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According to Rosemary Clooney, the "midnight snack" scene in which Bob Wallace expounds on his theory of what foods cause what dreams was almost entirely improvised.
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According to Rosemary Clooney, Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye's "Sisters" performance was not originally in the script. They were clowning around on the set, and director Michael Curtiz thought it was so funny that he decided to film it. In the scene, Crosby's laughs are genuine and unscripted, as he was unable to hold a straight face due to Kaye's comedic dancing. Clooney said the filmmakers had a better take where Crosby didn't laugh, but when they ran them both, people liked the laughing version better.
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Although Dean Jagger was made out to be the "old man", Bing Crosby was actually six months older than Dean in real life.
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The photo that Vera-Ellen shows to Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye of her brother, Bennie, is actually a photo of Carl 'Alfalfa' Switzer, known for his role as in Our Gang. Switzer also appeared in another classic Christmas film, It's a Wonderful Life (1946), as Donna Reed's suitor, who opens up the gym floor during the high school dance, sending everyone falling into the swimming pool underneath.
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Third of three films to feature Bing Crosby singing "White Christmas". The other two are Holiday Inn (1942) and Blue Skies (1946).
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In supplemental information on the DVD Rosemary Clooney revealed that 1. She took the role mostly so that she could perform with Bing Crosby. 2. Danny Kaye caused many retakes when his antics made everyone laugh when they weren't supposed to. 3. She considered "Love, You Didn't Do Right By Me" as "her" song since it was her only solo. 4. After the final shot they were informed that they would be redoing the finale because the King and Queen of Greece would be visiting the set and the producer wanted to "give them something to remember". They "reshot" the sequence with no film in the camera and without Bing Crosby who had skipped out to play golf. In later years she and Bing recorded several record albums together.
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Many of Bob Wallace's more unusual turns of phrase were lifted straight from Bing Crosby's own speech patterns.
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Vera-Ellen's singing voice was dubbed. Numerous sources mistakenly assume Rosemary Clooney sang Vera-Ellen' s part in "Sisters" thus dueting with herself, but Trudy Stevens (who was Trudy Stabile at the time) was Vera-Ellen's voice double in all of her songs, namely "Sisters", "Snow" and the "White Christmas" finale. Some Gloria Wood articles and album liner notes have mentioned through the years that she was the one who sang for Vera-Ellen, but although she was the initial choice for the job, Rosemary Clooney intervened to have her friend, Trudy Stevens, sing the role instead. Vera's own singing voice is heard ever very briefly singing in the "arrival in Pine Tree" scene at the railroad station where the quartet reprises - live - the opening lines of "Snow"
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Even though Betty was the elder of the Haynes sisters, Rosemary Clooney was actually seven years younger than Vera-Ellen in real life. Coincidentally, both Clooney and Vera-Ellen were from the Cincinnati, Ohio area.
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For the song "Gee, I Wish I Was Back In The Army", there is the lyric, "Jolson, Hope And Benny all for free". This is a reference to three wartime entertainers: Al Jolson, Bob Hope and Jack Benny. The original words were "Crosby, Hope and Jolson all for free", but the lyric was changed because with Bing Crosby in the cast the original lyric would break the fourth wall.
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In an interview, Rosemary Clooney once quipped that this could have been a near-perfect movie if only they could have "dubbed" her dancing.
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One of the dancers accompanying Rosemary Clooney is George Chakiris. He went on to earn the Academy Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role, as "Bernardo", in West Side Story (1961).
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When General Waverly is preparing to "inspect the troops", the bugler sounds off with "Ruffles and Flourishes." This is traditionally played to announce the appearance of a flag officer (generals or admirals); the number of times it is repeated corresponds to the number of stars on the officer's collar. The bugler plays it twice, signifying General Waverly as a major general (two stars).
