A tribute to Shirley Temple’s many Christmases

Shirley Temple-Christmas2Shirley Temple Black died on February 10.  She was 85.  A child star in the Depression era, her movies, merchandise, advertisements and music are the brightest images in an otherwise dark time in America.  Christmas was interwoven into most of her movies and a lot of her merchandise.  Here’s a quick look at Shirley Temple’s Christmas.

One fan uploaded a video of Christmas scenes from several of Shirley Temple’s movies

Here’s another clip of “Silent Night” from Temple’s movie Heidi.

Here’s “That’s What I Want for Christmas” from Stowaway.  How is it that this song isn’t played during the Christmas season?

Although the child singing “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas” is often thought to be Temple, that hit was recorded in the 1950’s by Gayla Peevey.  (Is it the lack of a good stage name that kept her form a big career?)

There is a website devoted to Shirley Temple doll collectibles. (I guess there are hundreds of different Temple dolls issued over the years.)  I did not realize that hers was the first celebrity doll ever made.  Like Barbie and American Girl dolls today, owning a Shirley Temple doll was all the rage.

Despite my celebration of Shirley Temple and Christmas, one website asserts she didn’t believe in Santa Claus

Temple stopped believing in Santa Claus when she was six, when her mother took her to a department store to meet Father Christmas and he asked for her autograph. Nevertheless, Temple herself became a symbol of hope for America. During the Great Depression, President Franklin D Roosevelt famously said: “As long as our country has Shirley Temple, we will be all right.” Even the young British princesses, Elizabeth and Margaret, were said to be avid Temple fans.

Annie and a New Deal for Christmas

hbz-blog-annieRoger and I had the good fortune to see our family friend, Emma, in the Sanford School’s amazing production of Annie.  Although I had heard most of the music at one time or another and had seen the photos of the cartoon Orphan Annie and Daddy Warbucks, I am sad to admit that I did not know the story.  Imagine my surprise when a true Christmas dream-come-true musical unfolded on the Sanford stage!

The final song is “New Deal for Christmas,” both in reference to Roosevelt’s political plan (inspired by orphan Annie!?) and Annie’s adoption party at the 5th Avenue Warbucks mansion.  The entire show is set around the time period  Roosevelt’s first Christmas in office.  Act I of the play features Hoover-ites gathered around fires in barrels and Warbucks (with Annie) advising a depressed Roosevelt on ways to improve the economy.   By the end of the play, Annie, Warbucks, and Roosevelt are singing about their bright future.   Historically, the president and Mrs. Roosevelt received a record 40,000 Christmas cards in 1933.  (More on that in a future post!)

This most recent Annie revival (the 35th Anniversary) opened November 2012 and closed  on January 5, 2014. It opened with Jane Lynch (Glee) as Miss Hannigan, and there were a total of 38 previews and 487 regular performances at the Palace Theatre.  I learned that the Miss Hannigan role has been played by many famous actresses, including Nell Carter (20th Anniversary revival)  and Carol Burnett (movie version in 1982).  The original production of Annie in 1977 won many Tony awards and held the record for the longest running show at the Neil Simon Theatre (until Hairspray in 2009).  I remember singing “The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow” as a child, and now I am realizing that I must have been influenced by the first Annie storm in the late 70’s or the movie in the early 80’s.

The newest production of Annie will be the Christmas 2014 movie starring Beasts of the Southern Wild, Quvenzhané Wallis as Annie.  Cameron Diaz will be Miss Hannigan.

I think Roger and I should add seeing this movie with Noah to our Christmas 2014 plan!

My disorganized Christmas observations: the “big day” is less than a week away

tumblr_mdyht3O72N1rzx3umo1_500Tonight, I am going to write about the “other Christmas,” the one that doesn’t go the way we wish. The one where the present isn’t exactly right.  The one where your Christmas tree falls down–not once–but THREE times.

I was returning some Christmas ornaments at Wal-Mart yesterday, and the cashier next to me generated a receipt that literally fell to the floor and curled up in circles.  Seems the customer was purchasing 100 Wal-Mart gift cards.  I’m sorry to report that I did not ask what he was going to do with those gift cards. I am figuring it was a charitable venture.  While his gift cards may be going to a good cause, many of us will receive gift cards that remain unspent.  In fact, Business News Daily reports that $1.7 billion in gift cards will not be redeemed.  The good news is that when we do redeem the gift cards, we spend an average of $25 more to than the face value.  That’s a plus for the businesses.

I buy gift cards all the time, and I especially like the huge variety of cards available, but I admit to having a special gift card pouch where I keep the ones Roger and I have not used, and that’s a lot.

Unrelated to gift cards, here’s another link I stumbled across.  Curious about the British royals and how they will spend Christmas?  So am I!  The official news reports lunches and dinners in a steady stream of celebration, punctuated by observations about Kate’s daily maternal well-being.  The unofficial version is in Alison Jackson’s photo shoot for People Magazine.  Will and Kate look-alikes pose in a number of irreverent photos of the imagined Will and Kate Christmas.  Check it out!

