Saturday 31 December 2016

Bundle of Joy

Bundle of Joy is a musical remake of the film Bachelor Mother (1939) which starred Ginger Rogers and David Niven.  The remake stars Debbie Reynolds, a salesgirl named Peggy Parish, who is working at a department during the Christmas rush.  During her lunch break, Peggy sees someone abandon her baby on the department store steps.  She decides to bring the baby home and raise the infant as her own.  When a relationship blossoms between Peggy and the department store owner's son, played by real life husband Eddie Fisher, her co-workers start to question if he is the father of the baby.

Note:  Debbie Reynolds was pregnant with real life daughter Carrie Fisher during production of Bundle of Joy.  

Friday 30 December 2016

The Great Rupert

Rosalinda Amendola (Terry Moore), the daughter of former acrobats, is in the love with the aspiring composer, Pete Dingle (Tom Drake), who lives next door.  Pete's parents are wealthy, but his miserly father insists on hiding his wealth in a hole in the wall.  A former vaudevillian, Joe Mahoney (Jimmy Conlin), is homeless and must part with his pet squirrel, Rupert.

As Christmas approaches, Rosalinda's parents are destitute.  The former acrobat, played by Jimmy Durante, and his wife (Queenie Smith) pray for a solution to their money problems.  Shortly thereafter, money seemingly falls from heaven through the ceiling.  Unbeknowst to the former acrobat, Joe's pet squirrel, Rupert, has made a home in the wall and the money has gotten in his way.  All of a sudden, the acrobat is able to pay his outstanding debts and even help the needed business owners in town.  The FBI, suspicious of the acrobat's sudden wealth, arrives at his doorstep to investigate.

Jimmy Durante's characgter plays piano with the uninvited guest courtesy

Thursday 29 December 2016

I'll Be Seeing You

I'll Be Seeing You, based on Double Furlough by Charles Martin, premiered in 1944.  Prison inmate Mary Marshall, played by Ginger Rogers, meets shelled-shocked sergeant Zachary Morgan (Joseph Cotten) on a train headed for Pinehill.  The two immediately are drawn to each other.  Mary invites Zach for Christmas dinner at her aunt and uncle's house.  Later, the two go to the movie theatre and watch a World War II film.  Zach goes mute, however, when Mary questions him about his experiences in the war.

The next day, Zach invites Mary to the lake where he opens up about his shell shock.  Mary ponders telling him about her time in prison. but her Aunt Sarah advises against it.  Mary's boss had invited her to a party one night.  When she arrived she discovered she was the only guest.  Her boss made unwanted advances, she pushed him away and he accidentally fell out an open window.  Mary was charged with manslaughter.

In the meantime, Mary's cousin Barbara unwittingly divulges the former's prison sentence.  When Zach leaves town, he is distant with Mary.  However, when she returns to the prison, he is waiting there and declares his love for her.

Wednesday 28 December 2016

Little Women

"You don't need scores of suitors.  You need only one...if he's the right one." (Little Women)

As the Civil War rages on to the South, the four March sisters face Christmas in New England without their father who is off on the battlefield.  Jo, played by Katharine Hepburn, is a tomboy who aspires to be an author.  She writes plays for her three sisters to perform for local children.  She also caters to the whims of her wealthy Aunt March.  Amy (Joan Bennett) is the pretty, but selfish sister; Meg (Frances Dee) works as a seamstress; and Beth (Jean Parker) is the sensitive, musical sister.

A young man named Laurie (Douglass Montgomery) moves in next door and takes an interest in Jo.  His tutor, John, courts Meg.  Beth takes the opportunity to practice on Laurie's piano while he lives there.  Their mother learns that their father has been injured and is recuperating in a Washington DC hospital.  She travels there to stay with him.


In the meantime, Beth contracts Scarlet Fever from a neighbour's baby and becomes very ill.  The March parents return home and Meg marries John.  Laurie declares his love for Jo, but she rejects him.  Hurt, Laurie in turn rejects Jo and she moves to New York City to pursue her writing career. There, she meets a German linguist named Professor Bhaer (Paul Lukas) who coaches her in her writing.

With Beth debilitated and lying at death's door, Jo returns home.  Beth passes away.  Laurie declares his love for Amy, a girl who accompanied Aunt March to Europe.  Professor Bhaer follows Jo to Concord and proposes.

