A festive favorite starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye and Rosemary Clooney, WHITE CHRISTMAS follows a song-and-dance team who put on a Christmas show for the ages to help a down–on–his–luck general save his inn in Vermont.
AFI Movie Club: WHITE CHRISTMAS
WHITE CHRISTMAS costume designer Edith Head discusses working with filmmakers in this exclusive AFI Archive video.
DID YOU KNOW? WHITE CHRISTMAS was a follow-up to Paramount’s 1942 release of HOLIDAY INN, which starred Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire. HOLIDAY INN featured 13 songs by Irving Berlin, including the Oscar®-winning “White Christmas.” Crosby first performed the tune on Christmas day in 1941, and it became an enormous hit with special significance during World War II, symbolizing both hope and homesickness.
DID YOU KNOW? Fred Astaire was initially set to star in WHITE CHRISTMAS, but he declined the role after reading the script and even obtained a release from his contract at Paramount. Bing Crosby bowed out at the same time due to the recent death of his wife Dixie Lee, but he returned to the picture in late 1953.
DID YOU KNOW? Donald O’Connor (SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN) was originally hired as Fred Astaire’s replacement in WHITE CHRISTMAS, but he became ill shortly before production began and Danny Kaye took over the role.
DID YOU KNOW? WHITE CHRISTMAS marked the first Paramount film photographed in VistaVision, the studio’s new widescreen process that used single-strip Eastman color film with a 70mm (or double 35mm) frame. The camera exposed the negative horizontally rather than vertically.
DID YOU KNOW? WHITE CHRISTMAS was the highest grossing film in 1954 and the most financially successful musical at the time, earning $30 million in its domestic release. The picture was produced for roughly $2 million.
DID YOU KNOW? Bing Crosby and Irving Berlin had contracts that gave them profit shares that were equal to Paramount’s income on the picture.
DID YOU KNOW? WHITE CHRISTMAS was honored with an Oscar® nomination for Best Original Song, for “Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep,” with music and lyrics by Irving Berlin. It marked his final nomination from the Academy. Twelve years earlier, Berlin won his first and only Oscar® out of nine nominations for the song “White Christmas” which was written for the movie HOLIDAY INN (1942).
Learn more at the AFI Catalog.
The movie doesn’t end at the credits: Discussion Questions
- In WHITE CHRISTMAS, the story refers to past events in which people help each other—such as Phil saving Bob’s life—and to present opportunities to work for the better good—such as saving the general’s inn from financial ruin. What do these sub-plots teach us about the spirit of the holidays and the importance of generosity? Describe a scene that best represents the film’s depiction of empathy and benevolence.
- The stars of the movie arrive at the inn in Vermont hoping to see snow, but there is not a single snowflake on the ground. What does snow symbolize in WHITE CHRISTMAS, and why is it so important to its characters?
- Bob and Betty’s budding romance falls victim to misunderstanding, and the two are challenged to communicate about their perceived disappointments and confusion. What does WHITE CHRISTMAS illustrate about false assumptions?
- WHITE CHRISTMAS has endured as a favorite holiday film for its uplifting message about helping others in their time of need and working collectively toward a common good – but the picture represents a narrow segment of the population. How does the film represent a certain subset of society and how might it have been more inclusive both in front of and behind the camera?
- WHITE CHRISTMAS depicts life in America after World War II, where former soldiers and civilians were adjusting to a new world. What is the atmosphere of the film, and what does it imply about a shifting culture?
- How would you rate WHITE CHRISTMAS?
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