Jeremy has been seriously counting down his top 10 Christmas secrets, and they’re something I look forward to each month. This list is 19 lessons we could learn from our favorite Christmas movies.  Loved Lesson #1:  Think about the size of the Christmas tree you’re going to get because you’re the one who has to bring it home.  The movie clip shows Hagrid dragging the Hogwarts tree in the snow.  The rest are cute and clever. I don’t think Jeremy’s tree woes are due to the size of his tree, though.

Last random thought?  If your Christmas tree does fall down several times, you need a new tree stand.  Roger and I have a Davis tree stand that looks a little like something from a ’60’s sci fi movie, but it is amazingly sturdy.  This link demonstrates how it works.  Despite phone calls all over the Baltimore area, I was unable to find one to gift to Jeremy.  Does anyone know where we can buy this?

Back to my holiday meltdown. . .

Arthur Christmas coming to DVD November 6

As I do not have young children, I missed last year’s Columbia Pictures and Sony Animation’s release of the animated Arthur Christmas, but the DVD will be released on November 6–the Walmart exclusive package will include Justin Bieber’s music video version of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.”  This version of the Christmas Eve calamity–“Will Santa overcome an obstacle to deliver presents on time?–invokes our modern world of UPS and Amazon deliveries (where sometimes a package arrives on the same day as I place an order!)

An aging GrandSanta and his son Santa have turned over operations to a team of efficiency experts who now use a hi-tech sleigh (that looks suspiciously like a red Star Trek USS Enterprise).  They cruise the world, delivering presents to all boys and girls, thus answering the age-old question “How does Santa deliver all those presents in one night?” 

It’s to be expected that the delivery method cannot be 100% perfect, and when one little girl is overlooked by older brother Steve’s efficient elves, bumbling younger son, Arthur, must spring into action to get the gifts delivered.  Grand-Santa suggests a rickety old sleigh and eight reindeer.  What?  Sounds unlikely, but Arthur joins the old codger for the journey.  Note that older brother Steve is muscular and built similar to many animated headstrong/heart-weak characters of late. (Christmas camo, but I have a lot to say about this negative portrayal of gung-ho military types, including Colonel Quaritch in Avatar).  Arthur is the sensitive geek who actually reads Christmas letters to Santa and wears a series of ugly Christmas sweaters.  It’s no surprise that the magic of Christmas will be lost if technology rules the world.

Perfect stocking stuffer?  If you’ve seen the movie, please share your opinion with The Yule Log!

I have included one of the previews here.

Reviewers give it 7 out of 10, and it’s rated PG for mild rude humor.

The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About Christmas!

At a Washington, D.C. event, we saw a PBS display in the lobby, reminding Roger that the next season of Downton Abbey is only two months away (can it be that we’re on the third season already?) and alerting me to the fact that PBS has produced another Christmas special featuring The Cat in the Hat.  This one is The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About Christmas!

PBS stations around the country are advertising the first airing dates on PBS KIDS, which will begin around November 21 and continue through December 2012.  In this adventure, the Cat in the Hat takes Nick and Sally on a journey around the world to help a lost reindeer find his way home.  The Thingamajigger breaks down, and they depend on a variety of animals–African bush elephants to bottlenose dolphins–to journey home.  The press release promises “pull-out-all-the-stops musical numbers that will have families singing and celebrating all season long.”  I can’t imagine anything as memorable as “Cat, Hat.  In French–Chat, Chapeau.”

Barnes and Noble and other bookstores are advertising a new Little Golden Book titled, A Very Crabby Christmas, featuring the Cat in the Hat.  Here’s the the plot. “The Cat in the Hat has just received a special invitation! He and Sally and Nick have been invited to Mervin the Crab’s Crab Christmas Ball on Christmas Island. But soon after the Thinga-ma-jigger lands on the island, chaos ensues when Crab Nine (aka Sandy) goes missing. Is Sandy lost or injured? Will the ball go on as planned? Only readers of the book will find out!”  Strangely, the advertisement says that this story is loosely based on the new movie, but I don’t see much similarity.

In 2010, PBS released The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That! holiday episode “Reindeer Games,” which helps children learn the science behind how reindeer use antlers to dig in the snow and find food.  On the PBS website, children can play several interactive literacy, science and math games related to the popular series.

Old school to the core, I prefer the original Cat in the Hat books that were published in the 1950’s and early 60’s, including the original television special that aired in 1971.  I can’t fault the current generation of children, though, for loving the big black and white cat as much as I did!

Little Women and Christmas

On this day in 1868, Louisa May Alcott published Little Women, one of America’s best-loved children’s books.  It has been performed as a play and made into movies several times over.  The novel about a mother and her four daughters focuses on the themes of family, love and duty in Concord, Massachusetts.  Marmee (Mother) is struggling to care for her daughters Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy while her husband is fighting in the Civil War.

The novel opens with the four sisters lamenting their poverty and inability to celebrate Christmas properly.  During their talk about gifts they’d like to have and what each could purchase with her small allowance, they hit upon a plan to pool their resources to buy gifts for their mother.  In Chapter Two, their mother gives the girls small books (to help guide them morally) under their pillows.  The story of sacrifice is lovely and memorable, making our material world look poor by comparison.