Note:  Little Women is based on the 1868 book by Louisa May Alcott.  Upon its 1933 premiere at Radio City Music Hall, it earned more than $100,000 during its first week.  Budgeted at $1 million, the film's production included 4,000 employees and 3,000 separate items (costumes, furnishings, household items) that had to be authenticated.

Tuesday 27 December 2016

The Christmas Story

The Cleveland neighbourhood where the movie was filmed courtesy

It is Christmas in Hammond, Indiana in the 1940's.  Nine-year-old boy Ralphie Parker wants a Red Ryder air rifle.  His mother tells him that it's not a good idea; he'll shoot his eye out.  His teacher, Miss Shields, echoes what his mother said.  The department store Santa Claus feels the same way.

On Christmas morning, Ralphie opened all of his presents, but didn't receive the coveted Red Ryder rifle.  However, "the Old Man" pointed out that there was one present left unopened.  Ralphie tore it open to discover the air rifle.

Ralphie couldn't wait to try out his new toy in the backyard.  He placed a target on a metal sign in the backyard and started shooting at it.  However, the BB ricochets back at Ralphie and knocks his glasses off.  Rendered "blind" in the process, Ralphie really thinks the BB has knocked his eye out and accidentally steps on his glasses, crushing them.  Later his mother asks him what happened to his glasses and he makes up a story about an icicle falling off the roof and shattering them.  The film ends with Ralphie lying in bed Christmas night, the Red Ryder rifle by his side.

The Christmas Story is based on Jean Shepherd's 1966 novel In God We Trust:  All Others Pay Cash. (

Ralphie gets his tongue stuck to a pole in The Christmas Story courtesy

Monday 26 December 2016

The Man Who Came to Dinner

Premiering in 1942, The Man Who Came to Dinner stars Monty Woolley as outspoken radio personality, Sheridan Whiteside, who slips on the icy steps of a prominent Ohio family and requests that he recuperate in their home over the Christmas holidays.  Mr. Whiteside insinuates himself into the lives of the residents of the Ohio home.  He encourages young adults Richard and June to pursue their dreams, contrary to what their father has suggested.

Meanwhile, Mr. Whiteside's spinster assistant Maggie, played by Bette Davis, finds herself attracted to local newspaperman Bert Jefferson (Richard Travis).  Maggie announces she is going to marry Bert, but Mr. Whiteside realizes he can't lose her, and thus tries sabotaging the relationship.  Mr. Whiteside exaggerates the extent of his injury in order to remain longer at the Ohio home.  He suggests that Lorraine Sheldon would be a perfect co-star in a play hoping she will steal Bert Jefferson away from Maggie.  

Ann Sheridan as Lorraine in The Man Who Came to Dinner courtesy

Maggie, catching on to the conniving Mr. Whiteside, quits her job.  Mr. Whiteside tries to get Lorraine out of the picture by trapping her in an Egyptian sarcophagus and shipping her off to Nova Scotia.  Finally, the Ohio homeowner, realizing Mr. Whiteside is faking his injuries, orders him to leave.  But as he walks down the steps, he slips again on the ice and goes back into the house to convalesce.

Sunday 25 December 2016

All Mine to Give

All Mine to Give (1957) is based on the novel The Day They Gave The Babies Away which first appeared in Cosmopolitan in December of 1946.  Inspired by a true story, All Mine to Give follows a Scottish couple, Robert and Mamie Eunson who immigrates to America in 1856.  They plan to settle in a Midwest logging village where the wife's aunt and uncle live.  However, upon arrival, the couple discovers that the aunt and uncle have died in a house fire.

Locals help Robert, played by Cameron Mitchell, rebuild the house while Mamie (Glynis Johns) waits expectantly for their first child to arrive.  She gives birth to boy, Robbie, and the family prospers.  Robbie is followed by five more children.  Tragedy strikes when one of the children, Kirk, develops diptheria.  While he recovers under quarantine, Robert succumbs to the disease which he contracted from Kirk due to a goodbye kiss.

Stability returns to the Eunson family for a brief time after Mamie finds a job as a seamstress and Robbie takes on the role of "man of the house".  However, an exhausted Mamie contracts typhoid and charges Robbie to look after the children.  After she passes away, Robbie must find homes for all of his siblings on Christmas day.  He remains stoic, even after he gives away the last child, baby Jane. However, he breaks down when he spots the tree outside the family homestead into which his dad had carved the names of all of the children.

