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WHITE CHRISTMAS  [Diamond Anniversary Edition] [Blu-ray + DVD] [US Import]
on 1 December 2013
WHITE CHRISTMAS  [Diamond Anniversary Edition] [Blu-ray + DVD] [US Import] World’s First Motion Picture in VistaVision! The Ultimate in Screen Presentation! The Most Fabulous Music-And-Mirth Show in Motion Picture History!
‘White Christmas’ is a treasure trove of Irving Berlin’s most memorable songs, among them “Count our Blessings Instead of Sheep,” “Sisters,” “Mandy” and the beloved holiday song, “White Christmas.” This Diamond Anniversary Edition Combo Pack includes the Blu-ray and DVD versions of this timeless musical, plus new special features and as an amazing added Bonus, you get to own the exclusive 12 track song Christmas Music Compact Disc.
Two talented song-and-dance men Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye team up after the war to become one of the hottest acts in show business. One winter they join forces with a sister act Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen and trek to Vermont for a white Christmas. Of course, there’s the requisite fun for the ladies, but the real adventure starts when Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye discover that the inn is run by their old army general, who is now in financial trouble. And the result is the stuff that dreams are made of!
FILM FACT: All songs were written by Irving Berlin. The centrepiece of the film is the title song, first used in ‘Holiday Inn,’ which won that film an Oscar for Best Original Song in 1942. In addition, ‘Count Your Blessings’ earned the picture its own Oscar nomination in the same category. The song "Snow" was originally written for ‘Call Me Madam’ with the title "Free" was dropped in out-of-town try-outs. The melody and some of the words were kept, but the lyrics were changed to be more appropriate for a Christmas film.
Cast: Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, Vera-Ellen, Dean Jagger, Mary Wickes, Johnny Grant, John Brascia, Anne Whitfield, Bea Allen (uncredited), Joan Bayley (uncredited), George Chakiris (uncredited), Tony Butala (uncredited), Mae Bruce (uncredited), Glen Cargyle (uncredited), Johnny Grant (uncredited) and I. Stanford Jolley (uncredited)
Director: Michael Curtiz
Producer: Robert Emmett Dolan
Screenplay: Melvin Frank and Norman Krasna, Norman Panama
Composers: Irving Berlin, Gus Levene (uncredited), Joseph J. Lilley (uncredited) and Van Cleave (uncredited)
Dance and Musical Numbers: Robert Alton
Costume Design: Edith Head
Cinematography: Loyal Griggs
Video Resolution: 1080p [Techincolor]
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 [VistaVision]
Audio: English: 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English: Restored Mono DTS-HD Master Audio, French: 1.0 Mono Audio, Spanish: 1.0 Mono Audio and Portuguese: 1.0 Mono Audio
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish and Portuguese
Running Time: 120 minutes
Number of discs: Blu-ray and DVD
Region: Region A/1
Studio: Paramount Pictures
Andrew’s Blu-ray Review: Most composers would consider themselves lucky, well okay, blessed to have one film built around a song they wrote, but Irving Berlin's “White Christmas” which became such a popular holiday standard, it spawned two film musicals with yuletide themes. The first, 'Holiday Inn'  marked the introduction of Irving Berlin's soon-to-be iconic tune by the quintessential crooner, Bing Crosby, who put such an indelible stamp on the song it would forever after be associated with him. Twelve years and millions of record sales later, Paramount went back to the Irving Berlin, and approached the prolific songwriter about mounting another Christmas musical. This time, 'White Christmas' wouldn't be just a part of the score, it would be the film’s title, and Bing Crosby would be back to star and sing once more. The result proved just as irresistible as 'Holiday Inn,' and in the intervening 60 years, 'White Christmas' has become an equally beloved and revered classic and this warm and sprightly film should have an annual viewing in every home each December.
I love and adore 'White Christmas' and I never tire of watching it, which is well matched up against such as other immortal Hollywood musicals as 'Singin' in the Rain,' 'Meet Me in St. Louis,' 'An American in Paris,' and 'GIGI,' it pales in comparison, but still has a magical glow about it. Director Michael Curtiz did a great job with 'Casablanca,' but he's no Vincente Minnelli, a schmaltzy script that tries to emulate Betty Comden and Adolph Green, and with the exception of the title song and a few others. 'White Christmas' remains very happy go lucky typical genre entry, but the enthusiasm and talent of its first-rate cast and intoxicating seasonal alluring songs, that definitely makes it a must watch around the Christmas festive season.
