WEDNESDAY WORKFACT: Things You May Not Know About “White Christmas”

{excerpted from the Good Housekeeping article online}

The beloved holiday classic has some fascinating back stories:

white xmas“Sisters” wasn’t part of the script. Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye’s comedy act “dressed up like a dame” wasn’t originally in the story. They were goofing around, though, and director Michael Curtiz found it so funny that he wrote it in. Apparently, the actors found it hilarious, 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.
There are some big 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, Clooney was 26, and Vera-Ellen, 33. Bing Crosby, who plays her love interest, was 51 when the movie debuted – a 25-year-age gap! (It’s also interesting to note that Dean Jagger, who played the retired, elderly general was actually born a few months after Crosby.)
Vera-Ellen didn’t actually sing any of the songs. When the character Judy Haynes sings, the parts were all recorded by costar Rosemary Clooney or singer Trudy Stevens. The only time Vera’s real singing voice is heard is when they disembark the train in Vermont and the quartet sing the opening lines of “Snow.”
One of the cast dancers 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 won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor as Bernardo in West Side Story.
Fred Astaire was supposed to play Phil Davis. After Astaire and Crosby’s success in Holiday Inn, this film was intended to reunite them. But Astaire had “retired” by the time White Christmas was shot 12 years later and he declined. Then, the part was offered to Donald O’Connor (known for Singin’ in the Rain) but he pulled out after an illness. Then, the part was reworked for Danny Kaye.
You’ve seen Benny Haynes before. When Bob looks at a picture of Benny, the Haynes’ sisters brother and the boys’ fellow GI nicknamed “The Dog-Faced Boy,” it’s actually an image of a grown-up Carl Switzer. He’s best remembered for playing Alfalfa in the original Our Gang, also known as the The Little Rascals.
Bob Fosse was the uncredited choreographer for the movie. Long before his sizzling moves appeared in films like Cabaret, Chicago, and All that Jazz, a young Fosse sent Vera-Ellen spinning and tapping across the stage. Ironic since one of the numbers from the movie was titled “Choreography!”
There’s a flub. Danny Kaye, a decent dancer but nowhere near Vera-Ellen’s skill, accidentally trips her near the end of “The Best Things Happen While You’re Dancing.” When Ellen twirls behind a kneeling Kaye, she catches her foot on his ” but gracefully and imperceptibly recovers.
You’ll never see Vera’s neck onscreen. Even her robes and sleepwear keep it covered. As to why, there are a couple persistent theories. Ellen was rumored to suffer from anorexia or bulimia, though it was never publicly confirmed. So one legend is that her neck had been prematurely aged by her eating disorder. However, as several fans point out, less than a year after filming White Christmas, she appeared on the red carpet to promote A Star is Born ” with her shoulders and neck exposed. Bill Dennington, a longtime friend of Ellen, proposed a more plausible idea of his own: “All of her life she wore something around her neck, a necklace, a choker, a scarf, a collar, etc. It was her ‘trademark’ like Van Johnson wore red socks. I saw her neck many times; it was lovely.”
The ending was reshot – without film. After the final shot wrapped, the actors were told that they needed to redo the finale, Rosemary Clooney recalled in the DVD extras. 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.