Saturday 24 December 2016

Remember the Night

Remember the Night is a Christmas film which debuted in 1940.  A young woman, played by Barbara Stanwyck, is arrested for shoplifting on Christmas Eve.  The district attorney assigned to her case, played by Fred McMurray, pushes to have her trail postponed until after the Christmas vacation.  In the meantime, the accused and the lawyer fall in love.  In a twist of fate, "love reformed her and corrupted him".  A series of events threaten to send the young couple to jail.

Friday 23 December 2016

The Gift of the Magi

The short story, The Gift of the Magi, written by O. Henry first appeared in print in December of 1905.  The original story features a young married couple who are destitute, but would like to buy each other Christmas presents.  The wife sells her long flowing hair to buy her husband a platinum pocket watch fob chain.  Her husband sells his pocket watch to buy her beautiful combs for her long hair.  O. Henry ends the story by comparing the couples' sacrificial gifts to the gifts of the Magi presented to the baby Jesus over 2000 years ago.  A film adaptation of the story, O Henry's Full House, premiered in 1952, giving us the same theme that it is better to give than to receive (

Thursday 22 December 2016

Holiday Affair

Holiday Affair, based on John D. Weaver's story, Christmas Gift, premiered on December 24, 1949. New York City Christmas clerk, Steve Mason, played by Robert Mitchum, waits on a beautiful lady, Connie, played by Janet Leigh, who buys an expensive train set from him, no questions asked.  Steve suspects that Connie is part of a shopping scheme with a rival department store and is about to turn her in.  However, he chooses not to after he finds out that she is a war widow with a young son.  The clerk's supervisor fires him, but he continues to pursue the beautiful woman, getting to know her young son in the process.  

On Christmas Day, the young son, Timmy discovers the expensive train set under the tree, the one his mother had returned.  It turns out that Steve, even though he couldn't afford it, purchased the set for Timmy.  In turn, Timmy invites him for Christmas dinner.  It's a complicated affair since Timmy's mother's boyfriend is also present along with her former in-laws.  The two men rival for her affection. The following day, Timmy returns the train to give Steve back his money, but his request is refused when the department store owner discovers one of the cars is damaged.

A few days later, Connie prepares to attend a New Year's Eve party alone.  Timmy points out that once he grows up, she will be all alone.  She finally admits that she is in love with Steve and buys a train ticket for California to reunite with him.

Timmy's grandparents play with the train with him on Christmas morning courtesy

Wednesday 21 December 2016

Christmas Under Fire

'I acquired a hunger for fairy tales in the dark days of the blackout and blitz in the Second World War." (A. S. Byatt)

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A link to the film courtesy

Christmas Under Fire was commissioned by the Ministry of Information as propaganda to drum up support in America for the war effort.  As a sequel to "London Can Take It", the film centres around the British capital during Christmas 1940.  "A central message of the film is that life goes on, with Christmas traditions continuing despite disruption caused by bombing." (  

People celebrate Christmas in the London Underground courtesy

One window cleaner hangs up a sign which reads:  "Business as Usual:  If You've Got No Windows, We'll Clean Your Chimneys".  Other examples of business as usual under the London Blitz include:

  • Christmas trees dug up for air raid shelters
  • housewives buy food for Christmas dinner
  • theatres stage pantomime productions
  • schoolchildren produce handmade Christmas cards
  • people celebrate Christmas in the London Underground

After a brief respite for Christmas 1940, London was bombed heavily by the Luftwaffe once again four days later.  A Daily Mail photographer, Herbert Mason, captured that iconic image of St. Paul's Cathedral, surrounded by fire.  News reporter Ed Murrow declared its demise. However, office worker Dorothy Berton, on her way to work the next morning, saw the tower of the magnificent church standing tall:  "I felt a lump in my throat because, like so many people, I felt that while St. Paul's survived, so would we." (

Tuesday 20 December 2016

Holiday Inn

Jim:  "Lila's back in New York.  I got a letter from her yesterday."
Ted:  "What happened to her millionaire?"
Jim:  "Slight mistake there.  He didn't own millions, he owed them."
Ted:  "Poor girl.  Always straying to greener pastures and finding spinach."

