News Column

Film group sharing holiday tradition

December 7, 2013


Dec. 07--Friends of the Fox is bringing "White Christmas" to the Bob Hope Theatre on Sunday, the second time in three years it has shown the beloved Christmas musical as part of its classic film series.

"Our thinking was if it goes over, it might turn into a tradition," said Tom Conner, a member of the film selection committee who pushed for showing it again. "I can't think of a better film to have as a tradition."

The Friends will decide later whether the showing of the Bing Crosby-Danny Kaye-Rosemary Clooney-Vera-Ellen film becomes a yearly ritual, but for others, it already is.

"A Christmas tradition in our house," tweeted Joni Anderson.

"It puts you in the mood for Christmas," said Mike Bussey, a member of the Friends board that helped select the film.

"It's one of my favorite movies," said Chris Cunningham. "I watched it every year with my middle daughter, K.C."

"White Christmas," the story of two army pals who become a famous song-and-dance team after the war, meet a pair of sisters with their own act, and the four join forces to put on a fabulous Christmas Eve show to help save the struggling Vermont Inn owned by the men's former army colonel.

Its appeal has not wavered since 1954 when it was the top grossing film of the year.

"Vera-Ellens' legs," is what Cunningham admits to most loving about the film. But he also gives a nod to Crosby.

"How can you not love Bing Crosby?" Cunningham said. "He wasn't the best singer or dancer, but he was my favorite actor of all time. He was kind of your everyday guy who made it big. The movie is just good wholesome entertainment with great songs and dances."

Conner agrees.

"The thing I love the most is the music, the Irving Berlin score," Conner said. "'White Christmas,' 'Mandy,' all those wonderful Irving Berlin tunes. Of course, the early 1950s, it was a Technicolor spectacle. I love that. And I love that they didn't show them outside. Even as they're driving to the lodge, it's all on indoor sets. I like that feel.

"And, of course, Rosemary Clooney. I just love Rosemary Clooney, that husky voice, and I loved her looks. She was a jewel."

Barbara Zumwalt, metro editor of The Record, loves another of the stars.

"Danny Kaye's gray shoes in 'The Best Things Happen While You're Dancing,'" Zumwalt said of her favorite aspect of the film. "And the tight harmonies of 'Snow, Snow, Snow.'"

Those four voices were actually the work of just three. Rosemary Clooney sang Vera-Ellen's part and it was dubbed into the recording. Vera-Ellen only sings in the brief reprise of "Snow" when the quartet arrives in Vermont.

She was a dancer, with, Cunningham points out, beautiful legs.

The petite blond once rumored to be Fred Astaire's favorite dance partner, also wore stylish 1950s clothes, from the black and white check skirt with black turtleneck and red shoes and belt, to the flowing pink gown that pairs perfectly with Kaye's gray suit and shoes for their opening number together, "The Best Things Happen While You're Dancing."

When she was preparing to play Betty Haynes, the Rosemary Clooney role for last year's Stockton Civic Theatre production of the stage version of "White Christmas," actress Lydia Meriam-Pigg lovingly reminisced about growing up watching the movie, even choreographing a "Sisters" number for herself and her younger sister.

"I love the movie," Meriam-Pigg, said. "I watch it even when it isn't Christmas time. I love everything about it. "

The Friends of the Fox don't plan to show it other than during the holiday season, but if there's another good turnout -- in 2011 between 400 and 500 people watched it -- "White Christmas" may become a community tradition.

Contact reporter Lori Gilbert at (209) 546-8284 or Follow her on Twitter @LoriGRecord.


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