Much like the Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland let's-put-on-a-show backyard musicals it so closely resembles, as well as Judy Garland's 1950 vehicle 'Summer Stock.' 'White Christmas' tells a showbiz story sprinkled with romance and a big helping of schmaltz and Christmas is merely a backdrop and plays a very minor role in the proceedings. After aspiring song-and-dance man Phil Davis [Danny Kaye] saves the life of headliner Bob Wallace [Bing Crosby] during a Nazi strike in World War II, the two men team up and form a highly successful nightclub act. Their tour brings them to Florida, where they encounter the two sisters Judy and Betty Haynes [Vera-Ellen and Rosemary Clooney], aspiring entertainers, and Judy and Betty slyly wangle their way into Bob and Phil's good graces, and the quartet heads up to Vermont for the sisters' holiday gig at a country inn, which they soon learn is run by Phil and Bob's former army commander, General Waverly [Dean Jagger]. Lack of snow and balmy temperatures threaten to close the struggling hotel and bankrupt the general, but Phil and Bob hatch a scheme to revive business and restore their respected leader's decaying sense of self-esteem. Yet pulling off the plan without upsetting the general's pride and their own burgeoning romances with the Haynes sisters proves to be quite a challenge.
This classic film is light and airy, with plenty of comic situations and big-time production numbers, 'White Christmas' dazzles and entertains, and for the most part, it succeeds greatly. Even Irving Berlin tunes outshine some of his colleagues' finest work, and Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, and Rosemary Clooney give each their all. The charming “Sisters” is performed straight by Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen, and then given a hysterical drag twist with Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye. (Watch as Bing totally cracks up as a result of Danny's over-the-top prancing and swishing and definitely one of the film's high points.) Ballads such as “Count Your Blessings” and the torchy “Love, Look What You've Done to Me” are given solid readings by Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney, and Danny Kaye clowns to perfection in the avant-garde “Choreography” and lilting “It Happens While You're Dancing” and his non-musical shtick is first-rate, too, especially with Vera-Ellen, and Danny Kaye is one of Hollywood's most accomplished dancers, taps and twirls her way through a host of demanding routines, while providing some acerbic line readings that perk up the mundane screenplay.
Rosemary Clooney is known primarily as a singer and remains one of the premier interpreters of American popular songs, but she makes a fine dramatic impression here. Though her character is a bit too goody-two-shoes, Rosemary Clooney remains believable throughout and creates a comfortable chemistry with a ba-ba-ba-boom Bing Crosby that helps sustain the film between songs. Danny Kaye and Vera-Ellen supply the comic relief, and their wisecracking provides a nice contrast to the gooey eyed cooing and sullen bickering of their co-stars. The priceless Mary Wickes is also on hand as the busybody housekeeper, and her impeccable timing and dry comebacks add welcome zing to each scene in which she appears.
'White Christmas,' however, is all about Bing Crosby, and in one of his last romantic roles, the crooning Bing Crosby seems to be having a ball. Though clearly reaching the upper limits in the leading man age bracket, he relies on charm, sophistication, and his velvet-toned voice to see him through, and the result is a wholly satisfying performance, which begins and ends with his signature reading of Irvin Berlin's holiday classic. The final five minutes of this cheery, heart-warming musical will surely have you and yours dreaming of a white Christmas, too, and no doubt inspire repeat viewings in the yuletide seasons to come.
Paramount Pictures chose ‘White Christmas’ to be its first film to be produced in VistaVision, the studio's widescreen answer to CinemaScope. The New York Time noted the technical achievement in its review: "The colours on the big screen are rich and luminous, the images are clear and sharp, and rapid movements are got without blurring or very little." ‘White Christmas’ was Michael Curtiz's first directing gig at Paramount Pictures after he left Warner Bros. His Paramount Pictures contract allowed him the freedom to direct films for other studios as well, and he thus floated around town from then on.
