The Rosemary Clooney House, home to the world’s largest collection of White Christmas movie memorabilia, is bringing its sister act to Covington’s Behringer-Crawford Museum.
“We wanted to keep the collection close to home this year,” says Heather French Henry, Miss America 2000 and Augusta native. In 2005, she and her husband, former Kentucky Lt. Gov. Steve Henry, bought the 1840s house and established a foundation to preserve the Augusta riverfront residence that Clooney called home for more than 20 years.
“Also, the Behringer-Crawford is located in the Tri-State Area, (where Cincinnati, Ohio, northern Kentucky and southeast Indiana converge) where Rosemary got her start,” Henry adds.
From November 12 through mid-January of 2023, the White Christmas collection will fill four galleries in the Devou Park museum. The exhibit includes original costumes from the classic 1954 holiday musical worn by its famous cast: Kentucky’s own “girl singer” Clooney as Betty Haynes; Vera-Ellen, who grew up across the Ohio River in the Cincinnati suburb of Norwood, as Judy Haynes; Bing Crosby as Bob Wallace; and Danny Kaye as Phil Davis.
“The movie combines military history, entertainment, humanity and musical mastery,” says Laurie Risch, executive director at the Behringer-Crawford Museum. “We’re so excited to showcase this iconic display.”
Clooney’s costumes include her green cocktail dress, brown train dress and red robe worn during the Count Your Blessings number. Vera Ellen’s include her white cocktail dress, donned for her fake engagement announcement to Phil, and the tiny sequined costume from the splashy Mandy number wherein she taps, flips and flies through the air and up and down a grand staircase—in heels, no less.
The most well-known and the favorite among the collection’s costumes, which were created for the movie by legendary designer Edith Head, are the frothy blue Sisters dresses. They are accompanied by the blue feather fans from the Sisters scene and a later scene in which Crosby and Kaye bring down the house (Novello’s Nightclub) with their own cheeky interpretation of the song.
“People know this movie by its songs and costumes,” says Henry. “When you talk about other Hollywood films in this genre, the costumes are beautiful, but they’re not iconic. White Christmas has several iconic costumes that people love.”
The Sisters dresses top the list. Another is the gorgeous red gown trimmed with white fur and muff that wows in the movie’s closing scene. The Rosemary Clooney House has a reproduction of this dress, and it is included in the Behringer-Crawford’s exhibit. The other reproduction is the black velvet gown Clooney wears for the soulful Love, You Didn’t Do Right By Me number.
“We’re still searching for this costume,” says Henry.
Other original pieces include Vera Ellen’s leopard hat, the military uniform worn by Crosby and Clooney’s white rhinestone gloves. Worn in the same scene as the black velvet gown, the gloves are Henry’s favorite costume piece—and one about which George Chakiris (another actor from Norwood, Ohio, and a key dancer in the Love, You Didn’t Do Right By Me number) had some behind-the-scenes scoop.
Chakiris told Henry that the jewels were pave rhinestones with prong settings that would catch and snag on whatever Clooney touched.
“When you watch the movie, you’ll notice that Rosemary moves her hands a bit gingerly in that scene,” she says. “She got very frustrated that the gloves kept catching.”
Additionally, visitors can see original lobby cards, rare posters, photos, sheet music, marketing memorabilia—including Tonner collectible character dolls—and more.
“People have such an emotional attachment to White Christmas,” says Henry. “It’s so powerful for families, a great intergenerational movie—grandparents show it to their grandchildren, parents show it to their children.”
“It’s on my ‘must-watch’ Christmas movie list each year,” says Risch. “And if you have a sister, I dare you NOT to sing along with her for the Sisters song!”
The Rosemary Clooney House White Christmas Collection is sure to add to the holiday fun of the Behringer-Crawford Museum’s annual Holly Jolly Days celebration, which bursts to festive life November 12 through January 8 with its elaborate, highly detailed Holiday Toy Trains chugging along 250 feet of track. Featuring dozens of buttons to push to activate carnival rides, ice skaters, a cow-abducting UFO and more, the Eight O-gauge Lionel model trains perfectly complement White Christmas in which trains play such an important role.
Holly Jolly Days also features WinterWonderland, an outdoor holiday light show that winds through the museum’s Nature Play area.
1600 Montague Road (Devou Park), Covington
General admission is $9; $8, seniors; $5, children ages 3-17. Wednesdays are Grandparents Days with one grandchild admitted free with each paying grandparent. Hours: 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Tuesday–Saturday; 1–5 p.m. Sunday. Also open Monday, Dec. 26 and Jan 2, and some evenings for WinterWonderland activities. Closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.