Who Knew? “White Christmas” Was Actually About… Beverly Hills!
The famed holiday tune actually aims a little snark at the L.A. lifestyle.
There may be no more American song than “White Christmas.” Written by Irving Berlin (who was Jewish, of course), made famous by Bing Crosby in the movies Holiday Inn (1942) and White Christmas (1954), the tune was even used to signal the pullout of U.S. forces from Vietnam in 1975. To listen to it or to sing it, whether you’re a soldier, a civilian, or a celebrity, is to pine for a practically patriotic scene of a fully flurried homestead.
But Berlin, it turns out, had something much less serious and much more satirical in mind: roasting Hollywood types.
Berlin, primarily a New Yorker, spent his fair share of time in Hollywood scoring films and musicals, and his plan for “White Christmas” was as a short satirical ditty in between other numbers in a variety show. As he wrote it (neither at the La Quinta Hotel nor at the Arizona Biltmore, as popular legends have it, but at a friend’s home in Beverly Hills, according to Jody Rosen, author of “White Christmas”: The Story of an American Song), it was a mockery of cosmopolitan film-industry players who sat around their Beverly Hills pools nostalgically mourning the loss of a supposedly quaint, pastoral Christmas.
Yet another New Yorker mocking Angelenos, you might ask? Well, the warm and sunny Christmas Eve scene he paints doesn’t sound so bad when you listen to his infrequently-performed hidden verse. See if you can catch it in this 1968 Hollywood Palace taping of Crosby:
Okay, here it is:
The sun is shining
The grass is green
The orange and palm trees sway
There’s never been such a day in Beverly Hills L.A.
But it’s December the 24th
And I’m longing to be up north
If that’s satire, we’ll take it. We’ll be playing you by the pool come December 24, Irving.
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