Audio Commentary - Rosemary Clooney provides us with an insider’s view on the production of ‘White Christmas’. It takes a while to get into her stride as, at the start she chuckles at the on screen antics of her co-stars rather than supply useful information. No doubt it brought back some happy memories. Once she does get going, she discusses the work of composer Irving Berlin and her admiration for his work shines through. She also shows tremendous respect for the professionalism of Bing Crosby and his own personal style. There’s genuine affection here. We hear how a typical day on the production would pan out and the amount of effort put in by all concerned. There’s not an awful lot of detail here and there are significant gaps, but it does allow you to watch the movie in peace for a while.
Backstage Stories from ‘White Christmas’ (HD, 12 mins) - This short focuses on things like the casting of ‘White Christmas’ including how Danny Kaye came to get his part after Fred Astaire and Donald O’Connor had fallen by the wayside. The talented four main stars are showcased and we hear from dancer George Chakiris (West Side Story), who appears in a scene with Rosemary Clooney. A bunch of film historians chip in and cover the Vista-vision process as well as the movie’s longevity.
Rosemary’s Old Kentucky Home (HD, 13 mins) - George Clooney’s Dad (and Rosemary Clooney’s brother) Nick tells us how attached Rosemary was to the town of her childhood. So much so that she bought a house there. After her death, her home was turned into a museum so we get a look at many of the exhibits including some of the costumes from ‘White Christmas’.
Bing Crosby: Christmas Crooner (HD, 14 mins) - Here we get a look at Bing’s childhood home in Spokane as well as the Gonzaga University archive dedicated to him. His family and friends give us some background on his personality and we hear how important ‘White Christmas’ was in his career.
Danny Kaye: Joy to the World (HD, 13 mins) - In this brief look at the career of the great all round entertainer, Robert Wagner, composer Leslie Bricusse and Kaye’s daughter Dena give us an insight into the man they knew and loved. We hear of the tremendous charity work and how he raised the international profile of Unicef as its first ambassador.
Irving Berlin’s ‘White Christmas’ (HD, 7 mins) - Berlin’s daughter provides us with some information on her Dad’s background which helps us to understand his way of working. The way ‘White Christmas' came about is explained in an interesting manner.
‘White Christmas’: From Page to Screen (HD, 4 mins) - This short looks at the changes required to convert the movie into a successful Broadway stage show.
‘White Christmas’: A Look back with Rosemary Clooney (SD, 17 mins) - A previously released ‘Making of’ doco with Rosemary sharing her memories – covering casting, working with Vera-Ellen as well as Crosby and Kaye. There’s an interesting tale about a set visit from the King & Queen of Greece.
Trailers (HD, 5 mins total) - Here we get the original release trailer as well as one for the movie’s re-issue.
That all time Yuletide favourite ‘White Christmas’ toboggans on to UK Region free Blu-ray with a highly impressive looking 1080p AVC/MPEG-4 transfer framed in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio. Strong colours, great contrast and just a hint of film grain spice up the first Vista-vision movie to hit the big screen.
The DTS-HD MA 5.1 remixed audio doesn’t really live up to the standards set by the picture quality. It’s good but not special. Stick to the original mono – also on the disc.
A handful of HD mini featurettes and a commentary by Rosemary Clooney provide fans with the background to the movie they desire.
Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen provide great Festive entertainment with some well known Irving Berlin musical numbers including – oh, what’s it called again – ah yes ‘White Christmas’.
‘White Christmas’ snowballs onto UK Region free Blu-ray with a first rate 1080p AVC/MPEG-4 transfer framed in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The movie’s original aspect ratio was 1.66:1 so there will be a small amount of picture area missing top and bottom of frame, but nothing you would notice.
The film looks absolutely superb and far better than I’ve ever seen it look before on TV or DVD. The image is sharp as a tack, notwithstanding the occasional soft focus shot of the female leads. Colour has a great strength to it. Skin tones have a warmish hue. Overall there’s a greater density than you’d expect from a normal 35mm print and this may be down to the larger negative area of the Vista-vision original – although I have no confirmation that a Vista-vision (sideways) print was used for the transfer. In the ‘Sisters’ number, the girls’ blue dresses and ostrich feather fans have a wonderful vibrancy in the spotlight that shouts ‘Showbiz’ from the screen. The colour design for the movie was of a pastel nature, so that this and the finale with the red Christmas costumes would look dazzling. It certainly does bring out the best in the Technicolor photography. Contrast is excellent throughout and we also get impressively deep blacks. I’m thinking here of the dress worn by Rosemary Clooney as she performs her torch song number in the floor show sequence. There’s just a very fine smattering of grain to remind us that it was all shot on film using William Fox ‘Natural Color’ cameras, modified for Vista-vision.
This movie is very pleasing to behold on Blu-ray, hitting you between the eyes whether you see it on a 50 inch plasma or projected on a 7 foot screen.
‘White Christmas’ was originally released with a mono soundtrack and Paramount has provided a restored version of this as well as a newly remixed DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround track. The mono version has been cleaned up and sounds good for what it is, so those wishing to stick with the way it was originally intended to be heard will have little to complain about. The lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track adds a level of spaciousness to the mostly front weighted soundstage, but there’s a certain lack of detail in surround that we’ve become accustomed to with modern movies. This should come as no great surprise considering the vintage of the source, but your ears do tend to home in on it. The dialogue is clear enough and the musical numbers have a richness that pleases including some deep bass as Bing gets on down there, it’s just that there’s hardly any use of the surrounds to justify their existence. There’s no room filling swell with the musical numbers that you’d hope would add to the involvement. All the same, it still sounds pretty good for a movie that’s over half a century old.
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