Bing Crosby sings "White Christmas" courtesy

Holiday Inn is actually the prequel to the movie White Christmas.  The film stars Bing Crosby as Jim Hardy and Fred Astaire as his partner Ted Hanover and Virginia Dale as Lila.  The trio runs a musical act in New York City.  On Christmas Eve, Jim plans to retire from the act and move to a Connecticut farm with his fiancee, Lila.  However, at the last minute Lila says she has fallen in loved with Ted.  Jim pursues his plan despite Lila's bombshell.

After a year, Jim returns to New York City saying that he has struggled to make ends meet as a farmer and wants to turn his barn into a "holiday inn".  He is searching for talent to fill his inn.  On Christmas Day singer Linda Mason (Marjorie Reynolds) shows up at the inn.  Smitten by her, Jim plays his new tune "White Christmas".  In the meantime, Ted is crushed when Lila announces she is leaving him for a Texas millionaire.  He meets Linda and discovers that he too is falling in love with the singer.  The ensuing year unrolls at the inn with shows staged at the following holidays:

  • Lincoln's Birthday (Ted is searching for Linda, but Jim disguises her in his act)
  • Valentine's Day (Jim serenades Linda with "Be Careful It's My Heart")
  • Washington's Birthday (Ted asks Linda to be his new dance partner)
  • Easter (Irving Berlin's Easter Parade is performed)
  • Independence Day (Ted & Linda are offered a deal in Hollywood)
  • Thanksgiving (irritated that Jim has tried to interfere with her Hollywood offer, she takes the job despite his wishes;  Jim, depressed, can't touch his Thanksgiving dinner; Jim's maid implores him to travel to California to win Linda back)
  • Christmas Eve (Jim revives his rendition of White Christmas, accompanied by Linda; they live happily ever after at Holiday Inn)

Monday 19 December 2016

Joyeux Noel

"What would happen, I wonder, if the armies suddenly and simultaneously went on strike and some other method must be found of settling the dispute?" (Winston Churchill, November 23, 1914)

A Scot, a German and a Frenchman fraternize in Joyeux Noel courtesy

That's exactly what did happen near St. Yves, Belgium, on Christmas Eve 1914, aptly called The Christmas Truce.  The British, the French and the German soldiers laid down their guns and met in No Man's Land to exchange chocolate and champagne, play a game of football and sing Christmas carols like Stille Nacht (Silent Night).  

Author Shane Emplaincourt, a professor of Modern Languages, points out that our collective memory only lasts three generations.  After that, our collective memory becomes a cultural memory.  It is appropriate, then, that the movie Joyeux Noel, based on the Christmas Truce, debuted the same year (2005) as the last surviving member of the Christmas truce, Alfred Anderson, passed away. 

The unplanned ceasefire of La Grande Guerre is the topic of the film Joyeux Noel, the brainchild of film director Christian Carion.  The film director drew his inspiration from the book Batailles de Flandres et d'Artoir 1914 - 1918 by Yves Buffetaut.  Filmed in French, German and English, the movie focusses on a Scottish priest, a German tenor, his Danish soprano girlfriend and a French lieutenant who find themselves at the centre of the Christmas truce.  

The disputed Alsace-Lorraine territory which shifted between Germany & France for many years courtesy

The film Joyeux Noel's opening scene depicts  "Un garcon" who recites the rhyme La France Attend, citing his desire for his homeland to reclaim the long disputed Alsace-Lorraine territory:

"Enfant, regarde sur ces cartes ce point noir qu'il faut effacer
De tes petits doigts tu l'ecartes, en rouge il vaut mieux le tracer."(

He is followed by a British lad who recites a hate speech:

"To rid the map of every trace of Germany and of the Huns, we must exterminate the race.  We must not leave a single one.  Heed no their children's cry.  Slay them now, the women, too.  Or else someone day they'll rise.  But dead, they cannot do."

"Ein junge" concludes with "Hessgesang gegen England" or "Hymn of Hatred Against England" .

A German soldier, amidst the carnage, sings Stille Nacht courtesy 

Hundreds of innocent-like young men enlist in la Grande Guerre.  But by Christmas, already a million lives have been lost in the Great War.  The horrors of trench warfare are a sobering influence on the troops.  On Christmas Eve. longing for home, the soldiers realize that they had more in common with the enemy than they first thought:  the tune Stille Nacht is familiar to the British as Silent Night.   Soldiers pull out photographs of loved ones back home.  The sight of Christmas trees on No Man's Land provides comfort to all.  Even a cat, which the German call Felix and the British, Nestor, crawls out of the trenches to celebrate le Noel.  

