UPDATED BLU-RAY REVIEW / FRAME SHOTS
"White Christmas" stars Bing Crosby as entertainer Bob Wallace, Danny Kaye as stage partner Phil Davis, and Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen as the Haynes Sisters. "White Christmas" was the No. 1 box office movie of 1954.
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“WHITE CHRISTMAS: DIAMOND ANNIVERSARY EDITION”
Blu-ray, Digital copy; 1954, unrated; Streaming via Amazon Prime Video, Apple, FandangoNOW, Google Play, Vudu, YouTube
Best extra: A commentary with co-star Rosemary Clooney, George Clooney's remarkable aunt
WITH THE FAMILY arriving for Christmas, why not gather them all around your 4K or HDTV and pop-in or cue up the 60th-anniversary edition of the timeless holiday classic "White Christmas."
Paramount has loaded the Blu-ray with a handful of previously unreleased bonus features including Christmas TV musical clips from Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye, stars of the film based on Irving Berlin's classic. The most charming is a toe-tapping rendition of "Jingle Bells" from Kaye and the legendary Nat King Cole; it originally aired Dec. 25, 1963. A close second is Kaye's fireside reading of Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" – guaranteed to warm your heart. Grammy winner Michael Bublé recaptures the magic of Crosby's "White Christmas" vocals as the Canadian singer and Crosby are digitally brought together on the same stage. (The ballad is only 54 words. It was an instant wartime hit, originally recorded May 29, 1942. Berlin, a Russian immigrant, handpicked American's favorite crooner Crosby to sing the song with its message of yearning for happier days.)
Kaye's love for children is shown in a vintage 1950's documentary, "Assignment Children," where the actor/singer/dancer visits kids in Burma, India, and Japan. Kaye served as the first UNICEF goodwill ambassador, a role he honorably held for 33-years. Bublé introduces the feature.
(1) "White Christmas" was Paramount's first VistaVision widescreen movie and directed by Michael Curtiz ("Casablanca") (2) Captain Bob Wallace entertains the troops on Christmas Eve near the World War II frontlines. (3&4) Dean Jagger as Major Gen. Thomas F. Waverly, who's being relieved of his command of the 151 Division. (5) Bob Wallace visits Phil Davis in the field hospital after he saved Wallace during a bombing raid.
There's also a sing-along pop-up lyrics option, so everyone in the family can join in on numbers like "Count Your Blessings," "The Best Things Happen When You're Dancing," "Sisters" and "Snow."
The "White Christmas" picture and sound are nearly faultless, clones of the previous 2010 mastered (1.78:1 aspect ratio), which looks so good it's possibly a 4K master from the original three-strip Technicolor camera negative. The natural film grain is small and tight. Paramount filmed "White Christmas" using its then-revolutionary VistaVision widescreen format. It utilized standard 35mm film stock, but instead of running the film vertically through the camera, VistaVision runs horizontally. This technique provided an exposed negative nearly double the size of the vertical process. It means the picture has incomparable clarity and detail, much more than re-masters in Fox's CinemaScope and other widescreen formats. Director Martin Scorsese calls VistaVision "high fidelity '50s movie making." The soundtrack has also been reworked to create an active, uncompressed six-channel DTS-HD surround sound. For purists, they also include the original mono track.
If there's one shortcoming in the Diamond Anniversary, it's that its Technicolor negative is out of register during a three-minute segment near the beginning, causing a slight ghosting effect.
"White Christmas" would be an excellent candidate for a true 4K remaster with HDR. Maybe Paramount will provide the gift in the coming year or so.
(1) The Haynes Sisters - Judy and Betty perform at a night club in Florida. (3) “The Best Things Happen While You’re Dancing” with Phil Davis and Judy Haynes. (3) Wallace and Davis perform the Haynes Sisters act so the sisters can escape a possible arrest by the local sheriff. (4) Wallace and Davis join the Haynes Sisters, who are heading to Pine Tree, Vermont for a series of dates at the Columbia Inn ski resort. The foursome sings Irving Berlin's lighthearted tune "Snow."
Bonus features are half-dozen carryovers from previous editions giving you the complete insiders' story. One of the more interesting tales tells how Crosby knew he had a holiday blockbuster on his hands since "White Christmas," the song, had already sold 100 million copies. Still, Berlin worried about the film project. Crosby eventually calmed the legendary composer. "Don't worry," he said. "We're not going to wreck it," film critic F.X. Feeney says.
Paramount pulled out all the stops on this rework of "Holiday Inn" (1942), which initially featured Berlin's Oscar-winning song. Hoping to re-create the same chemistry, the studio tried to reunite Crosby with Fred Astaire. No luck; Crosby's chum wasn't available. Next up was Donald O'Connor, but he became ill. After months of delay, they found the perfect match: Danny Kaye, tagged The Kid from Brooklyn. Singer Rosemary Clooney and petite Vera-Ellen, the most versatile dancer in Hollywood, also joined the show.
Clooney's commentary recorded 20-years ago, is a hoot. She can't help herself from singing with Crosby and Kaye during this jaunt down memory lane. She laughs, recalling that the movie wasn't a hard job; the set shut down every afternoon so Crosby could play golf.
Additional HD extras take viewers on a tour of Clooney's home in Augusta, Kentucky, while interviewing her brother Nick (George's father), a former TV anchorman, and Heather French Henry (Miss America 2000), who turned Clooney's home along the Ohio River into a museum. Another featurette highlights Crosby's museum in Spokane, Wash. Interviews include film historians, and Crosby's wife Kathryn and son Harry. A look at Kaye's life has interviews with his daughter and a featurette showcasing Berlin in family interviews.
"White Christmas" is perfect viewing all year long.
— Bill Kelley III, High-Def Watch producer
Wallace and Davis discover Gen. Waverly as the owner of the Columbia Inn.
(1) Wallace and Davis decided to move their New York production to the Inn, so Gen. Waverly can have some business. The ski slopes have been closed since Thanksgiving, with above normal temperatures and no snow. (2) Phil and Judy announce their engagement, with hopes it will push Bob and Betty toward the same decision. (3) Judy tells Betty, "I know we always said we'd never break up the act, but that wasn't really very realistic. We both knew that someday one of us or both of us would want to be free." (4) Betty goes out on her own for a number of dates at The Carousel Club in New York City singing "Love - You Didn't Do Right."
(1-4) Phil Davis fakes a fall to keep the General from watching The Ed Harrison Show. During the TV broadcast, Bob Wallace makes a special announcement to the men of the 151st Division who served under Gen. Waverly. They've planned a surprise Christmas Eve 10th Anniversary reunion at the Columbia Inn. (5&6) During the Wallace and Davis Christmas Eve show, Betty returns for the singing of "White Christmas" and on cue snow starts to fall.