Blu-ray Video Quality – I always thought 'White Christmas' looked pretty darn good even on the inferior NTSC DVD, but this Blu-ray blows that relic right out of the water, at last making this musical appear as vibrant and stunning as it surely did upon its initial release in 1954. The improvements are immediately noticeable, beginning with the VistaVision logo and opening credits. Clarity, contrast, and especially colour saturation are supreme. Delectably bold reds and deep, lush greens truly pop off the screen, yet never look garish. A few white marks dot the print, but the number of imperfections sullying the image has been drastically reduced from what afflicted the previous inferior DVD. The standard definition version looks dull, flat, and washed out compared to this glistening 1080p image transfer, which truly does the Technicolor photography proud. Varying shades of blue and yellow and the entire pastel palette are all perfectly timed and balanced so the picture always looks smooth and cohesive. Even the drab army scenes early in the film exude a faint sparkle they've hitherto lacked, and accents, like Bing Crosby's yellow socks or Rosemary Clooney's painted nails and lips, nab our attention without overwhelming the entire image. Fine details are also much easier to discern. On the inferior NTSC DVD, the background items often appeared fuzzy and slightly unstable, but the Blu-ray crystallises even the smallest objects so we feel much more immersed in the atmosphere. Textures, such as suede, wool, leather, and satin, are very strong, and close-ups, especially those of Clooney, nicely reconcile sharpness with the cinematography's inherent warmth. Black levels are pitch-perfect throughout and just look at the inky hue of Rosemary Clooney's gown during “Love, Look What You've Done to Me” and the jackets of Danny Kaye and Bing Crosby during the minstrel number and the bright whites resist blooming. The natural grain structure on the Blu-ray remains intact, providing the desired feel of celluloid. Grain intensifies a bit in the background, and at times, various elements can look a little soft, but such minor annoyances rarely drag down the film's enjoyment factor. Noise reduction, edge enhancement, and banding are all blissfully absent, making this transfer a pleasure to watch from start to finish. Once again, this high-definition effort from Paramount Pictures is a huge step up from the previous inferior old fashioned NTSC DVD and well worth the extra investment.
Blu-ray Audio Quality – Both the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and the Restored Mono DTS-HD Master Audio are included on this Blu-ray disc. The track trumps the inferior NTSC DVD's 5.1 Dolby Digital audio, but doesn't provide any real wrap-around sensation. The sound is still largely front-based, and minimal stereo separation never widens the field enough to make an impression. Dynamic range is solid, with both highs and lows enjoying fine presence and clarity. Bass tones shine whenever Bing Crosby sings; when his dulcet baritone slides into the lower register, we're treated to full, resonant bass shadings that add immeasurable nuance and weight to his performances. Just the familiar phrase "I'm dreaming of a white Christmas" proves why Bing Crosby wrote the book on crooning, and the audio here serves his marvellous instrument well. Rosemary Clooney's voice also sounds warm and velvety, and good fidelity distinguishes the instrumentals. Dialogue is always clear and comprehendible, and sonic accents like Vera-Ellen's taps and the slamming of doors are crisp and distinct. Unfortunately, some surface noise remains audible during the quieter scenes, and during Rosemary Clooney's “Love, Look What You've Done to Me” some static-laced pops disrupt the torchy song. Such interference continues to rear its ugly head during subsequent musical numbers, marring enjoyment somewhat. Still, this is a good quality track that honours the Irving Berlin tunes that help lend 'White Christmas' to its classic status.
Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:
Audio Commentary: Commentary by Rosemary Clooney: This commentary by the late, great Rosemary Clooney may not rank high on anyone's list of stellar efforts, but it's wonderful to hear the recollections of this accomplished singer, which are all presented in a delightfully honest, matter-of-fact manner. The large gaps in the beginning are off-putting, to say the least, as Rosemary Clooney merely chuckles at the action on screen, but as the film progresses, she opens up a bit more, praising Irving Berlin, discussing a typical shooting day, and exulting Bing Crosby's style and impeccable preparedness. There's not a whole lot of substance here, and the gaps do continue throughout, but fans of the film will still enjoy watching the film with Rosemary Clooney, who comes off more as an enthusiastic aunt or grandmother than a high-falutin film star.
Special Feature: NEW! ‘White Christmas’ Sing-Along Lyrics: This Blu-ray exclusive, is the 'White Christmas' Sing-Along, which can be accessed two ways. Viewers can either choose to have the song lyrics pop up automatically for all 13 tunes as they watch the entire movie, or they can select each number individually from a menu. Unfortunately, the highlighted lyrics are not in sync with the actors' deliveries, but this is still a fun feature for the musical classic film 'White Christmas.’
Special Feature: NEW! Vintage Television Clips: Five Classic Holiday Moments [1080p and 480i] [20:00] which are as follows:
1. ‘White Christmas’ with Bing Crosby on 1st December, 1976 [480i] [4:3] Bing Crosby sings on his 1976 TV Special.