The Christmas truce could have lingered indefinitely:  the Germans played their harmonicas New Year's Eve; the Scots responded by playing their bagpipes.  On New Year's Day, however, the high command ordered the troops back to their trenches.  

Note:  For more about the Christmas Truce, visit

Soldiers from both sides exchange cheerful conversation

Artist's illustration of the Christmas Truce 1914 which appeared in the Illustrated London News courtesy

Sunday 18 December 2016

The Bishop's Wife

"I was praying for a cathedral." (Henry)
 "No, Henry you were praying for guidance." (Dudley)

Dudley decorates the Christmas tree courtesy

The Bishop's Wife, based on a novel of the same name published in 1928, debuted in 1947 in New York City.  Bishop Henry Brougham, played  by David Niven, is troubled about coming up with the funds for his new cathedral.  Praying for divine guidance, God sends him an angel, Dudley, played by Cary Grant.  Dudley tries to drum up financial support for the church, all the while convincing a woman to donate money to the poor and even typing one of the bishop's sermons.  The angel, sensing that the bishop's wife and young daughter have been neglected while he concerns himself with the new cathedral, steps in.  Unexpectedly, Dudley finds himself falling in love with the wife, Julia, played by Loretta Young.  Dudley realizes he must take a step back and retreats, observing the bishop delivering the Christmas Eve sermon he had typed on the typewriter.  Even though the cathedral hasn't been built, the marriage has been restored.  His work is complete.

Cary Grant in New York City courtesy

Saturday 17 December 2016

Meet Me in St. Louis

"Have yourself a merry little Christmas, let your heart be light.
Next year all of our troubles will be out of sight.
Have yourself a merry little Christmas, Make the yuletime gay.
Next year all your troubles will be miles away."
(Judy Garland, Meet Me in St. Louis)

A lawyer and his wife are raising a family of four girls and a boy in St. Louis, a city busily preparing for the Louis Purchase Fair (World's Fair) in 1903.  The eldest daughter, Rose, expects a proposal from a local young man named Warren.  The second daughter, Esther, played by Judy Garland, has a crush on the next door neighbour, John, played by Tom Drake.  

The family's plans are upset when the father announces that they will be moving to New York City due to his work schedule.  The children, however, do not want to leave their beloved St. Louis and they don't want to miss the upcoming World's Fair.

On Christmas Eve, the family is invited to an elegant ball.  Esther is disappointed that John can't go since he has no tuxedo.  However, her grandfather offers to escort her instead.  At the ball,k Esther fills up a visiting girl's dance card with losers when she sees her as a rival to her sister Rose.  Esther is pleasantly surprised when her neighbour, John, shows up after all and they dance the night away.  Later in the evening, John proposes and Esther accepts.

Esther returns home to a distraught younger sister, Tootie.  She calms her down with her rendition of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas".  Tootie however becomes upset again at the prospect of the family moving to New York City and she runs out into the snow and starts destroying the snowmen in the family's yard.  Esther consoles her amidst a family of snowmen.

The final scene features the family, complete with the two fiances,heading to the World's Fair in two carriages.  Upon arrival the group gazes at the Grand Lagoon as the lights illuminate the grand pavilions.

Friday 16 December 2016

Christmas in Connecticut

"As she types the words 'From my living room as I write, the good cedar logs crackling on the fire...' the view is of clothes flapping on the line outside her bachelorette Manhattan apartment." (

Barbara Stanwyck is an early version of Martha Stewart in the movie Christmas in Connecticut which debuted in 1945.  She plays the role of Elizabeth Lane, a magazine columnist for Smart Housekeeping who writes a column about her life as a mother and homemaker on her Connecticut farm.  Her readers know her as "America's Best Cook".  One day, her boss, Mr. Yardley, invites a war hero to Elizabeth's Connecticut house for Christmas dinner, a fan who read all of her recipes when he was convalescing in the hospital.  Mr. Yardley, however, does not know that Mrs. Lane is a fraud:  she's not married, she has no children, she can't cook and she doesn't have a famous farm in Connecticut. "As she types the words 'From my living room as I write, the good cedar logs crackling on the fire...' the view is of clothes flapping on the line outside her bachelorette Manhattan apartment."  Knowing that her job will be on the line if Mr. Yardley finds out the truth, Elizabeth attempts to stage a scene of domestic bliss on Christmas Eve:  she hires a cook to make the meal and borrows a husband and a baby.  Things do not go as planned when the supposedly married Mrs. Lane falls in love with the war hero who has come to dinner.

