Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Twelve Days of "White Christmas"... Number 9. Six Secret Screenwriters

White Christmas may have turned out to be the top-grossing movie of 1954 and to this day a perennial holiday favorite, but after screenwriter Norman Krasna had his first look at a rough cut, he was appalled. 

Yet, while there were five other writers paid to work on the picture, the work was mostly Krasna’s. He spent more than a year on the film, writing four versions of the screenplay, in addition to years before creating an unproduced stage musical that he borrowed the basic plot from. In comparison, writers Jack Rose and Mel Shavelson (The Five Pennies, On the Double) spent a mere one week polishing Krasna’s third script, while Norman Panama and Mel Frank (Knock on Wood, The Court Jester) worked for just three weeks tweaking Krasna’s fourth script for Danny Kaye. 

Gag man Barney Dean was also paid to sit in during filming to make suggestions, as he did on most of the pictures starring his pals Bing Crosby and Bob Hope, but his contributions were usually minimal. 

Director Michael Curtiz and producer Robert Emmett Dolan also made numerous suggestions that were incorporated into the script—but they were all incorporated by Krasna.

Nonetheless, Krasna was so upset, he requested that the producers withhold his screenwriting credit and credit him instead for original story. But when news of Krasna's demands reached composer Irving Berlin, he said that if there were going to be a credit for original story, he wanted part of it, since (a) he worked on that unproduced stage musical with Krasna and (b) the real inspiration for the whole project was his song “White Christmas.”

In the end, Krasna relented, and shared screenwriting credit with Panama and Frank.

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