Bereft of a topic for today’s narrative, I cast my gaze over towards the gogglebox in the opposite corner of the room. On screen Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and the other blonde lass whose name currently escapes me, heartily warble the song ‘White Christmas’, while festively adorning in red Santa garments.
Evoking memories of Christmas’ past, Bing and his cohorts melodic lament is as integral a part of the festive season as Scrooge’s avarice, buying boxes of dates no one eats and George Bailey’s feckless uncle losing $8,000 in the movie It’s A Wonderful Life.
Watching the artists sing melodiously, while Vermont’s first snow of the season flutters intemperately in the background, I can’t help but think to myself “Bloody hell, Bing Crosby’s ears didn’t half stick out!”
Irving Berlin’s 100 million selling song, which has also been recorded by many with less protruding ears, had its inaugural screen airing in the movie Holiday Inn (1942).Three years prior to its more famous outing in the movie White Christmas.
Apparently, over the years, there has been around 500 recordings of the song in multiple languages. My particular favourite, apart from Crosby’s, is the version my wife’s father laments in Frontier Gibberish.
It’s an eccentric version but always good entertainment. He puts his own mark on the lyric by incorporating his love for Sainsbury’s supermarket, in addition to crooning of the merits of slow release bonemeal over winter in your garden borders.
Karen’s dad’s version didn’t go to number 1 in the Billboard charts for a number of weeks, or sell 50 million copies like Bing’s version. However his advice relating to bonemeal’s soil nourishment qualities have brought my garden on a treat.
Berlin’s song is a comfort blanket of a tune, evoking fond memories of home, family and yuletide cheer. In 1942 it won an Academy Award for Best Original Song, in the movie Holiday Inn. The film had a mixed night at the Oscars, though, as Crosby lost out in the Best Supporting Ears category to an Elephant in a Tarzan movie.
Crosby, a consummate professional, wasn’t fazed by this despite also losing out the same category to Dumbo, in 1941. He was fairly philosophical about the whole thing, preferring to concentrate on his abundance of singing and acting achievements than any fuss made about the size of his listening devices.
The first verse of the song White Christmas in both movies is:-
I’m dreaming of a White Christmas
Just Like the One’s I used to know
Where the treetops glisten and children listen
To hear sleigh bells in the snow.
I tried to weigh that verse against my childhood in 1970’s Gateshead. In particular, asking myself “Do those words encapsulate my Christmas’ as a kid?”
With regards the first and second lines, it is true we tended to have more snow at Christmas back in the day. Saying we dreamt about it, though, is pushing it a bit.
As for lines three and four, the treetops did glisten I suppose. However, my brother and I, who shared the same room, gave up listening for sleigh bells on Christmas Eve. Any chance of them being audible was rendered useless by the noises of flatulence, my football crowd impersonations and our Ian asking “Do you think Santa’s been yet”.
Thanks Bing et al for the fond memories that always materialise from hearing your feel good song. For a few weeks every year, you contribute towards making things merry and bright in chez Strachan. Although, I suspect, your desire for it be a white yuletide will remain a dream.