It may not have been a huge box-office hit like How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and it may not have made you bawl quite like Love Actually, but White Christmas is still considered one of the most beloved Christmas movies of all time — and for good reason.
This 1954 musical film centers around a group of entertainers during World War II keen on spreading the holiday spirit to save a failing Vermont inn. The star-studded cast is packed with several favorites from the era, like Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, Vera-Ellen, and Dean Jagger. What’s more, the film introduced to the world a number of catchy sing-along tunes, including “The Best Things Happen While You’re Dancing” and “What Can You Do With a General?” Not to mention, the movie is also known for helping make the song “White Christmas” as iconic as it is today.
Behind this Christmas flick are a bunch of super interesting facts about the actors, set, and storyline that are bound to make you love the classic even more than you already do. So go on and scroll through this list of White Christmas facts — in no time, you’ll be a total trivia whiz.
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Irving Berlin opened his own Oscar for ‘White Christmas.’
There are some huge age differences.
As Betty Haynes, Rosemary Clooney plays Vera-Ellen’s older sister in the movie, but she was actually seven years younger. When the film came out, Rosemary was 26, and Vera-Ellen, 33. Even more striking? Bing, who plays her love interest, was 51 when the movie debuted. That’s a 25-year age gap! (It’s also funny to note that Dean Jagger, who played the retired, elderly general, was actually born a few months after Crosby.)
Because Vera-Ellen was two inches shorter than Rosemary Clooney, wardrobe gave her higher heels to wear. That way, the two women would appear to be similar heights during their performances.
It was praised for being in VistaVision.
The film instantly gained notoriety and buzz the year it was released for being in VistaVision, Paramount’s then-brand-new process of projecting on a wide, flat screen. The result was a better pictorial quality and better on-screen colors.
‘Sisters’ wasn’t part of the script.
Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye’s comedy act wasn’t originally in the story. The actors were goofing around and director Michael Curtiz found it so hilarious that he wrote the scene in. Apparently, the actors found it comical, too: The laughing during the number is real. The take in the film was the best one they could get of the two, who kept cracking each other up.
The Vermont inn doubled as ‘Holiday Inn,’ too.
Vera-Ellen didn’t actually sing any of the songs.
When the character Judy Haynes sings, you’re actually hearing singer Trudy Stevens. The only time Vera-Ellen’s real singing voice is heard is when they disembark the train in Vermont and the quartet sing the opening lines of “Snow.”
But she sure did all her own dancing!
Vera-Ellen started dancing at age 10. And at 18, she became one of the youngest Radio City Rockettes, performing in several Broadway shows before heading to Hollywood. Fun tidbit: Growing up in Norwood, Ohio, a suburb of Cincinnati, she carpooled to dancing classes with Doris Day!
Speaking of dancing, Rosemary Clooney wasn’t proud of her moves.
This dancer went on to big things.
Throughout the film, dancer George Chakiris accompanies the Haynes sisters in an uncredited role. But soon after, he received the credit he was due: He later won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor as Bernardo in West Side Story.
Fred Astaire was supposed to play Phil Davis.
After Fred and Bing’s success in Holiday Inn, this film was intended to reunite them. But Fred had “retired” by the time White Christmas was shot 12 years later and he declined. Next, the part was offered to Donald O’Connor (known for Singin’ in the Rain), but he pulled out after an illness. Finally, the part went to Danny Kaye.
The TV camera in the ‘Ed Harrison Show’ scene is a real one.
Rumor has it, anyway. As stated on IMDb, the camera belonged to NBC’s Channel 4 station in New York (which changed its name to WRCA-TV in 1954).
Bing Crosby made up most of the liverwurst sandwiches and buttermilk bit.
The iconic scene when Bob tells Betty his theory of what foods cause which dreams was almost completely improvised. (Then, he launched into “Count Your Blessings” and we stopped caring that buttermilk with liverwurst sandwiches sounds absolutely vile.) In fact, much of Bob’s dialogue was based on Bing’s own conversation. So thank him for gems like, “weirdsmobile.”
One line in the sandwich scene had a special meaning.
In a blink-and-you-miss-it moment, Bing’s character says that the menu is not the same as “Toots Shor’s.” As it turns out, that was a very real restaurant on 51st Street in Manhattan — a favorite celebrity hangout at the time.
Rosemary Clooney took the part for a specific reason.
Danny Kaye was the class clown on set.
The actor apparently caused plenty of retakes by making everyone break character with his humor. His on-screen jokes and antics had everyone cracking up while filming.
Bob Fosse was the uncredited choreographer.
You’ve seen Benny Haynes before.
The costumes were created by an icon.
The train scenes were shot at a separate location.
At the time, MGM only had a train station set — not the interior of a train car. That’s why those specific shots were filmed at 20th Century Fox instead.
Vera-Ellen’s name is misspelled in the opening credits.
Irving Berlin changed lyrics just for Bing Crosby.
The song “Gee, I Wish I Was Back in the Army” has a lyric about seeing “Jolson, Hope, and Benny all for free” — a reference to wartime entertainers Al Jolson, Bob Hope, and Jack Benny. The original words were “Crosby, Hope, and Jolson all for free,” but when Bing Crosby was cast, leaving it as-is would break the fourth wall.
One of the most famous songs wasn’t intended for the film.
“What Can You Do with a General?” was actually first written for an unreleased project called Stars on My Shoulders.
There’s no “official” soundtrack.
The soundtrack rights for the film were controlled by Decca, but Rosemary Clooney was under exclusive contract to Columbia, a competing record label. So in 1954, Decca recorded and released an album with the movie cast minus Rosemary (her part was sung by Peggy Lee). And Columbia released an album with Rosemary singing eight songs from the film, which means the only way to hear her sing with Bing is on-screen!
Yes, Rosemary Clooney is related to George Clooney.
The ‘White Christmas’ cast has two family members in ‘Star Trek.’
You can spot a certain prop in several scenes.
Eagle-eyed viewers noticed that this red drum appears many times throughout the film. It can be seen in the opening number, then in Haynes’s dressing room, the Inn, and during one of the rehearsals.
They reshot the ending — without film.
After the final shot wrapped, the actors were told that they needed to redo the finale, because the King and Queen of Greece were visiting the set and the producer hoped to “give them something to remember.” So the entire scene was “reshot” — but without film in the camera or Bing Crosby, who had already left to play golf.
The snow in the final scene was actually asbestos.
The film premiered in a famous location.
On October 14, 1954, White Christmas held its big premiere at Radio City Music Hall. “Irving Berlin’s lyrics and music never have failed to win a warm and secure place in the affections of the American public,” the original Hollywood Reporter review said that same year.
It was a box office success.
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