21 Things You Didn't Know About "White Christmas"

The beloved classic has loads of fascinating back stories.

Rosemary Clooney, Danny Kaye, Bing Crosby, Vera-Ellen and children pose for picture in a scene from the film 'White Christmas', 1954.
Paramount

It may not have raked in as much money as How the Grinch Stole Christmas or generated as much love-and-hate as Love Actually, but White Christmas remains one of the most popular holiday movies of all time. We take a look at some of the surprising stories behind the 61-year-old favorite.

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1 "Sisters" wasn't part of the script.
Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye singing sisters
via us105fm.com

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.

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2 It's the third time Bing sang "White Christmas" onscreen.

The title track was originally performed by Bing Crosby 13 years earlier, on the radio show The Kraft Music Hall. Then, he sang it in Irving Berlin's 1942 classic, (above), as well as in 1946. This one is still our favorite, though.

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3 There are some shocking age differences.
Bing Crosby (1903 - 1977), Rosemary Clooney (1928 - 2002), Vera-Ellen (1921 - 1981), and Danny Kaye (1913 - 1987) sing together, while dressed in fur-trimmed red outfits and standing in front of a stage backrop, in a scene from the film 'White Christmas,' directed by Michael Curtiz, 1954.
John Swope/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty

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. Even more striking? Bing Crosby, who plays her love interest, was 51 when the movie debuted. That's a 25-year-age gap! (It's also funny to note that , who played the retired, elderly general was actually born a few months after Crosby.)

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4 The Vermont inn doubled as "Holiday Inn," too.
Pine Tree Inn Vermont White Christmas
Paramount via 7thhouseontheleft.com

General Waverly's Columbia Inn in fictional Pine Tree, Vermont, made it's debut a decade before, in Holiday Inn. The set on the Paramount lot was refurbished for the next Christmas classic.

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5 Vera-Ellen didn't actually sing any of the songs.
Actors Vera-Ellen and Danny Kaye in a scene from the movie 'White Christmas'. USA, 1954.
Getty ImagesMondadori Portfolio

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."

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6 But she sure did all her own dancing!
Vera-Ellen dancing
Paramount via jovialcomets.tumblr.com

Vera-Ellen started dancing at age 10. And at 18, she had become one of the youngest Radio City Rockettes, performing in several Broadway shows before heading to Hollywood. Fun tidbit: Growing up in Norwood, Ohio, a suburb of Cincinnati, she carpooled to dancing classes !

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7 This dancer went on to big things.
George Chakiris (centre), US actor, in a publicity image issued for the film adaptation of 'West Side Story', USA, 1961. The musical, directed by Jerome Robbins (1918-1998) and Robert Wise (1914-2005), starred, Chakiris as 'Bernardo Nunez'.
Getty ImagesParamount + Silver Screen Collection

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 later won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor as Bernardo in West Side Story.

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8 It wasn't originally about snow.

In the club car of the train, the four leads sing "Snow" about their frosty dreams. Originally, the Irving Berlin tune was called "Free," for the musical Call Me Madam — and it had nothing to do with winter.

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9 Fred Astaire was supposed to play Phil Davis.
Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire with their arms folded staring at one an other in a scene from the film 'Holiday Inn', 1942.
Getty ImagesParamount

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.

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10 Bing Crosby made up most of the liverwurst sandwiches and buttermilk.
Rosemary Clooney sitting as Bing Crosby gestures in a scene from the film 'White Christmas', 1954.
Getty ImagesParamount

The iconic scene when Bob tells Betty his theory of what foods cause which dreams was almost completely improvised, according to Rosemary Clooney. (Then, he launched into "Count Your Blessings" and we stopped caring that buttermilk with liverwurst sandwiches sounds absolutely vile.) In fact, much of Bob's dialogue was based on Crosby's own conversation. So thank him for gems like, "weirdsmobile."

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11 You've seen "Benny Haynes" before.
Portrait of Carl Switzer as Alfalfa forThe Little Rascals series, originally know as Our Gang. Image dated January 1, 1936.
Paramount + CBS

When Bob looks at a picture of Benny Haynes, "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.

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12 Benny wasn't technically out of the country.

It's confusing, but bear with us. It seems odd that while preparing to go on stage for the Sisters routine, Betty and Judy mention their brother being out of the country working in Alaska. But the movie was released in 1954 and Alaska wasn't admitted as a . That said, it was a U.S. territory at the time, so not technically out of the country.

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13 Bob Fosse was the uncredited choreographer.
:American actor, director and choreographer Bob Fosse (1927 - 1987), circa 1950.
Getty ImagesSilver Screen Collection

Yes. 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.

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14 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 graceful and imperceptibly recovers (at about 3:30 in this clip).

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15 The costumes were created by an icon.
Rosemary Clooney in an Edith Head costume White Christmas
Paramount

Designer Edith Head was already an Oscar-winner by the time she worked on White Christmas. Throughout her life, she won eight Academy Awards for costume design — more than any other individual in that category — for classics like The Sting, Sabrina, and Roman Holiday.

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16 You'll never see Vera's neck onscreen.
Vera-Ellen and Danny Kaye in a scene from the movie 'White Christmas'. USA, 1954.
Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images

That much, at least, is true. 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 , less than a year after filming White Christmas, she appeared on the red carpet to promote A Star is Born — with her .

Bill Dennington, a longtime friend of Ellen, had an 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."

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17 Berlin changed lyrics for Bing.
Bing Crosby (1903–1977), Vera-Ellen (1921–1981), Rosemary Clooney (1928–2002), Danny Kaye (1913–1987), all dressed in military uniform in a publicity still issued for the film, 'White Christmas', USA, 1954. The 1954 musical, directed by Michael Curtiz (1886–1962), starred Crosby as 'Bob Wallace', Vera-Ellen as 'Judy Haynes', Clooney as 'Betty Haynes', and Kaye as 'Phil Davis'.
Getty ImagesSilver Screen Collection

The song "Gee, I Wish I Was Back In The Army" has a lyric about seeing "Jolson, Hope And Benny all for free" — reference to wartime entertainers Al Jolson, Bob Hope, and Jack Benny. The original words were "Crosby, Hope and Jolson all for free," but when Bing Crosby was cast, leaving it as-is would break the fourth wall. So meta.

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18 There's no "official" soundtrack.
Rosemary Clooney and Bing Crosby cheek to cheek in a scene from the film 'White Christmas', 1954.
Getty ImagesParamount

The soundtrack rights for the film were controlled by Decca, but Rosemary Clooney was under exclusive contract to Columbia, a competing record label. So in 1954, Decca recorded and released an album with the movie cast minus Clooney (her part was sung by Peggy Lee.) And Columbia released an album with Clooney singing eight songs from the film. Which means the only way to hear her sing with Bing is onscreen!

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19 Yes, THAT Clooney.
Rosemary Clooney and George Clooney
Getty Images

Rosemary Clooney's nephew is the actor George Clooney. He called her "" — and says they didn't get along that well.

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20 They reshot the ending — without film.
White Christmas finale scene bing crosby rosemary clooney danny kaye vera-ellen
Getty ImagesParamount

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.

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21 It was a box-office success.
Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney and Danny Kaye sit at the bottom of a staircase during a dance number in a scene from the film 'White Christmas', 1954
Getty ImagesParamount

The movie brought in $12 million, and was a top-earner in 1954, second only to The Caine Mutiny. (To put that in perspective, though, Jim Carrey's How the Grinch Stole Christmas raked in .)

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