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White Christmas - 10 bits of trivia about a musical classic

White Christmas

(1954) is one of my favourite musicals. Sure, sure, it's sweeter than a puppy dipped in treacle but it's got Vera Ellen's superb dance routines, Danny Kaye's wisecracking, Edith Head's glorious costumes and Irving Berlin (opens in new tab)'s sing-along songs. But most importantly, it's got the feel-good-factor that is so important for a seasonal movie.

Here are some random facts about the film:

1. Danny Kaye (opens in new tab) was only third choice for the role after Fred Astaire (opens in new tab) and Donald O’Connor (opens in new tab) turned it down. White Christmas was supposed to reunite Bing Crosby and Astaire (after their success with Holiday Inn (opens in new tab) in 1942) but Astaire wasn’t interested because he didn't like the script.

2. Budget conscious studio Paramount Pictures (opens in new tab) recycled the set pieces from Holiday Inn, while Irving Berlin recycled some of the script, mixing it with an unproduced musical he'd co-written called Stars on My Shoulders.

3. Edith Head (opens in new tab), a prolific, multiple Oscar-winning designer, created the costumes. Rumour has it that Vera Ellen’s costumes were all high-necked because of her anorexia ageing her neck. But she can be seen at a 1954 premiere of A Star is Born (opens in new tab) Robert Alton (opens in new tab) but Bob Fosse was also involved, however, uncredited.

6. Vera Ellen (opens in new tab)'s singing voice was dubbed throughout by Trudy Stevens (opens in new tab), while Rosemary Clooney (opens in new tab)'s singing on the soundtrack was replaced by Peggy Lee (opens in new tab) because Rosemary at the time was contractually obligated not to record music with any other company than Columbia.

7.  This was the first movie to be produced in VistaVision, Paramount’s version of widescreen.

8. Irving Berlin wrote and recorded the song Snow long before the film. It had entirely different lyrics and was called Free.

9. The photo of Vera Ellen’s brother, 'Bennie the dog-faced boy', is in fact a picture of child star Carl Switzer (opens in new tab), famous for the Alfalfa (opens in new tab) movies.

10. Crosby and Kaye's send-up version of the song Sisters was a result of the stars messing about on set. None of it was in the script, but director Michael Curtiz liked it so much he decided to put it in the movie.