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‘White Christmas’: A Boomer’s History

10 things you might not know about this 1954 holiday classic

  • Bing Cosby, Rosemary Clooney, Vera Ellen and Danny Kaye sing the Irving Berlin’s song “White Christmas” in the movie
    The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images

    Merry and Bright Beginnings

    It’s hard to imagine a song so incredibly popular that, more than a decade after its debut, a Hollywood studio would build an entire musical film around it. But that’s exactly what happened with Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas,” the best-selling single of all time. On the 60th anniversary of the movie that bears its name, here are a few things you might not know about this American film classic.

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  • Bing Crosby’s third and final film performance singing “White Christmas” was preceded by Holiday Inn
    Everett Collection

    Three’s the Charm

    Bing Crosby’s third and final film performance singing “White Christmas” was preceded by Holiday Inn (1942, the same year he first recorded the song) and Blue Skies (1946, the second consecutive year Crosby’s recording topped the charts).

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  • HOLIDAY INN, Marjorie Reynolds, Bing Crosby, 1942
    Everett Collection

    Déjà Vu

    White Christmas and Holiday Inn shared not only the hit song, songwriter, Bing Crosby and many plot similarities, but also the same country inn stage set.

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  • WHITE CHRISTMAS, from left: Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, 1954
    Everett Collection

    Oh, Kaye!

    When Fred Astaire declined to resurrect his song-and-dance duo with Crosby from Holiday Inn, the role went to Donald O’Connor. But when O’Connor came down with an illness he was thought to have contracted while filming a sequel with Francis the Talking Mule, Danny Kaye stepped in.

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  • WHITE CHRISTMAS, from left: Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney, 1954
    Everett Collection

    Ageless Love

    Crosby’s love interest in the movie, Rosemary Clooney, was 26; he was 51.

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  • WHITE CHRISTMAS, Vera-Ellen, Rosemary Clooney, 1954
    Everett Collection

    Sister Act

    Clooney and Vera-Ellen play sisters Betty and Judy Haynes, a show-biz team. In real life, Vera-Ellen couldn’t sing, and Clooney sang both parts in the film’s “Sisters” duet.

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  • Egan and Bartlett hold edition of the Daily News-Miner of Fairbanks, with a headline announcing Alaska's statehood, and a picture of the new United States flag.
    Corbis

    State Secret

    Sisters Betty and Judy mention that their brother is “out of the country,” working in Alaska. Alaska wasn’t admitted to the union until 1959.

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  • Hal Roach's Little Rascals: Carl 'Alfalfa' Switzer, (ca. 1930s)
    Everett Collection

    No Cowlick?

    Carl Switzer, who as a child played Alfalfa (shown here) in the 1930s-’40s Our Gang series, makes a cameo appearance by way of a photograph of the Haynes sisters’ brother, Bennie.

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  • CASABLANCA, Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, 1942
    Everett Collection

    As Time Went By

    White Christmas was the biggest box-office hit of director Michael Curtiz's distinguished career, which already included an Oscar for directing Casablanca, the 1943 classic with Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman.

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  • NATIONAL LAMPOON'S CHRISTMAS VACATION, Chevy Chase, 1989
    Everett Collection

    Sparky Blows a Fuse

    “We’re gonna have the hap, hap, happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap-danced with Danny @#$%&* Kaye.” Season’s greetings from Clark W. “Sparky” Griswold Jr., Chevy Chase’s character in the 1989 film National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.

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  • Taylor Swift performs onstage during the 2014 iHeartRadio Music Festival at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on September 19, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
    Getty Images

    Hit Parade

    “White Christmas” is the most-recorded Christmas song of all time. In the last 10 years alone, the song has been covered 43 times by artists including Kelly Clarkson, Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift (shown here).

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  • AARP Baby Boomers (Sean McCabe)
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