White Christmas (1954) is one of my favourite musicals. Sure, sure, it’s sweeter than a puppy dipped in treacle but it’s got Vera Ellen’s superb dance routines, Danny Kaye’s wisecracking, Edith Head’s glorious costumes and Irving Berlin‘s sing-along songs. But most importantly, it’s got the feel-good-factor that is so important for a seasonal movie.
Here are some random facts about the film:
1. Danny Kaye was only third choice for the role after Fred Astaire and Donald O’Connor turned it down. White Christmas was supposed to reunite Bing Crosby and Astaire (after their success with Holiday Inn in 1942) but Astaire wasn’t interested because he didn’t like the script.
2. Budget conscious studio Paramount Pictures recycled the set pieces from Holiday Inn, while Irving Berlin recycled some of the script, mixing it with an unproduced musical he’d co-written called Stars on My Shoulders.
3. Edith Head, a prolific, multiple Oscar-winning designer, created the costumes. Rumour has it that Vera Ellen’s costumes were all high-necked because of her anorexia ageing her neck. But she can be seen at a 1954 premiere of A Star is Born looking stunning from head to toe in a low cut dress.
4. In the film, Rosemary Clooney’s character Betty Haynes is the older sister. But in real life, Vera Ellen was seven years her senior.
6. Vera Ellen‘s singing voice was dubbed throughout by Trudy Stevens, while Rosemary Clooney‘s singing on the soundtrack was replaced by Peggy Lee because Rosemary at the time was contractually obligated not to record music with any other company than Columbia.
7. This was the first movie to be produced in VistaVision, Paramount’s version of widescreen.
8. Irving Berlin wrote and recorded the song Snow long before the film. It had entirely different lyrics and was called Free.
10. Crosby and Kaye’s send-up version of the song Sisters was a result of the stars messing about on set. None of it was in the script, but director Michael Curtiz liked it so much he decided to put it in the movie.