Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Can't count down to Christmas without the Grinch

We really can't count down to Christmas with the Grinch. Now, I admit that he's not my favorite Dr. Seuss character. That would have to be Yertle the Turtle, which I has pretty much memorized when my daughter was little (On the Far-Away island of Sala-Ma-Sond, Yertle the Turtle was King of the Pond. The water was warm. There was plenty to eat. The turtles had everything turtles might need.)

But every Christmas, we pull out the old video and watch the Grinch turn his dog Max into a reindeer (he's hilarious!) and slide down that mountain to take Christmas away from the Whos. And then when he realizes he couldn't steal Christmas, it came anyway, his heart grew three times its size and he brought everything back.

But my favorite song is the one that's sung while he's slinking around, stealing trees and ornaments and even that last can of Who Hash and a final crumb off the floor:

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Bruce sings Christmas

We've got two radio stations here that have been playing Christmas tunes constantly since even before Thanksgiving (which was a little ridiculous, actually, but now that it's the season, I don't care anymore). There's nothing like Frank crooning out a holiday classic, but I'm in the mood for a little Bruce today. One of my favorite holiday tunes is his Santa Claus is Coming to Town.

Check out the video, and you gotta love Clarence and especially Stevie's head attire for this one:

Saturday, December 18, 2010

More Christmas Countdown with Frosty

Last night we caught FROSTY THE SNOWMAN on TV. I'm not sure what it was with Rankin Bass picking unusual looking male performers as narrators: Fred Astaire for SANTA CLAUS IS COMING TO TOWN, and Jimmy Durante for FROSTY. But irregardless, it works. Durante has a distinguishable voice as well as nose, and his rendition of the song is very good. My husband was surprised our daughter knew Durante, but he forgot that Durante is featured in a favorite I LOVE LUCY episode, and we have all the I LOVE LUCY DVDs and she's got them memorized.

I always liked FROSTY because of the little girl Karen. She's feisty and empathetic, and we share a name.


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Walter Brennan Christmas

My friend and former newspaper colleague Fran Fried is out in California now, but when he was here, he used to deejay a show on Bridgeport's WPKN radio station called the Sleep Deprivation Experiment. The show ran from 2 to 6 a.m. every couple of weeks. At Christmastime, Fran would play Christmas songs. When I was working nights on the copy desk at the New Haven Register, I'd come home and listen to his show while wrapping presents.

The thing is, Fran wouldn't play just any ordinary Christmas songs. He found some of the most obscure, but really cool, songs to play on his show. Who knew that Walter Brennan put out a Christmas album? Walter Brennan of "The Real McCoys," some of you might remember that TV show or some might not, but it was a Western. Don't see many of those these days. Walter Brennan is also the only actor to ever get three Oscars for Best Supporting Actor roles, according to his IMDB biography. And he also had four top 100 single records.

Here's his Just 3 Letters for Christmas:

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

House Without a Christmas Tree

Last year I found a DVD at my local video store for a made for TV movie that I loved when I was in middle school. HOUSE WITHOUT A CHRISTMAS TREE came out in 1972, and even though it was set in the 1940s, I could relate to Addie, the young girl whose mother has died and is growing up with her dad, played by Jason Robards, and her grandmother, played by Mildred Natwick. They don't have a Christmas tree because her father is still grieving for her mother, and Addie brings a tree home and stirs up a lot of trouble.

The DVD isn't the best quality, but watching it again brought back a lot of memories. Check this little montage out to get a sense of it, and then if you like it, see if you can find the DVD:

Monday, December 13, 2010

Christmas in Connecticut

The day we put up our Christmas tree, we fished out the holiday movies and realized that last year we hadn't watched CHRISTMAS IN CONNECTICUT. I'm not quite sure how we missed this last year, but we chalked it up to the silly seasona and how crazy it can get. So since we missed it last year, it was the first video we popped in last week.

Now, this is not the remake version with Dyan Cannon, but the original with Barbara Stanwyk, who plays Elizabeth Lane, a woman who writes a food column for a magazine based on Good Housekeeping. Problem is, she can't cook, doesn't live on the farm she talks about in her column, and has no baby or husband, either. So when her publisher tells her he's sending her a war hero to host for Christmas, she has to scramble to create the life she's pretended to have. What ensues is a lot of fun and romance and holiday cheer.

And for those of you who notice these things: It seems that Hollywood decided to use the same house that's in Holiday Inn for this movie (or the other way around). Might as well not waste a good set.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Santa Claus is Coming to Town

In the days before Pixar, there was Rankin Bass. They produced Christmas shows on TV when I was a kid, and I'd rather watch those than some of the shows they've got on now for kids. The characters are sort of a cartoon-puppet hybrid. Compared to today's animation technology, this is pretty basic stuff, but isn't any less entertaining.

One of my favorites of the Rankin Bass productions is Santa Claus is Coming to Town. The Burgermeister is a good villian, and the little penguin a good sidekick for Kris Kringle, who is voiced by the late Mickey Rooney. Mrs. Claus starts out as Jessica, the school teacher, and she plumps up quite nicely by later in the show when she takes on her new role. And who doesn't love the Winter Warlock, who melts into a nice guy with just a little magic left to make reindeer fly. As with my favorite holiday movie Holiday Inn, this one features Fred Astaire, although in a different form than in the film. But they got his long chin just right:

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Feliz Navidad

Growing up in the 1960s, because my parents were in their twenties, I wasn't immediately exposed to the Rolling Stones or the Beatles or The Doors. The records I remember from my early childhood were the Four Freshmen, the Kingston Trio, Fats Domino, and Jose Feliciano.

My husband first remembers Jose Feliciano because he sang the theme song for the early '70s show "Chico and the Man," with Freddie Prinz and Jack Albertson. Loved that show, too, but I'd already been listening to him by that time.

One of our all time favorite holiday songs is Feliz Navidad. We play it every year while we're putting up the Christmas tree so we can get into the holiday spirit.

Here's Jose Feliciano in a live concert in Denmark in 1973 performing it:

Friday, December 10, 2010

I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas

One of our favorite holiday movies of all time is HOLIDAY INN, with Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire. They play two entertainers who part over a woman, and Bing Crosby goes to the country in Connecticut and buys a farm. He turns it into Holiday Inn, open on all the major holidays of the year. It's a glamorous place, despite being in the country, and he manages to put on magnificent productions with sets and an orchestra and fabulous costumes. Fred Astaire's dancing is amazing, and Bing Crosby croons. It's a love story and a musical and a comedy, and if you haven't seen it, you should definitely check it out.

One of my favorite lines in the movie is when the manager goes to the flower shop and asks for "orchids. Loose, looking like they don't care."

In the 1942 film, Bing and Marjorie Reynolds sing "White Christmas," which is one of the best parts of the film:

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Christmas countdown

The silly season has begun, and with it all the Christmas specials and movies that we all know and love. And besides Charlie Brown and Frosty, some new shows are getting in on the holiday bandwagon. This week Glee had its holiday special episode, with some great music and a hilarious Sue Sylvester version of the Grinch.

One song, though, that was resurrected by the Glee cast was by one of the '80s groups: WHAM! I admit to having at least one WHAM! album, and my sister actually met George Michael in a club in London. Before the scandals. And whatever happened to the other guy?

I thought that between now and Christmas I'd post some videos from some of my favorite music performances and movies and TV shows that celebrate the holidays. So I'll start with WHAM!'s Last Christmas (and I'll throw in the Glee version, too, although it's just audio, no video):