to look at his sisters' nightclub act. It later turns out one of the sisters faked the letter, and the other sister is shocked at the dishonesty. It works, though, and Wallace and Davis actually end up falling for the sisters (but not willing to admit it yet), and even follow them to their new gig in Vermont. There they see it's got a warm spell, and even though it's the beginning of winter it's 70 degrees and there's no snow in sight. The owner of the lodge hires them anyway, and he turns out to be the now-retired General Waverly.Okay, that seems contrived, but that's not the point. Aside from the musical numbers, the film keeps a strong focus on both the growing relationships between the male and female leads, and just as strong a focus on how Waverly feels washed up after leaving the army, and how Wallace and Davis manage to lift his spirits on Christmas Eve.The film may seem odd to some, especially how Danny Kaye's socially awkward character seems Ambiguously Gay to some these days (he's more meant to be a big kid, as indicated by his voice cracking at awkward moments).For the trope about snow at Christmastime, see Dreaming of a White Christmas.
This film includes examples of:
Acid Reflux Nightmare: Bob informs us that if you eat liverwurst sandwiches right before bed you will "dream of liverwurst." That doesn't sound very pleasant.
Arc Words: "Let's just say we're doing it for an old pal from the Army."
"Well, it's not a good reason, but it's a reason."
Bowdlerization: Small in-universe example: the General has Bob skip a dirty word in a letter he's reading aloud.
Dawson Casting: 32-year-old Vera-Ellen as "Little Judy". (By contrast, older sister Betty was played by 25-year-old Rosemary Clooney.) Bing Crosby was 51 at the time the movie was filmed, although Bob Wallace is supposed to be at least a few years younger than that.
A Father to His Men: Waverly, and one of the songs is basically about his men's admiration for him.
Funny Background Event: Watch the reunited soldiers during the tribute to General Waverly at the end — there're lots of little bits of funny business. For instance, when he says "Ties will be worn in this area!", one fellow grins broadly and makes a point of very obviously adjusting his (already perfect) tie.
Glory Days: Waverly tries to return to active service in the army, but they have no place for him.
History Marches On: Crosby at one point mentions that it would be "impossible to find a Democrat in Vermont". Back in the day, Vermont was a GOP stronghold. This isn't the case now, due to shifting cultures and party changes.
Betty mentions that Benny is in Alaska, "out of the country." Alaska would be made a US state 5 years later.
I Gave My Word: Waverly will not break a contract with the Haynes sisters, even when it is financially beneficial to do so and the sisters don't mind it.
I Owe You My Life: Subverted; throughout the film we see Phil constantly reminding Bob of his "war wound", so he'll do what Phil wants — i.e. form the double act, become producers, go to Vermont, etc. Granted, we wouldn't have a plot otherwise, but on the other hand you can sympathize with Bob when he vents about how manipulative Phil is being.
"If someone is pulling you out from under a falling wall, just spit straight into his eyes."
May-December Romance: Both Bob-Betty and Phil-Judy. Bob is clearly in his forties in 1954, and while Phil could conceivably be as young as the late twenties it's far more likely he's in his middle thirties (as Danny Kaye himself was at the time movie was filmed), since he has spent ten years as a civilian after being a soldier in World War II. Meanwhile Betty is no more than 25, and Judy is even younger.
Minstrel Shows: The "Mandy" number is preceded by a brief, sanitized tribute to minstrel shows. There's no blackface makeup (thankfully!), and the only reference to racial content is veiled in a pun:
Only a Flesh Wound: Subverted. This is what Phil says after saving Bob. It really is just a flesh wound, but the former will never the let the latter forget it.
Out-of-Context Eavesdropping: Nosy housekeeper Emma has a habit of eavesdropping on phone conversations. She hears Ed Harrison (an Ed Sullivan expy) planning to bring General Waverly on his show, and immediately hangs up her phone receiver to tell the Love Interest... and misses the hero (Bing Crosby as Bob Wallace) rejecting this scheme.
Pimped-Out Dress / Simple Yet Opulent: Several fancy dresses. Of course there are the holiday dresses, but there are also the blue lace dresses in the "Sisters" number, the white lace dress with removable skirt in the "Mandy" number, and the black dress with flared hem and Opera Gloves for "Love, You Didn't Do Right By Me".
Pretty in Mink: The dresses at the end are trimmed with white fox and come with matching muffs, and Judy's dress also has a fox-trimmed cape and a fox hat. Then there are the fur wraps worn by all the wives and girlfriends of the soldiers showing up at the end.
Self Plagiarism: Not at all uncommon in an Irving Berlin film (as his contracts mandated no music but his own in them), but taken to new heights here. Besides the wholesale recycling of numbers originally seen in Holiday Inn as parts of Wallace and Davis' stage show, there are quotes or entire songs from a handful of other Berlin films. Additionally, the verse melody from Holiday Inn's "Happy Holidays" is re-purposed as the bridge of "Counting Your Blessings".
Throw It In: Bob's speech about the effects of sandwiches on dreams was nearly completely improvised by Crosby.
Bob and Phil's performing the girls' number was originally just Crosby and Kaye having some fun, but it turned out so well the director decided to work it in. Watch for Crosby trying valiantly not to corpse in the middle of the act, particularly when Kaye smacks him in the face with a feathered fan.
Phil: H... How much is "wow"? Bob: Somewhere between "ouch!" and "boing!". Phil:Wow!
Wake Up Make Up: Betty and Judy seem to go to bed with their hair still styled and wearing full make up. That red lip stick isn't going to do any favors to your pillow, Betty.
Weather Dissonance: The plot hinges on the fact that there's no snow. Vermont would normally be draped in snow by Christmas, but it's basically spring weather there. No snow means no business, and no business is bad for Waverly and the hotel that he sank everything into.
World War II: The movie opens there, and three of the main characters served. Plus, two of the remaining main characters are sisters of their old army buddy from the war.