It's that time of year again. The days are getting shorter, the temperature is dropping and twinkling lights are appearing on our neighbors home. We are soon waiting for a fat man in a red suit to break into our house and leave us gifts. Before we get there though, nothing gets us in the mood better than a good Christmas movie and "White Christmas" is one of my favorites. It was also 1954's most successful movie. You have Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen performing the classic song "Sisters". Danny Kaye owns the screen as the comical Army Private manipulating his buddy into humorous situations and, of course, Bing Crosby killing it, as the definitive version of the song "White Christmas" is sung.
The Plot summary according to IMDB is as follows.
Having left the Army following W.W.II, Bob Wallace and Phil Davis team up to become a top song-and-dance act. Davis plays matchmaker and introduces Wallace to a pair of beautiful sisters (Betty and Judy) who also have a song-and-dance act. When Betty and Judy travel to a Vermont lodge to perform a Christmas show, Wallace and Davis follow, only to find their former commander, General Waverly, as the lodge owner. A series of romantic mix-ups ensue as the performers try to help the General.
Now let's get into some things you may not have known.
- After Bob and Phil meet Betty and Judy, Phil gives up their train tickets to the girls. They leave right before their next performance, so Bob and Phil go on to do the Sisters routine instead. Well this scene was not in the original script. The director, observed the pair clowning around on set and found it to be so funny that it was written in.
- To continue with the Sister's routine, Rosemary Clooney claims that Crosby's laughs during the scene are unscripted and genuine. He apparently coudn't keep from laughing at Danny Kaye's funny dancing. Many takes were shot, but ultimately the one used in the movie was the best they could get and it captures some laughter from Danny Kaye as well.
- In 1942 Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire made a movie called "Holiday Inn". This movie also featured the song White Christmas. Originally the movie "White Christmas" was supposed to reunite these two in an attempt at another successful movie. Astaire refused the part as he had "retired" at the time. The part was then reworked so that Donald O'Connor could fill his shoes but he had Q-fever due to shooting "Francis the Mule". Finally the part was reworked for Danny Kaye and the rest as we say in history.
- When it came time to record the soundtrack album for the movie, Rosemary Clooney was not allowed to record her voice. She already had a contract with Columbia records and the soundtrack was being recorded by Decca records. They wouldn't allow her to release material from another company. So she was replaced by Peggy Lee.
- "White Christmas" was the first film Paramount produced utilizing it's new wide screen process "VistaVision". According to Wikipedia
VistaVision is a higher resolution, widescreen variant of the 35mm motion picture film format which was created by engineers at Paramount Pictures in 1954.
Paramount did not use anamorphic processes such as CinemaScope but refined the quality of their flat widescreen system by orienting the 35mm negative horizontally in the camera gate and shooting onto a larger area, which yielded a finer-grained projection print.
As finer-grained film stocks appeared on the market, VistaVision became obsolete. Paramount dropped the format after only seven years, although for another forty years the format was used by some European and Japanese producers for feature films, and by American film studios for high resolution special effects sequences.
In many ways, Vistavision was a testing ground for cinematography ideas that evolved into 70mm IMAX and OMNIMAX film formats in the 1970s. Both IMAX and OMNIMAX are oriented sideways, like Vistavision.
There you have it. Five things you probably didn't know about "White Christmas". If you haven't seen the movie then I highly recommend it and if you have, then it's about time to watch it again. It's streaming on Netflix right now, so there is no excuse.