Doodad Kind of Town


Ho, Ho Ho! Holiday Movies are All Over the Tube!
December 1, 2007, 3:50 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Christmas is coming, whether we like it or not! All the usual, tell-tale signs are here:

-The extra-thick bundle of sale circulars stuffed in the Sunday paper.

– The avalanche of catalogs that fill my mailbox every day (I just carried two very large, very heavy armloads of them out to the trash.)

– The carols playing over the sound system in every store.

– The frequent appearance of home-baked goodies near the coffee machine in my office

And then, there is the cinematic evidence of the approaching holiday. To wit:

The marathon showing of “A Christmas Story” on TBS

They’ve already had one 24-hour marathon on Thanksgiving, and another one kicks off at 7 pm on Chirstmas Eve.

“A Christmas Story” holds a special place in my heart, because its writer/narrator, the late Jean Shepherd, was something of a minor diety in our house when I was growing up. My dad, like Shepherd, grew up in the ’30s and ’40s in Northwest Indiana; he was a huge devotee of Shepherd’s short stories. The adaptations of Shepherd’s work that appeared on PBS years before “A Christmas Story” debuted (“Phantom of the Open Hearth,” “The Great American Fourth of July,” “The Star-Crossed Romance of Josephine Cosnowski”) were event television in our household.

Even so, these 24-hour marathons are a bit much! Even the best loved Christmas movies wear out their welcome when they’re recycled this often. Don’t we all love “A Wonderful Life” a bit more since NBC took it out of public domain and limited us to about 3 showings per season?

(Totally snarky aside: For years, the one thing that drove me batty about this movie was that bad ’80s perm on the Depression-era mom played by Melinda Dillon. I don’t know how small the production budget was, but surely they could have afforded a hairdresser to give Dillon an appropriate period ‘do. For some time now, I’ve wanted to create a post called “Bad Perms in Movie History,” and Dillon’s is right up there with Diane Keaton in “Manhattan” and Jill Eikenberry in “The Manhattan Project.”)

“White Christmas” and “Miracle on 34th Street” are on TV a lot, too.

These familiar Christmas chestnuts will be popping up frequently over the next month. Count me delighted about that. I never get tired of watching them.

If you look too hard at “White Christmas,” you might notice it really isn’t all that good. The plot is beyond contrived, and some of the numbers (for me anyway) like that “Snow” song on the train are just painful. (Why would anyone want to wash their hair in snow? That lyric makes no sense!) I’ll also admit to being a little snarky/cynical for noticing that neither Bing Crosby or Rosemary Clooney can dance or even move all that well – painfully obvious when they’re right next to accomplished hoofers like Danny Kaye and Vera Ellen.

But I still love to watch “White Christmas” if only to re-experience these magic moments:

– Kaye and Crosby, in hurriedly improvised “drag”, lip-syncing to “Sisters” (does anyone NOT love that?)

– Kaye and Ellen dancing divinely to “The Best Things Happen while You’re Dancing”

– Vera Ellen (who has, possibly, the tiniest waist and the longest legs in movies) doing those wild dance contortions in “Mandy”
– Danny Kaye in his black turtleneck and beret intoning “The theatah, the theatah, what’s happened to the theatah? Ispeshially wheah dahncing is concerned?” in “Choreography”
– Rosemary Clooney’s black velvet dress and equally velvety contralto wrapping around “Love, You Didn’t Do Right by Me”

By contrast, “Miracle on 34th Street” is a delight from beginning to end, charmingly written and acted. Edmund Gwenn, of course, won an Oscar for his portrayal of Kris Kringle, but my favorite performance is that of preternaturally sensible little Natalie Wood. Oh, and I still cry every time the little Dutch war orphan shyly approaches Santa and he talks and sings to her in her own language.

There may a be different version of “A Christmas Carol” for every single day in December!

Actually, there are even more. Per IMDB, there are no fewer than 60 films and television shows (going back to 1910!) featuring Ebeneezer Scrooge as a character. A significant number of these are old TV presentations from the 50s and 60s that you won’t get a chance to see (except, of course, for the delightful “Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol” which usually shows up somewhere before the season is out.)

Miserly old Ebeneezer has been played by just about everyone – including Alistair Sim, Basil Rathbone, George C. Scott, Walter Matthau, Michael Caine, Patrick Stewart, Jack Palance, Kelsey Grammer, Dean Jones, Albert Finney, Tim Curry, and Buddy Hackett (in “Scrooged”). Also, appropriately enough, by Scrooge McDuck (in “Mickey’s Christmas Carol”). If this isn’t enough Dickens for you, be of good cheer! IMDB reports that a new version is being slated for 2009 starring — JIM CARREY!!

Meanwhile, lots of bad, made-for-TV holiday movies are being recycled.

I generally steer clear of these. I may be missing one or two good ones by doing so, but it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make. My advice: especially avoid all made-for-TV remakes of Christmas classics that employ a gender switch for a main character.

This means, stay away from “It Happened One Christmas” in which Marlo Thomas takes on the Jimmy Stewart role from “It’s a Wonderful Life.” (In case you wondered, Clarence the angel becomes Clara and is played by Cloris Leachman.)

It also means you might want to skip versions of the aforementioned “Christmas Carol” in which the “bah, humbug!” sentiments are expressed by Susan Lucci (“Ebbie”), Cicely Tyson (“Ms. Scrooge”) or Vanessa Williams (“A Diva’s Christmas Carol”). I am tempted to relent on that last one, though; given what delicious fun Williams has made of her “Ugly Betty” role, that one might be a hoot. That is, if the writing is up to snuff.

On a completely different note:

Today is Woody Allen’s 72nd birthday, and if you want to celebrate it, Turner Classic Movies is offering a double feature of “Radio Days” and “Take the Money and Run” beginning at 6:15 pm, ET.

Happy Saturday all!

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1 Comment so far
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Happy Holidays Pat!Yes indeed the TV is littered with Holiday movies. I woke up at 2:30am this morning and could not sleep so I channel surfed till I found “Deck The Halls” with Kristin Davis, Kristen Chenowith, Matthew Broderick, and Danny DeVito. I love all the actors so how bad could it be, right? REALLY BAD. I got bored after about 30 minutes. It was truly horrid. I have “Home For The Holidays” on Tivo and I plan to watch it today. I have heard it is great.Happy Sunday!

Comment by Parisjasmal




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