Thursday 15 December 2016

The Shop Around the Corner

Mr. Matuschek's Shop Around the Corner courtesy

Many movie fans are familiar with the love story You've Got Mail starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan.  However, many are unfamiliar with its precursor, The Shop Around the Corner.  Based on a Hungarian play called Parfumerie, this classic film stars Jimmy Stewart as a shop clerk who starts up a pen pal romance with a dream girl.  Little does he know that his dream girl is his annoying co-worker at the shop, Klara.

The two plan to meet for a dinner date in which Alfred is ready to propose marriage if it goes well.  However, their boss, Mr. Matuschek, insists that they work late that night.  The shopkeeper seems in a miserable mood which the co-workers chalk up to his personality.  Later, he fires Alfred for no apparent reason.  Later, the delivery boy Pepi arrives at the shop to find Mr. Matuschek ready to commit suicide, despondent that his wife is having an affair.  He had suspected Alfred of being the other man, but a private investigator he hired tells him the culprit is another employee.

A second attempt at a dinner date ends with Alfred, realizing that Klara is his mystery woman, claiming that he is at Cafe Nizza to meet someone else.  Klara declares that the man whom she waits for is "far superior" to a "little insignificant clerk" like Alfred.

The shopkeeper re-hires Alfred and two weeks later, on Christmas Eve, the shop enjoys record sales.  Alfred wants to go out and celebrate but he has no one to join him.  Klara reads Alfred a letter from her admirer.  Alfred finally admits that he indeed is the admirer.

Wednesday 14 December 2016

Going My Way

"Hail, Alma Mater, thy time-honoured halls shall echo with our praise till we die, and round our hearts are the ivy coloured of East St. Louis High." (Father O'Malley)


Going My Way, starring Bing Crosby, is the prequel to the famous Christmas movie, Bells of St. Mary's.  A young priest from St. Louis named Father O'Malley, played by Bing Crosby, arrives at an old parish in downtown Manhattan.  The old priest whom he is replacing, Father Fitzgibbon, is doubtful that Father O'Malley can resurrect the fledgling parish.  The two men clash on several occasions. However, O'Malley comes through when he inspires the youth of the congregation by starting a thriving children's choir, even recruiting some local gang members.  Father Fitzgibbon gains a new respect for the young priest and the two eventually get along famously.

Just when things seem to be falling into place, the church suffers a massive fire.  O'Malley is reassigned to a new parish.  However, before leaving, he manages to arrange a secret reunion of Father Fitzgibbon and his mother from Ireland, whom he hasn't seen in 45 years.

The movie is filled with music sung by the crooner Crosby including Silent Night, Ave Maria and the title song, Going My Way.  The movie, which debuted in 1944, earned ten Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Actor.

Tuesday 13 December 2016

Penguins of Madagascar Christmas Special

The Penguins of Madagascar Christmas Special, which takes place in the Big Apple, brings back sweet memories for me.  It was the inspiration for me to start saving Airmiles to send my brother and his wife to New York City for their wedding anniversary.  I called it "Operation Anniversary".  They loved the trip so much that my husband and I went for our anniversary a few years later.

The Penguins of Madagascar are on a mission:  one of their kind has disappeared in New York City and the remaining three must find him.  They venture out into the streets of the Big Apple where they come upon a crotchety old lady who is looking for a stuffie for her dog, Mr. Chew.  She purchases the lost penguin, squeezes him to see if he makes a squeak.  The Penguins follow the old lady home to her apartment building where they gain entrance by posing as a snowman.  They follow the lady to her apartment, which is beautifully decorated for Christmas.  It is there that the lost penguin is being held hostage by Mr. Chew.  One of the penguins says:  "Commence Operation Stocking Stuffer" and the trio proceeds to outsmart the vicious dog, who ends up stuffed in the stocking.  The four penguins escape through the door after planting a bomb.  The old lady declares:  "This is all your fault, Mr. Chew!  You are on a big time out!"


Monday 12 December 2016

Frosty the Snowman

Producers Arthur Rankin Jr. and Jules Bass wanted to create a TV show based on the song Frosty the Snowman, first performed  by Gene Autry in 1950.  They hired Paul Coker Jr., a greeting card artist, as they wanted to give the production the image of a Christmas card.  Romeo Muller expanded the story for television.  Jimmy Durante was hired to narrate the  show and Jackie Vernon to play the title character.