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Although the movie stars Bing Crosby and features songs by Irving Berlin, it is not a sequel to the earlier film, Holiday Inn (1942), as Crosby plays different characters in each movie (Jim Hardy in the first film; Bob Wallace in this one). Originally, the plan was to reunite Crosby with his Holiday Inn (1942) co-star, Fred Astaire, but Astaire turned it down, as he had temporarily "retired" at the time. Donald O'Connor was cast as Crosby's co-star, in what was hoped to be a reprise of his successful dance partnership with Vera-Ellen from Call Me Madam (1953). But while filming Francis Joins the WACS (1954), O'Connor contracted a severe bout of Q-Fever from his co-star, Molly (who played Francis the Talking Mule), and had to pull out. Danny Kaye was cast as a last minute replacement.
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This was 1954's most successful film. The second most successful was The Caine Mutiny (1954), which featured Rosemary Clooney's husband, José Ferrer.
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Although this movie musical has been a beloved favorite for decades, especially at Christmas time, there has never been an official "original soundtrack" album released in any form. Decca controlled the soundtrack rights, but Rosemary Clooney was under exclusive contract to Columbia, who would not allow her to appear on a competing label. As a result, Decca and Columbia each released their own White Christmas albums in 1954, although neither is an official soundtrack. Decca's album featured the movie cast minus Rosemary Clooney, with Peggy Lee taking over Clooney's part, and singing her songs via overdubbing, a new technology in 1954. Columbia's album had Rosemary Clooney singing 8 songs from the film, including the song "Sisters," which Clooney recorded with her real-life sister, Betty Clooney. Both albums have been issued on CD in recent years.
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The Vermont inn is the remodeled Connecticut inn set from Bing Crosby's earlier movie Holiday Inn (1942). In White Christmas, the recycled hotel set is very gray, and appears not to have been repainted in new colors. Since Holiday Inn was a black & white film, the sets were probably originally painted in grayscale, as color palette schemes would have been a waste of resources in 1942.
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The song, "What Can You Do with a General?", which Leonard Maltin calls Irving Berlin's least memorable tune, was originally written for an unproduced project called "Stars on My Shoulders".
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The train scenes had to be shot at 20th Century Fox, the only studio to house a standing train set. MGM did have one, but it was more of a train station set, than train interiors.
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A myth persists that all of Vera-Ellen's costumes, down to her robe and sleepwear, were designed to cover her neck, which had been damaged by anorexia.
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White Christmas (1954) was the first film photographed in Paramount's widescreen VistaVision process. A radical departure from the other widescreen formats of the era, VistaVision did not extend the width of the screen as much as it raised the height, which produced a significantly clearer image. Not surprisingly, the hundred or so films shot in VistaVision (notably High Society , North by Northwest  and White Christmas) have provided the most vivid clarity when transferred to high definition home video formats, as VistaVision applied the same principle and was, in effect, the first experiment in high definition.
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The "Ed Harrison TV Show" that Bob appears on is a reference to The Ed Sullivan Show (1948), which featured known stars, new talent and vaudeville acts. Ed Harrison was played by Johnny Grant who did not have a long acting career in the movies, but was the honorary Mayor of Hollywood, California who officiated over the unveilings of Stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame from the early 1960s until his death in 2008.
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Tunes from the previous Bing Crosby/Irving Berlin film, Holiday Inn (1942) are used throughout the movie. When Betty walks in the kitchen at the beginning of the "Midnight Snack" scene, Bing is playing part of the "Washington's Birthday" song from the previous film on the piano. Also, when Judy dances in her yellow dress, she is dancing to a fast-playing version of "Abraham," the Abraham Lincoln birthday song from the earlier film.
