The firecracker dance sequence was added to the movie as a patriotic number, following the attack on Pearl Harbor, which took place during filming. The dance number required three days of rehearsal and took two days to film. Fred Astaire did 38 takes of the number before he was satisfied with it. The crew members had to wear goggles during filming, because the sand from the firecrackers flew into their faces. Later, Astaire's shoes for the dance were auctioned off for $116,000 worth of war bonds.
Until 1997, "White Christmas" was the best selling music single ever. It was passed at that time by "Goodbye, England's Rose", the Elton John rework of "Candle in the Wind" done for Princess Diana's funeral. These two songs still rank #1-2.
The animated Thanksgiving sequence, in which a turkey jumps back and forth on the calendar between the third and fourth Thursday in November, is a topical reference to the "Franksgiving" controversy. In 1939 and 1940, President Franklin D. Roosevelt' attempted to change Thanksgiving to the third Thursday in November, instead of the fourth, in an effort to bolster holiday retail sales by starting the Christmas season one week early. This led to a joint resolution in Congress, which Roosevelt signed into law in 1941, officially designating the fourth Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day.
At the end of the first time Jim (Bing Crosby) and Linda (Marjorie Reynolds) sing "White Christmas", the fireplace seems to suddenly flare up and then die down. In an interview with director Mark Sandrich, he admitted it happened when the stagehand controlling the gas flame in the fireplace turned the control valve the wrong way, up instead of down.
Some controversy surrounded the history of the song "White Christmas" when it was reported in a 1960 news item that Irving Berlin wrote the song in 1938. Had the song been published or introduced outside of the film, it would have been ineligible for an Academy Award nomination. But sources agree it was written for the film, copyrighted as unpublished in 1940 and then published along with the film's release in 1942.
The first public performance of the song "White Christmas" was by Bing Crosby on his NBC radio show "The Kraft Music Hall" on Christmas Day, 1941, during the middle of shooting this film, which was released seven months later. The song went on to become one of the biggest selling songs in the history of music. This was the first of three films to feature Crosby singing "White Christmas" and featuring Irving Berlin's music.
Dale Evans was brought to California to audition for the part of Linda Mason. After her first cross-country flight left her sick, agent Joe Rivkin rushed her to a beauty parlor and took her to the studio. He did most of the talking, but when she finally admitted she couldn't dance she was dismissed for consideration for the role. It did lead to a screen test for other roles, though, and an eventual one-year contract at Fox, then work at Republic with Roy Rogers.
Irving Berlin got the idea for the film after writing the song "Easter Parade" for his 1933 show "As Thousands Cheer", and planned to write a play about American holidays, but it never materialized. He later pitched the idea to Mark Sandrich, who got the ball rolling for this film.
One of over 700 Paramount Productions, filmed between 1929 and 1949, which were sold to MCA/Universal in 1958 for television distribution, and have been owned and controlled by Universal ever since. It was released on DVD 14 October 2008 in both the original B&W and colorized versions, again 7 October 2014 in Blu-Ray, also in both the B&W and colorized versions; and again 11 November 2014 as one of 24 titles in Universal's Bing Crosby Silver Screen Collection; since that time, it's also enjoyed occasional airings on cable TV on Turner Classic Movies.
Strangely enough, "White Christmas" was not expected to be a hit song. During filming, it was thought that Bing Crosby's song, "Be Careful, It's My Heart," would be the movie's big hit. When Crosby first heard the song, he was not impressed by it. After Irving Berlin played the song on the piano during rehearsals, Crosby said in a bland voice, "I don't think we'll have any problem with that one, Irv."
When Linda Mason first arrives at Holiday Inn, the scene opens with Jim nailing the Holiday Inn sign to the roof. The soundtrack is off and the sound of the hammer hitting the nail is heard on the backswing, instead of when the hammer hits the nail. The rest of the soundtrack, however, is correctly synced.
A turning point in the life of Alan Sues, a regular on Laugh-In (1967), was an unauthorized visit to Paramount Pictures as a teenager when he jumped a fence and watched a scene being filmed for this movie.