How the music video for 80’s hit song “Last Christmas” by the group Wham came to be filmed in Saas-Fee in Switzerland is a story of chance.
According to Blick, roughly a year before the video was shot, Beat Anthamatten, director of the Grand Hotel Walliserhof in Saas-Fee, met one of the crew filming a movie staring Bill Murray in the town.
In 1984, Anthamatten was contacted by a film scout via the crew member he’d met earlier. The video for “Last Christmas” had to be shot in a snowy location. However, there wasn’t much snow in Europe at the time except in Saas-Fee. So the location scout called Anthamatten in desperation as the video had to be shot in a hurry before Christmas. According to some accounts, Gstaad, a resort in the canton of Bern, was the originally planned location. But Gstaad sits at 1,050 m compared to Saas-Fee, which is at an altitude of 1,800 m.
A chalet was quickly found on the outskirts of Saas-Fee and a film crew of around 40 people arrived.
The interior shots were not filmed in the chalet because it did not have a chimney, which was a requirement. Instead, all of the interior shots were filmed at the town’s cultural centre.
During filming, the band stayed at the Hotel Walliserhof. Legend has it that George Michael wanted to be transported to film shoots in a stretched limo, an undeliverable request in a car-free town where the only modes of transport are feet or small electric taxis.
Today, there isn’t much to see. The chalet is hidden from view by large trees and the cultural centre is rundown and closed to the public. Felskinnbahn, the lift used in the gondola scenes remains, however, it has been upgraded and looks little like it did in the 80s.
Despite the passage of 38 years, the song quietly remains somewhat of a local anthem in Saas-Fee. During the Christmas season the tune can be heard from time to time in the gondolas. It’s our song, said Roger Schmid, one of the gondola drivers in the village. Other than this there are few signs in the village that the video for the famous Christmas song was filmed there.
After the untimely death of Wham singer George Michael at the age of 53 in December 2016 a Christmas tree was set up in the town as a memorial. Anyone who wanted to could hang something on it as a tribute to the singer.
For those wishing to see the filming locations, blogger Matthias Schwarzer takes viewers on a tour the streets of Saas-Fee in search of them.
Blick article (in German)