2. ‘White Christmas’ with Bing Crosby and featuring Michael Bublé on 10th December, 2012 [1080p] [4:3] Michael Bublé inserts himself into Bing Crosby’s 1972 holiday special and then sings a solo version himself in a 2012 TV special.
3. ‘Silent Night’ with Bing Crosby on 12th December, 1988 [480i] [4:3] Bing Crosby sings this with the Bob Mitchell Boys Choir in a 1948 TV Special.
4. ‘Jingle Bells’ with Nat King Cole and Danny Kaye on 25th December, 1963 [480i] [4:3] Danny Kaye duets with Nat King Cole on his first Christmas episode of his variety series in 1963. Kaye won an Emmy for his work during the first season of his show.
5. Danny Kaye reads from Charles Dickens “A Christmas Carol” on 25th December, 1965 [480i] [4:3] Danny Kaye reads a Cratchit family excerpt from “A Christmas Carol” on his show’s third year Christmas episode.
Special Feature: NEW! Vintage Short Film: Assignment Children with Introduction from Michael Bublé [1080p] [16:9] Michael Bublé introduces this 1954 colour short where Danny Kaye informs the world about his ongoing work with UNICEF.
Special Feature Documentary: Backstage Stories from White Christmas  [1080p] [16:9] [11:56] This easy-going documentary, features F.X. Feeney [Film Critic]; Dr. Drew Casper [USC Professor]; Larry Billman [Dance on Film Historian]; Garry Giddins [Author of “Bing Crosby: A Pocketful of Dreams”] and George Chakiris [Dancer] who examines the film's casting (and how Danny Kaye got his part over contenders Fred Astaire and Donald O'Connor), especially the vitality and talent of the four leads, and the impact of dancer George Chakiris, best known for his Oscar-winning performance as Bernardo in 'West Side Story' and in his brief appearance with Rosemary Clooney, the VistaVision process, and the film's universal and lasting appeal. A number of film historians weigh in on these topics, and we're also treated to George Chakiris' own personal perspective, but sadly time has not been good to George Chakiris, as I was shocked by how he has aged.
Special Feature Documentary: Bing Crosby: Christmas Crooner  [1080p] [16:9] [14:17] With this interesting insight into Bing Crosby, we get to see and hear Garry Giddins [Author of Bing Crosby: Pocketful of Dreams]; Kathryn Crosby; Henry Crosby; Ruth Prigozy [Professor at Hofstra University] and Stephanie Plouman [Crosby Alumni House Curator at Gonzaga University] talk about the magical musical influences and personality of Bing Crosby the actor/singer, and the importance of the song 'White Christmas' was to him. We also get a few glimpses of Crosby's boyhood home in Spokane, Washington and archive at Gonzaga University.
Special Feature Documentary: Danny Kaye: Joy to the World  [1080p] [16:9 and 4:3] [13:12] Here we also get to see and hear Dena Kaye [Danny Kay’s Daughter]; Robert Wagnor [Actor]; Leslie Bricusse [Composer, Lyricist and Writer]; Robert Spiotto [Actor, Producer and Director of Hofstra University]; Larry Billman [Dance on Film Historian]; David Koch [UNICEF Special Projects Producer] and F.X. Feeney [Film Critic] pays tribute to Danny Kaye, who has been crowned "renaissance man" of entertainment, plus talk about his tireless charitable work with UNICEF. Danny Kaye's wide-ranging talent and commitment to UNICEF is explored through rare film clips in both black-and-white and colour.
Special Feature Documentary: Irving Berlin's ‘White Christmas’  [1080p] [16:9] [7:25] This very nice documentary, features Debby Boone [Singer/Actress and Rosemary Clooney’s Daughter-in-Law]; Bruce Pomahac [Director of Music at The Roger and Hammerstein Organization]; Ruth Prigozy [Professor at Hofstra University]; Dr. Drew Casper [USC Professor]; Garry Giddins [Author of “Bing Crosby: A Pocketful of Dreams”]; Linda Emmet [Irving Berlin’s Daughter]; Theodore S. Chaplin [President of The Roger and Hammerstein Organization] and Kevin McCollum [Producer of White Christmas: The Stage Musical] and talk extensively about the multi-talented Composer/Lyricist Irving berlin and also the story behind one of the most famous holiday songs ever written and is chronicled in this slick documentary. Irving Berlin's daughter provides first-hand accounts of her father's background, how he composed, and the impact of his work.