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Audiences have long been struck by dancer John Brascia's curious lack of integration into the film's plot despite his partnering of Vera-Ellen on three of the more strenuous dance numbers ("Abraham," "Mandy" and "Choreography"). The film was heavily into pre-production when an injury forced Donald O'Connor to withdraw from the role of Phil Davis, the initial idea having been to re-team O'Connor and Vera-Ellen following their memorable pairing in the previous year's Call Me Madam (1953). Danny Kaye was quickly drafted into the role, and while he was able to hold his own in several of the partnering routines (notably "The Best Things Happen While You're Dancing"), he did not possess the technique for the remainder of them. As Robert Alton had already choreographed the film and was due to move on to another project, Brascia, a fine ensemble dancer, was called in to avoid the cost of re-staging. This resulted in Danny Kaye's noticeable lack of presence in the musical numbers, so Alton hastily added the comedian into "Choreography," doing a flamboyant parody of Martha Graham that many critics and audiences considered ill-advised. Brascia later partnered Cyd Charisse in the memorable "Frankie and Johnny" ballet in Meet Me in Las Vegas (1956)
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The TV camera in the Ed Harrison Show scene is a real one (a classic RCA monochrome), with a real call sign atop it. It is Channel 4, NBC's (and thus RCA's) flagship station in New York, which changed its call sign to WRCA-TV the year of the film's release. (They adopted their current WNBC-TV call sign in 1960.)
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The song "Snow" was written by Irving Berlin many years before the film. It was originally called "Free," and included a different subject and lyrics specific to the show for which it was written, Call Me Madam. Berlin rewrote the song with a winter theme for "White Christmas." The original song, "Free," was initially published as a single sheet with the rest of Call Me Madam's score but was withdrawn from circulation once it was deleted from the show during its out of town tryout. Rare copies of the song can still be found.
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The "I'd Rather See a Minstrel Show" sequence points to changing times in terms of Hollywood's sensitivity to racial norms. The set design, props, costuming and musical arrangement are all typical of vintage minstrel shows, but the performers are not in black-face. This was progress, as Holiday Inn (1942), which inspired this production, featured a black-face number only twelve years earlier.
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When Betty and Bob are at the bar for the "sandwich" scene, getting a midnight snack, Crosby says the menu is not the same as "Toots Shor's". Toots Shor's was a real restaurant at 51 W. 51st Street in New York. It was somewhat of a hangout for show business personalities.
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During the "The Best Things Happen While You're Dancing" sequence Danny Kaye is wearing gray and Vera-Ellen is wearing pink. Pink and gray was the hot color combination in 1954.
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Percy Helton, who plays the railroad conductor, also appears in another holiday movie, playing the drunk Santa Claus at the beginning of Miracle on 34th Street (1947).
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Premiered at the famed Radio City Music Hall in New York City.
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When Bob Wallace (Bing Crosby) appears on the Ed Harrison TV show, he is briefly shown - as if the audience is watching him at home - on a 1950s television set. The brand of the television is DuMont, one of the first manufacturers of TVs in America and the name of TV network from the 1950s. Jackie Gleason, Morey Amsterdam and Bishop Fulton J. Sheen were some of the notables that began on the DuMont Network, which ceased operations in 1956.
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Doris, the chorine whose stock response to any greeting is "Mutual, I'm sure," was played by Barrie Chase, who went on to partner Fred Astaire in his Emmy-winning series of television specials. In addition to scores of uncredited appearances in movie musicals, Chase also played brainy stripper Torchy LaRue opposite Tommy Sands in Twentieth Century-Fox's Mardi Gras (1958) and, memorably, Sylvester's (Dick Shawn) hysterically deadpan twist partner in It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (1963)
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Danny Kaye's costuming thru-line in the film, onstage and off, consists of slacks, socks and shoes in the same muted color. This is especially pronounced in "The Best Things Happen While You're Dancing."
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Just after Phil and Judy finish their dance number to "The Best Things Happen While You're Dancing," the house band in the club is playing a rendition of "Snow," the song that the group sings on the train.
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"Judy" was shorter than "Betty" so in an effort to make them even heights for their song numbers, although their shoes were matching, Judy's heels were higher.
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Cast members Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney both have descendants in the Star Trek series. Bing's granddaughter Denise Crosby appeared in Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987), while Clooney's son Miguel Ferrer appeared in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984).
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The musical stage adaptation premiered in San Francisco in 2004 followed by productions in Boston, Buffalo, Los Angeles, Detroit, Louisville and the United Kingdom. The Broadway production opened on November 23, 2008 at the Marquis Theater and ran for 53 performances earning two Tony Award nominations. The musical was revived at the Marquis Theater for the 2009 Christmas season.
