In 1953, Paramount Pictures set out to accomplish a agreeable congenital about and called afterwards the best accepted Christmas pop song of all time. At that point “White Christmas” had already become a anniversary archetypal acknowledgment in no baby allotment to Bing Crosby’s hit recording of the song, but would it construe to the aforementioned success on the big screen?
With Crosby’s brilliant ability arch the way and Michael Curtiz in the director’s chair, White Christmas overcame some aboriginal development struggles and alike some all-overs from artisan Irving Berlin to become one of the best acclaimed anniversary movies of all time. Here are 12 facts about its assembly and reception.
Though the blur didn’t appear forth until 1954, the adventure of White Christmas absolutely began added than a decade earlier, aback Irving Berlin composed the approaching anniversary archetypal that would become the appellation track. Berlin wrote the song in 1940, and the abutting year Bing Crosby—the accompanist still best articular with the song, admitting abounding awning versions—sang it on his Christmas radio show.
By 1942, Crosby had recorded the song, and over that aforementioned year it fabricated its aboriginal blur actualization in Anniversary Inn, starring Crosby and Fred Astaire. The blur helped acquire “White Christmas” the Oscar for Best Song in 1943, and over the advance of the 1940s the song climbed to #1 on the archive several times. It would go on to authority the appellation of bestselling distinct of all time for decades, until it was assuredly eclipsed by Elton John’s rewritten 1997 adaptation of “Candle in the Wind.” Because of the song’s constant popularity, decidedly during the Apple War II years, it was alone accustomed that Hollywood would appetite to capitalize, and by 1949 what would eventually become White Christmas began to booty appearance at Paramount Pictures.
By the backward 1940s, Irving Berlin and admiral at Paramount Pictures were alive on piecing calm White Christmas as a cine agreeable with the appellation song as its centerpiece, and they had big affairs for the film’s stars. The activity was originally envisioned as the third chapter of an actionable leash of associate musicals starring Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire. The duo had already teamed up for Anniversary Inn in 1942 (which additionally featured “White Christmas”) and Blue Skies in 1946, and White Christmas was declared to mark a boastful reunion. Unfortunately, Astaire ultimately angry the activity down, reportedly due to abridgement of absorption and a affair that he ability be accepting too old for such a film.
While best of the casting ball surrounding the blur was angry to the Phil Davis character, there was additionally a point during pre-production on White Christmas that the blur about had to go analytic for a new Bob Wallace. In January of 1953, aback Astaire absitively to aback out of the project, Crosby additionally absitively he wasn’t abiding the blur was appropriate for him, and initially planned to booty time off to be with his son afterward the afterlife of Crosby’s wife, extra Dixie Lee. After that some month, though, Crosby absitively to stick with the project, and White Christmas confused ahead.
With Fred Astaire out of the picture, Paramount had to chase for a new brilliant to ball Phil Davis to Bing Crosby’s Bob Wallace, and acclimatized on Donald O’Connor, who was beginning off the success of Singin’ in the Rain. O’Connor was all set to ball Davis in the film, but became ill anon afore assembly was set to begin. Now afraid to acquisition a new co-star in time, the flat offered the role to Danny Kaye, who absitively to go for bankrupt and appeal a bacon of $200,000 additional a allotment of the film’s gross. Kaye was allegedly assertive the flat would say no, but they agreed to his agreement rather than attempting to delay it out for O’Connor’s bloom to improve. Kaye was casting as Phil Davis, and O’Connor would after go on to assignment with Crosby on Anything Goes.
Rosemary Clooney was one of the best acclaimed and admired singers of her generation, and with White Christmas she became a co-star of one of the best acclaimed and admired agreeable films of all time. Clooney was able to do this admitting one accurate shortcoming, which she was consistently honest about in both interviews and in her closing autobiography: She was not a dancer. Clooney’s character, Betty Haynes, alone has two absolute moments of ball in the film—in “Sisters” and in the “Minstrel Show” medley—and both times the choreography is rather simple and (in the case of “Sisters”) makes use of a prop to advice accomplish the arena visually absorbing after too abundant absolute dancing involved.
To complete the duo of the Haynes sisters, Rosemary Clooney was commutual with Vera-Ellen, who was already an accomplished and acclaimed cine agreeable aerialist advised by abounding to be one of the best dancers in Hollywood at the time. Clooney recalled activity “inadequate” aback commutual with her new co-star in agreement of acquirements her bound White Christmas choreography, but additionally acclaimed that their activating was rather counterbalanced out by both Vera-Ellen’s backbone and the actuality that she couldn’t sing. Vera-Ellen’s vocals were dubbed in White Christmas, abundantly by an bearding Trudy Stevens, but by Clooney herself for the song “Sisters.”
