Friday, December 14, 2012

The Twelve Days of "White Christmas"... Number 11. Two Hoofers Limping

The best things don’t always happen while you’re dancing, particulary if you’re trying to sing “The Best Things Happen While You’re Dancing” at the same time.

Irving Berlin composed and Robert Alton choreographed one solo (“Choreography”) for Donald O’Connor and one duet (“Best Things”) for O’Connor and Vera-Ellen. When Danny Kaye took over the role, it quickly became obvious that while Kaye was a good dancer, he lacked the technical skills required to carry a complicated solo. So, during the “Choreography” number, he sang the song and performed a few basic moves, then stepped to the side and let a professional take over.

That wouldn’t really work for a “falling in love” song like “Best Things.” So the hope was that Vera-Ellen could cover up—if not elevate—Danny’s dancing. Unfortunately, while rehearsing the number, Vera-Ellen injured a finger on her right hand while sliding on a rail. She went to the hospital the next day for X-rays and had to wear a splint on her finger for several days.

Rehearsing the number again three days later, this time it was Danny's turn to get hurt. While performing a swinging turn on a bar, he landed on the side of his right foot and turned his ankle. A medic tended to his injury on the scene.

Miraculously, the number turned out beautifully—by far Danny’s most accomplished dance on film. And somehow nobody got killed. Although if you watch really closely at the very end, as Vera-Ellen twirls behind a kneeling Kaye, she trips over his leg.


  1. One of my favorite dancing duets ever! I love how Edith Head dyed his socks and shoes to match his suit exactly. After watching it countless times, it seems to me that Vera-Ellen also almost falls off the canoe structure towards the end...but that may be my imagination.

  2. Thank you, Jeanine! I'm going to have to watch that canoe sequence a little closer.

  3. Thanks for the background. I wanted to know more about this number. Every year I've watched it and love it and wonder what pains it took to make the number look so smooth and easy when I know dancing is hard work.

  4. Thanks for the comments! For more behind-the-scenes stories about "White Christmas," check out the other 11 articles in this series, as well as that terrific book "Danny Kaye: King of Jesters"!