Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Best Things Happen While You're Dancing.. Especially if You're Vera-Ellen!

My all time favorite dance out of every movie that has been made - including the countless ones I haven't even seen yet - is and always will be The Best Things Happen While You're Dancing from the classic holiday film White Christmas (1954).


White Christmas is a holiday favorite in my house. My family has watched it every year at Christmas time for as long as I can remember. Vera-Ellen instantly became my idol and I wished I could look like her, dance like her, and sing like her (I discovered that unfortunately it's not Vera-Ellen doing the singing... sigh). For several years Judy was my favorite name (I was also a big Judy Garland fan).
I'm going to presume that everyone has seen this not-to-be-missed film and get right to the point: Vera-Ellen's dancing. Let's take each routine individually:
Her first "dance," Sisters, Sisters, also where Phil and Bob first lay eyes on the Hanes Sisters (who incidentally have brown and DEEP blue eyes), isn't much of a dance. However, it's a great song and she and Betty (Rosemary Clooney) have awesome dresses (one day I WILL have a replica made):
The next dance is  The Best Things Happen While You're Dancing, also known as the song where Phil and Judy get "carried away." It has a lot of great things going for it. Amazing dress - check! Partner with two left feet and matching gray shoes - check! Amazing song - check! Great dancing area - check!  
I was always trying to twirl and get my skirt to land this way. It never worked :(
Pole dancing. The CLASSY way.
I love the part on top of the boat!!!
What is this, The best two out of three?
I could go crazy and basically put up the whole dance in gifs but
hopefully you'll just watch the video. On repeat.
After that, the foursome are off to Vermont (it must be wonderful this time of year, all that underwear) where they put on a huge show to bring business to the inn (owned by the fella's former general). The first number we see is Mandy. It's a truly colossal number with an unforgettable entrance, background girls wearing strips of red sequins held together with fabric you can't see (courtesy of Edith Head), men in green suits and red gloves, and Judy in a fabulous outfit with a detachable skirt.
(Sorry the video zooms in and out a little weird a couple times. It was the only one on YouTube)
It is in this number you really see Vera-Ellen's talent. Just watching some of those moves makes me wince and think, how is that possible? My favorite parts: "Mandy, what a gal!" and Judy's wink to the camera ;) Not to mention Phil doing this:
Haha I never noticed Bing :)
In Choreography, we get to see Judy do some amazing tapping while dressed in hot pink. Growing up we watch the old recorded VHS (complete with old commercials!) on the square TV and it was just blurry enough that when Judy's feet come down and she starts tapping, we couldn't see her foot moving - that's how small and controlled her tap was! So when we FINALLY got it on DVD we could at last see it! Also, it was this song that made us dislike Judy's dancing partner. How dare he try to steal her from Phil!!
Judy's entrance is at 1:38.
Out of all the performances, Abraham is the only one that isn't shown in it's final form. Mandy and Choreography are full dress rehearsals and the other two numbers we see, Gee, I Wish I was Back in the Army, and White Christmas, are shown in the actual show. I wonder how it would have looked and if the filmmakers thought about showing it as a "finished" version. Of course, I wouldn't have it any other way. Judy's yellow dress and heels as well as her bouncy hair match perfectly the energetic rhythm of the song.
If you've seen Holiday Inn (1942) - on DVD - then you will recognize the tune, although this is a sped up version without lyrics. In Holiday Inn it was a blackface routine and the lyrics are all about Abraham freeing the slaves. Understandably, it is cut out when shown on television nowadays. It's been a good many years since I've seen it (I wasn't much on Astaire in that film) and I've seen it only once so I didn't even remember it. I just remember thinking I liked the White Christmas version MUCH better.
When White Christmas showed in select theaters a couple Christmas's ago, my whole family went. It was amazing how much detail we could see!

This post is part of the Gotta Dance! Blogathon, a celebration of dance in film hosted by Classic Reel Girl for National Tap Dance Day. Be sure to read all of the other toe-tapping posts!!


  1. "Pole dancing. The CLASSY way." Love it! I also got a kick out of how you incorporated quotes from the movie throughout your post.

    Funny you mentioned the VHS recording. Growing up, we had one too and Judy's yellow dress in the Abraham number is how we adjusted our color each year. (Is her dress yellow now? Or is there too much green?) Colors never came out quite right until days of DVD.

    Beautiful pictures and dance numbers. Thank you so much for participating!

    1. Thanks! I could endlessly quote it :) That's hilarious about using her dress to adjust the color!!

      Thanks again so much for hosting!!

  2. Your GIF of Mandy absolutely made my night! I never noticed what Danny Kaye and Bing Crosby were doing before (perhaps to mesmerized by Vera-Ellen). What a fantastic tribute - both to the movie and to Vera-Ellen - and analysis of the dances!

    1. Thanks haha. Now that I've noticed Bing I can't keep my eyes off him! Hilarious!!

      Thanks so much for the kind comment :)

  3. LOVE this! I adore Vera-Ellen so much, and her dancing in this film may be the highlight of her career. She was so, so amazing, and although she couldn't sing, she was a good actress. That gif from "Mandy" made me crack up. Last time I watched White Christmas, I noticed Bing was doing the funniest stuff, so now I never know who to look at: Vera-Ellen being incredible, Bing being hilarious, or Danny being both?

    1. I guess we'll have to start watching it multiple times so we can watch each one. And Bing is definitely an underrated comedian. Road to Singapore? Hilarious! :)

  4. Awesome article Phyl! We really could feel your love for Vera Ellen while reading it. :) I've heard about the lady, but I never saw one of her films. :( I should!

    1. WHAT!!!! You should run to the nearest video store/library/Walmart and get a copy of White Christmas RIGHT NOW!!!! You will wonder how you lived without it all these years!

    2. I second that motion! You also can't go wrong with Vera-Ellen in Three Little Words (Fred Astaire, Red Skelton) or Call Me Madam (Ethel Merman, Donald O'Connor, George Sanders).

  5. I adore this movie, and dream of one day seeing it on the big screen. It's simply the best of the best!