“If they could accept dubbed my dancing, now, we would accept had a absolute picture,” Clooney after joked.
By the time White Christmas came along, Bing Crosby was one of the better cine stars in the world, a adept accompanist and amateur who could backpack audiences in and allowable account on the Paramount Pictures lot. This meant his job came with a lot of perks, including the befalling to adorn and apace ad-lib abundant of his chat on the fly. As co-star Rosemary Clooney recalled after on a annotation clue for the film, aback Bob Wallace acclimated phrases like “slam-bang finish,” it was generally because the phrases were favorites of Crosby’s. Clooney additionally recalled that the little address Crosby’s appearance goes on aback they accommodated in the Columbia Inn lounge for sandwiches and buttermilk was abundantly fabricated up by Crosby on the spot, faux German emphasis and all.
One of the best acclaimed scenes in White Christmas involves Bob Wallace and Phil Davis rolling up their blow legs and lip-syncing to Judy and Betty Haynes’s song “Sisters” in an accomplishment to account a aberration so the sisters could escape a antagonistic freeholder and hop on a alternation to Vermont. It’s an instantly memorable, and actual funny cine moment, but allegedly Bing Crosby was absolutely somewhat afflictive about the scene. In an accomplishment to activate the achievement up and get a acceleration out of his co-star, Danny Kaye improvised the moment aback he begins to bang Crosby with his feathered fan. If you watch the arena closely, you can see Crosby bent off bouncer by this, and by the end of the arena the two men are arise up on camera for real. According to Rosemary Clooney, Crosby was assertive that the booty was unusable, but administrator Michael Curtiz admired the carelessness of it, and acclimated it in the accomplished film.
Early in the film, as Bob and Phil get to apperceive the Haynes sister, they altercate the sisters’ brother Benny, who Bob and Phil knew from the army and who evidently affiliated them for their affair at the club. Judy Haynes again offers to allotment a contempo photo of Benny, who Phil had already referred to as “Freckle-faced Haynes, the dog-faced boy.” The photo appears alone briefly, but admirers of the Our Gang alternation of ball shorts ability admit Benny Haynes. He’s played in the photo by Carl Switzer, who was Our Gang’s Alfalfa.
At the time White Christmas was produced, blur was accepting to added attempt with television for the absorption of the American public, and this meant abundant gimmicks were deployed to get bodies to go to the movies. This included alike added accustomed use of blush on the cine awning (at a time aback television was still a atramentous and white medium), as able-bodied as a added aggressive use of aspect ratios to accent the “big” in big-screen. White Christmas was envisioned as a Technicolor showcase, but it additionally became the aboriginal blur to be appear in Paramount’s new widescreen format, VistaVision.
The architecture featured appropriate blur magazines that were army to the ancillary of the camera lens, which fed the blur abrogating through the camera angular rather than vertically. This created a added abundant widescreen acknowledgment that was again printed angular aloof like any added film. The aftereffect was a architecture that could ball on about any cine awning and action an access in quality, clashing added abreast ample architecture options like CinemaScope, which appropriate an adapter.
By the time White Christmas was in production, the appellation song was one of the bestselling and best admired songs in the world, and had already been in abundant apportionment for added than a decade. Still, that didn’t stop Irving Berlin from actuality afraid about how the blur would be received. Admitting he wasn’t consistently on the soundstage during shooting, Rosemary Clooney after recalled that Berlin showed up every day at the cast’s recording sessions for the soundtrack, and as Crosby and aggregation recorded the afterpiece adaptation of “White Christmas” the allegorical artisan couldn’t stop nervously pacing about the studio. Eventually, Berlin’s afraid attending accepted so confusing that Crosby went over to him and said: “There’s annihilation we can do to aching this song, Irving. It’s already a hit!”
White Christmas was appear in the abatement of 1954 and, on the backbone of Berlin’s songs and the Technicolor and VistaVision assembly values, bound became a hit for Paramount. The blur was the highest-grossing cine of 1954 with a box appointment booty of $12 million. It was additionally the better hit of administrator Michael Curtiz’s career, which was absorbing because his resume already included abstract like Yankee Doodle Dandy and Casablanca.
Additional Sources:White Christmas: A Attending Aback with Rosemary Clooney (2000)White Christmas annotation clue by Rosemary Clooney (2000)Backstage Stories from White Christmas (2009)Christmas in the Movies by Jeremy Arnold (2018)
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