Friday, December 9, 2016

Why John Brascia is the secret hero of Bing Crosby's "White Christmas."

Just finished the annual family viewing of "White Christmas." So good. And the movie's secret weapon? John Brascia.

Who's that? This guy dancing with Vera-Ellen:


Here's my theory: John Brascia's role in this movie makes no sense at all. Danny Kaye is Vera-Ellen's love interest in the movie. He should be, by the usual logic of Hollywood storytelling, her duet partner in all her big dances. Indeed, Kaye and Vera-Ellen have a lovely dance early in the movie:


After that, though, it's Brascia — who utters no lines in the movie — who is the main dance partner. It's aided by the show-within-a-show conceit of the movie: They're practicing for an upcoming musical, you see. But again, this doesn't make a whole lotta sense...

...unless you consider this possibility: Brascia, and not Kaye, was the only dancer on set who could keep up with Vera-Ellen.

Yes, Kaye was enormously gifted as a dancer. But he was already in his early 40s when "White Christmas" was made. Brascia is a good 21 years younger. And Vera-Ellen is a hell of a dancer.

Watch this. Watch Brascia's feet, especially.


Love me some Danny Kaye. But he's not keeping up with Vera-Ellen there. John Brascia is.

It's OK! That's not a knock on Kaye. Vera-Ellen's vocals were dubbed by Rosemary Clooney. This movie knew what it's performers strengths and weaknesses were and adjusted accordingly. More than 60 years later, it's still a hell of a watch. And John Brascia, whose name I bet you didn't know, is one big reason why.

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