Special Feature Documentary: Rosemary's Old Kentucky Home  [480i] [4:3] [13:25] With this unique featured documentary, we get to tour round Rosemary Clooney’s home in Augusta, Kentucky, where we get to hear from Nick Clooney [Rosemary Clooney's brother]; Heather French Henry [Museum Owner]; Debby Boone [Rosemary Clooney’s Daughter-in-Law]; Nina Clooney [Rosemary Clooney’s Sister]; Mica Darley[ Rosemary Clooney’s Niece]; Steve French Henry [Museum Owner]; Randall Thropp [Paramount Archivist] talk about all aspects of Rosemary Clooney’s life and the other relatives discuss the singer's bond to her girlhood hometown and how her home was turned into a museum after her death. We also get a tour of the museum's exhibits that comprises a wealth of memorabilia from the film ‘White Christmas’ that has been loaned out from Paramount Picture, which is the bulk of this very interesting documentary.
Special Feature Documentary: White Christmas: From Page to Stage  [1080p] [16:9] [4:23] With this really interesting feature, we get to hear from Paul Blake [Co-Author of White Christmas: The Stage Musical]; Kevin McCollum [Producer of White Christmas: The Stage Musical]; Theodore S. Chaplin [President of The Roger and Hammerstein Organization]; Walter Bobbie [Director of White Christmas: The Stage Musical] and Bruce Pomahac [Director of Music at The Roger and Hammerstein Organization] who talk extensively about how they brought all of their artistic team together, to bring the classic film to fruition. We also get to hear about the stage adaptation and transforming the classic film musical into a Broadway successful show and the changes necessary to make it work. They also inform us that more songs were added to expand this hit stage musical success. It is a shame that White Christmas: The Stage Musical was never exported to the United Kingdom.
Special Feature Documentary: White Christmas: A Look Back with Rosemary Clooney [480i] [17:00] A holdover from the previous DVD release, this standard making-of documentary showcases Rosemary Clooney's memories, which run the gamut from casting and her relationship with Vera-Ellen to the chemistry between Danny Kaye and Bing Crosby and talks about the impromptu on-set visit by the King and Queen of Greece [which you see a short film clip], but Bing Crosby was absent, as he decided that playing golf was more important.
Special Feature: NEW! Photo Galleries: ‘White Christmas’ Black-and-White Photo Galleries: This section includes Rehearsals [11 images]; Behind-the-Scene [15 images]; Filming [19 images] and Publicity [9 images].
Theatrical Trailers: Original Theatrical Trailer for ‘White Christmas’ [1080p] [VistaVision] [2:26] and Theatrical Re-release Trailer [1080p] [VistaVision] [2:11].
NEW! BONUS: “The Sounds of Christmas” [12 Track Music Compact Disc] Tracks included: 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]; A Marshmallow World [Bing Crosby and Ella Fitzgerald]; The Christmas Song [Rosemary Clooney]; Just What I Wanted For Christmas [Bing Crosby]; Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town [Rosemary Clooney]; Jingle bells [Danny Kaye and Peggy Lee]; Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer [Bing Crosby and Judy garland]; Home For The Holidays [Rosemary Clooney]; Some Children See Him [Danny Kaye] and The Night before Christmas [Bing Crosby].
Finally, 'White Christmas' is one of Hollywood's most beloved holiday classics, and its arrival on this re-mastered Blu-ray is such good news indeed, especially as it a far superior to the previous Blu-ray release. Though the story may be trite, the talent and enthusiasm of the accomplished cast keeps this musical fresh and lively throughout repeated viewings. With a lush video transfer, solid audio (despite a few glitches) and a healthy spate of new extra supplements, so making this one Blu-ray disc that will brighten even Ebenezer Scrooge's day. It's also a huge step up from the previous inferior NTSC DVD release, and is well worth owning on Blu-ray. Because of all this, that is why I was so keen to own this classic festive film, especially as it has now been re-mastered on this Diamond Anniversary Edition, as it cannot be beaten and is also a timeless classic, as you get a warm glow viewing this amazing Blu-ray disc and that is why it is a great honour to have this included in my Blu-ray Collection. Very Highly Recommended!
Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Fan
Le Cinema Paradiso
WARE, United Kingdom