Portions of this review appeared in our coverage of the original Blu-ray edition of ‘White Christmas.’
The top grossing film of 1954, White Christmas retains classic holiday status, despite the fact that the major story has very little to do with Christmas. The movie features Danny Kaye and Bing Crosby as army buddies Bob Wallace and Phil Davis, who become well known entertainers. The bachelors meet up with Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen, sisters with talent but not many opportunities. While the boys woo the girls, the quartet heads up to a Vermont inn operated by Crosby and Kaye’s old commanding General from WWII (Dean Jagger). The inn is in trouble, because it’s one of the warmest and greenest Vermont winters on record. As romance blooms and the temperatures remain balmy, Bob devises a plan to save his friend’s livelihood and do some good with the popularity he earned both during and after the war.
Light and fun, boasting plenty of music and comedy, White Christmas is a story about the spirit of the season—friendship and giving. Only the films bookends can be considered Christmas themed and it’s through those scenes that the films holiday structure is established. Bob Wallace transforms from rejecting Phil Davis’ idea of forming a duo–he’s a solo act—to finding greater success as part of a team, to slowly giving his heart to someone when he meets the right girl, and finally realizing the necessity in reuniting his entire division in an effort to save his friend. White Christmas‘ themes transcend the songs and dances and even the Holiday itself, finding the value in family; not necessarily blood relations but a family of friends, those one can trust, those one can turn to in times of need, those who recognize that self doesn’t always come first.
The talent of Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney and Danny Kaye is undeniable, and the choreography and vocal performances are pitch-perfect. Not every song is a hit, and there are a few tunes that seem more like afterthoughts that meandered on in from left field and somehow wound up in the finished product, but with Irving Berlin involved, there are some real gems; not just the obvious Christmas songs (see the title), but patriotic songs, love songs and a couple of comic ones for good measure. Vera-Ellen is an amazingly flexible dancer, and Danny Kaye does the comic second banana as well as anyone. The film was even directed by Michael Curtiz, who had previously directed Casablanca.
Sincerity, and it’s the song and dance numbers are what make White Christmas a truly memorable holiday experience. Oh, and there’s the title song: written by Irving Berlin, and first used in the 1942 film Holiday Inn, Bing Crosby’s rendition of the song has sold in excess of 50 million copies worldwide, making it the best-selling single of all-tome, and Bing Crosby synonymous with the Christmas season.
The Diamond Anniversary Edition of White Christmas contains the exact same transfer that appeared on the 2010 Blu-ray release, which is far superior to anything that ever appeared on DVD. Framed at 1.78:1, the 1080p transfer contains extremely vibrant reds and yellows, and a tremendous amount of depth. There are some occasional inconsistencies, with some scenes appearing a bit flat and hazy. However, considering that White Christmas is sixty years old, this transfer is visually impressive.
As with the 2010 Blu-ray release, both restored mono and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 tracks are included on the disc. The 5.1 track is a very good one, just don’t expect as much separation as seen in more modern releases. The restored mono is offered as a choice, and it’s predictably flatter. Those who love all the songs, will appreciate the lossless rendering.
English SDH, Spanish, French, and Portuguese subtitles are included.
A few new goodies have been added here, and they nicely complement the extras package from the 2010 Blu-ray edition, which is also included here.
- Audio Commentary with Rosemary Clooney: When Ms. Clooney speaks, she has plenty of interesting insights to share, whether discussing the style of Irving Berlin, speaking on the quality of the actors’ performances, sharing her memories from the set, and more. She’s clearly enjoying the experience of re-watching the film, laughing at many of its lighter moments and laughing as she remembers some of the sillier behind-the-scenes stories she relates. Clooney allows long stretches of silence to permeate the track, but she makes up for it with a quality commentary when she has something to share.
- New! Vintage Television Clips: “Classic Holiday Moments” (SD/HD)
- “White Christmas” (SD, 2:18) Bing Crosby sings it on his 1976 special.
- “White Christmas” (HD, 4:11) Michael Bublé inserts himself into Crosby’s 1972 holiday special and then sings a solo version himself in a 2012 TV special.
- “Silent Night” (SD, 2:37) Crosby sings with the Bob Mitchell Boys Choir in a 1948 special.
- “Jingle Bells” (SD, 3:39) Danny Kaye duets with Nat King Cole on the first Christmas episode of his variety series in 1963.
- Danny Kaye Reading (SD, 7:23) Kaye reads a Cratchit family excerpt from A Christmas Carol on his show’s third season Christmas episode.
- NEW! Vintage Short Film: ‘Assignment Children’ (SD, 18:36) Michael Bublé introduces this 1954 documentary that follows Kaye on a goodwill UNICEF tour through India, Japan, Korea, Burma, and Thailand, and chronicles how the organization tries to fight infectious diseases. Kaye worked tirelessly with UNICEF from 1954 until his death. To that end, a portion of the proceeds from the sales of this edition of White Christmas will be donated to UNICEF.
- NEW! Photo Galleries: Four galleries the viewer may click through with black and white stills detailing rehearsals, behind-the-scenes shots, filming shots, and publicity stills.
- NEW! Audio CD: “The Sounds of Christmas”
- Winter Wonderland – Rosemary Clooney
- Deck the Halls/Away in a Manger/O, Little Town of Bethlehem/The First Noel – Bing Crosby
- Waltz Around the Christmas Tree – Danny Kaye
- Marshmallow World – Bing Crosby & Ella Fitzgerald
- The Christmas Song – Rosemary Clooney
- Just What I Wanted For Christmas – Bing Crosby
- Santa Claus Is Coming To Town – Rosemary Clooney
- Jingle Bells – Danny Kaye & Peggy Lee
- Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer – Bing Crosby & Judy Garland
- Home For The Holidays – Rosemary Clooney
- Some Children See Him – Danny Kaye
- The Night Before Christmas – Bing Crosby
- Featurette: “Backstage Stories from ‘White Christmas'” (HD, 11:56) Several individuals — Critic F.X. Feeney, USC Professor Drew Casper, Historian Larry Billman, Author Gary Giddins, and Dancer George Chakiris — discuss the history and success of both the film (including its VistaVision presentation) and its cast.
- Featurette: “Rosemary’s Old Kentucky Home” (HD, 13:26) Viewers are welcomed to Rosemary Clooney’s favorite place, Augusta, Kentucky for a look at the museum that’s sprung up there since her death.
- Featurette: “Bing Crosby: Christmas Crooner” (HD, 14:16) A look at Bing Crosby’s legacy and impact on the music and cinema of the Christmas season. The piece covers the Actor’s love for Gonzaga University, his work with the troops, his work in White Christmas, and his influence on some of the greatest musical talents of the second half of the 20th century.
- Featurette: “Danny Kaye: Joy to the World” (HD, 13:10) Actor Robert Wagner, Kaye’s daughter Dena, and composer Leslie Bricusse, among others, discuss the life and legacy of the beloved entertainer.
- Featurette: “Irving Berlin’s ‘White Christmas'” (HD, 7:22) Examines the history and staying power of the best-selling single of all time, along with a glimpse into the life of Irving Berlin.
- Featurette: “‘White Christmas’: From Page to Screen” (HD, 4:21) A look at the films transition to Broadway.
- Featurette: “‘White Christmas’: A Look Back with Rosemary Clooney” (SD, 16:46) The actress looks back at her experiences working at Paramount, with Bing Crosby, and on White Christmas.
- Sing-Along Track: Subtitled lyrics to the musical portions are turned on with this feature.
- Original Trailer (HD, 2;24)
- Re-release Trailer (HD, 2:09)
- DVD: of the film.