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In the movie, the four main characters take the train from Florida to Vermont, which in 1954 would have required changing trains in New York. This is alluded to during the "travel sequence," by showing stock footage of two different trains in subsequent shots. However, the trains seen in these shots in the film are both West Coast trains! The first train is the Santa Fe Railroad 'San Diegan' (note the palm trees in the background), followed by the Southern Pacific's 'Coast Mail', a local coach train. Neither railroad ran trains on the East Coast.
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Herb Vigran, the actor playing Novello the nightclub owner at the beginning of the film, was a prolific character actor on radio in the 1940s and 50s. He often performed on the radio programs of Bing Crosby's movie partner and competitor, Bob Hope. He also played recurring characters on the Jack Benny Show, another radio competitor of Crosby's.
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This was one of two musicals released in 1954 that featured songs by Irving Berlin that had been introduced in other musicals. The other was There's No Business Like Show Business (1954).
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Vera-Ellens name appears without its customary hyphen in the film's opening credits sequence.
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Rosemary Clooney's character is named Betty. This was, in fact, the name of her real-life sister whom she also sang with.
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This film marked the third joint appearance between Danny Kaye and Vera-Ellen, following Wonder Man (1945) and The Kid from Brooklyn (1946). However, it was their first pairing as love interests; Virginia Mayo had served that role in both of the earlier Samuel Goldwyn films, with Vera-Ellen on hand primarily for her ancillary dancing talents.
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George Chakiris later appeared in West Side Story (1961), opposite Richard Beymer and Russ Tamblyn. Beymer and Tamblyn later appeared on Twin Peaks (2017) with Rosemary Clooney's son, Miguel Ferrer
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During the "Wish I Was Back In The Army" number, when the civilian costumes raise up, Danny Kaye's outfit is that of a cobbler (shoemaker). Two years earlier in 1952 Kaye played the title role as a cobbler in Hans Christian Andersen (1952)
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The film is neither a sequel to, nor a remake of, Holiday Inn (1942), a persistent myth that continues to this day. Aside from both films starring Bing Crosby and featuring Irving Berlin scores (most notably the chestnut "White Christmas"), the plots and characters' names are completely different. In the first film, Crosby and co-star Fred Astaire compete for the affections of the same woman (first Virginia Dale, then Marjorie Reynolds - although each woman eventually ends up with one of the men), while in the second film, Crosby and Danny Kaye fall for sisters Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen, and are paired off almost immediately. There is also no subplot of an inn open only during the holidays in White Christmas: it is one inn on the verge of bankruptcy, due to lack of customers and snow.
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The hotel manager perusing the Haynes sisters is Sig Ruman who portrayed Sgt. Johann Schulz in Stalag 17 (1953)
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Stars three Oscar winners: Bing Crosby, Dean Jagger, and George Chakiris.
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The last thing Dean Jagger says to Danny Kaye in the opening scene is "At ease, Davis. I said at ease!" The next time they meet, he again surprises Private Davis and the first thing he says is "At ease, Davis".
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In Twelve O'Clock High (1949), Dean Jagger plays a World War I veteran retired Army officer who volunteers to return to active duty in World War II. In this film, Jagger plays a World War II veteran retired Army officer whose request to return to active duty at around the time of the Korean War is turned down.
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In spite of the title, posters and promo, it is only set at Christmas at the beginning and at the end of the movie.
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Dean Jagger and Mary Wickes both appeared in The Proud Rebel four years later.
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At a dinner for President Eisenhower, Irving Berlin wrote new lyrics to 'Gee I Wish I Was Back in the Army' protesting Senator Joseph McCarthy's smearing top US Army officials as Communists. The new lyrics went Gee, I wish I was back in the army/ In spite of all the Joe McCarthy noise; I'll help him shout, to kick the commies out, including all the Fifth Amendment boys! But when Joe gets to smearing the army, I think of 1942 and 3/ If on that vital date/ he cried 'Investigate!' The Normandy invasion and the army came too late - Oh, gee! I wish I was back in the army.
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The snow used at the end of the film is actually asbestos.
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