Shortly before Christmas, a school hires a magician, Professor Hinkle, to perform for the students. Hinkle's assistant, the rabbit Hocus Pocus, steals his hat and puts it on Frosty who in turn comes to life.  Once Hinkle discovers the hat's magic powers, he wants it back.  In the meantime, Frosty realizes that if he doesn't travel north, he will melt.  The snowman, the rabbit and their new friend Karen, parade through the town to the train station, to the astonishment of the townspeople.

The train brings the trio to the North Pole where Frosty is quite comfortable, but Karen is freezing. Unbeknowst to the trio, Hinkle has sneaked aboard the train, determined to get his hat back.  Frosty finds a greenhouse full of poinsettias where he brings Karen to warm up.  Hinkle discovers the trio and attempts to steal the hat.  But Santa arrives just in time to catch Hinkle in the act.  He warns the magician that if he doesn't apologize, he won't get any more presents for Christmas.  Frosty's last words are "I'll be back on Christmas Day!"

Sunday 11 December 2016

A Charlie Brown Christmas: It's Going to Run for a Hundred Years

Every year we watch A Charlie Brown Christmas which premiered in 1965.  Charlie Brown, frustrated with the materialism of Christmas, directs a Christmas pageant.  But he feels like he's failed when the centrepiece for the whole play is a sad little evergreen tree with a bit of tinsel draped over it.

It is Linus who reminds him about the true meaning of Christmas.  A spotlight shines on Linus who, holding his blue "companion" blanket, takes the stage.  His speech opens with the words:  "And there were in the same country shepherds, abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flocks by night." A hush falls over the audience as we ponder Linus' message, that a baby, born in a lowly manger, has come into the world to save us.

You would think that given the enduring popularity of the TV show, that it would have been a success from the start.  However, A Charlie Brown Christmas had a bit of a rocky beginning.  Here are ten things you may not know about the Christmas special (

1. Director Bill Melendez wanted to make the TV show as genuine as possible.  Therefore, he cast children from his Southern California neighbourhood in all of the roles except Charlie Brown, Linus and Lucy.

2.  In pursuit of sincerity, the director had to sacrifice practicality:  some of the children were so young they couldn't even read the script, including Linus, and he had to recite it to them line by line.

Lee with the voice actors and Bill Melendez

3.  Although it was standard practice at the time, Charles Schultz refused to have a laugh track inserted in the show, even walking out of a production meeting at one point.

4.  Charles Schultz, originally, was not a fan of jazz music.  However, it was Vince Guaraldi who had worked on the musical score for A Boy Named Charlie Brown.  Schultz had to admit that it gave the show a "childlike, bubbly tone" and for the sake of continuity, he asked Guaraldi to pen the score for the Christmas special too, a score which has now become its trademark.

5.  "The life of Jesus remained for Schulz a consuming subject."  Therefore, he wanted the story from St. Luke of Jesus' birth included in the TV show.  However, Melendez realized that Linus' speech took up an entire minute and suggested that it be cut.  However, Schultz insisted that it remain -- a speech that became the centre of the whole story.

6.  The network executives along with the chief sponsor, Coca Cola found the end product to be wry and melancholy rather than funny and upbeat.  They particularly worried about the TV show's religious overtones.  Therefore, they agreed to air it only once, and be done with it.

7.  Mendelson and Melendez feared that the public would not embrace the Christmas special.  However, "one of the animators -- he had had a couple of drinks -- said, 'It's going to run for a hundred years,' and then fell down.

8.  Snoopy was the easiest to animate and therefore got all of the action scenes.  The Peanuts gang all had large heads which made them difficult to work with.

9.  The original production included a plug for Coca Cola. While Snoopy tosses Charlie Brown and Linus around the ice as they skate, Linus goes flying into a sign advertising the famous soda.  The contract eventually ran out and the Coca Cola sign was replaced with a Danger one.



10.  The drunken animator turned out to be right.  A Charlie Brown Christmas is the second longest running Christmas special of all time (next to Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer).  The original airing was watched by 15.4 million people.  TV critics gave it rave reviews.  Schulz and Mendelson earned an Emmy for Outstanding Children's Program.  It has aired every year since 1965 and still earns the highest ratings in its time slot.