Later in the novel, family and friends contrive to make a Christmas celebration for Beth who has been suffering from scarlet fever.  I have included a YouTube clip of the scene from the movie in 1994 starring Winona Ryder; although, I much prefer Katherine Hepburn’s 1933 portrayal of the tomboy, Jo. That screen adaptation was directed by George Cukor, who later directed Gone with the Wind. Surprisingly, Cukor’s version was the third film of the novel, the first screening in the silent era in 1917 and 1918.

The novel is available online, but this is a link to the blog, All Things Christmas, which excerpts the first two chapters.


A Very Brady Christmas

On this day in history, The Brady Bunch aired for the first time in 1969.  I think I can say with assurance that I have seen every episode, and I know that for the majority of the 1970’s, when my mom put on a turtleneck sweater, I would think that she looked just like Carol Brady.  The album, “Christmas with the Brady Bunch,” was released in 1970 by Paramount Records.  I’m pretty sure we did not own this album, but had I been a little older, I would have requested it for certain.

The Brady Bunch, a blended family headed by parents Carol, “a lovely lady who was living with three very lovely girls,” and Mike (with three sons), lived in the Los Angeles suburbs.  They had a modern house with a very cool staircase that was memorably the focal point of their living room.  The Christmas tree could be over-sized and was placed next to the staircase.

The series ended in 1974 after 177 episodes, and, according to Nielsen Ratings, was never popular enough to make the top 10, but in syndication, audiences continued to watch the show.  The family’s problems were simple and able to be solved in an episode’s 30 minutes–what to eat for dinner (pork chops and applesauce), braces on teeth, dating and getting a drivers’ license.

Years later in 1988, The Brady Bunch reunited for A Very Brady Christmas.  The story line begins with Carol and Mike each wanting to use their savings to take the other on a trip.  Greece?  Japan?  They decide that since they can’t decide, they will use the money to bring their children and grandchildren home for Christmas.  Each of the six children has a complicated life including problems like divorce, job loss, lying and more.  It’s really a depressing aftermath to the 1970’s series.  In retrospect, I think Carol and Mike would have been better off agreeing on Japan.  I don’t know why anyone would want to watch this, but it was the second most popular made-for-tv movie of the season.

At the end, Mike is trapped in the rubble of a building he designed (not his fault), and Carol begins singing “O Come all Ye Faithful.”  Blah!  Alice’s wayward husband appears as Santa, and all ends well.

I am including a YouTube clip from the movie.  It’s enough to convince you that The Brady Bunch is better left in the happy past of our memories.

Disney does Christmas films too.

This marks my first post from outside Maryland since we began the Yule Log.  I figure since I am visiting Walt Disney World this week I should be looking at the connections between the mouse and the holiday.  Easiest place to start is in that famous Disney vault to see what films and animated treasures are hiding waiting to be found.  There are many but not as many as I thought I would find.  There are those that just take a popular character or story and twist it to Christmas like Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas.  There are the ones I bet you didn’t connect with Disney including The Santa Clause and The Muppet Christmas Carol (yes, the Muppets are Disney’s too).  I found two that I think you should add to your own Disney collection.

The first is a rare find, not yet released on DVD.  A Walt Disney Christmas is a 1982 VHS released collection of six short films from Disney Studios.  The oldest from 1932 shows elves busy trying to finish the toys before Christmas.  A gem from 1954 follows a young couple out ice skating joined by a pair of rabbits.  There’s a selection from the Silly Symphonies collection, Pluto being teased by Chip and Dale, and even Minnie & Mickey enjoying some winter sports.  The last of the collection is a snowball battle between Donald and his nephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie.  I hope Disney will decide to release this great collection on DVD so I can pick it up and send it to my nieces and nephews.

The second find is the 1984 Academy Award nominated animated short film Mickey’s Christmas Carol.  This marked Mickey’s first Academy nod since 1948!  The film casts Mickey in the lead role of Dicken’s classic tale.  Scrooge McDuck is obviously Ebeneezer Scrooge.  This film was a big happening for the mouse.  His first new film since the 50s.  It was an instant holiday favorite and continues to be popular with children of all ages.  The tale cast other Disney favorites too, including Minnie Mouse, Goofy, Jiminy Cricket, Donald and Daisy Duck, and Mr. Toad.  More recently the film is often packaged with other Disney holiday fare, including Winnie the Pooh.  Look carefully and find your copy today.

Countdown Podcast #11- 293 Days to Go!

And the Winner Is… Click to hear this week’s podcast.

1959 Grammy Nominee

This week we start with a little overview and look at past info.  Our actual topic focuses on Christmas movies and songs that won awards.  There are surprisingly few.  No Best Actor, Best Actress, or Best Film.  Only one Academy Award winner- Best Song, 1942 (have to listen to find out the song!).  No Grammy winners in the major categories.  Only a single nomination ever for record of the year and that was 1959’s The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late)!  I bet no one would guess that the Chipmunks were the last Christmas song to reach #1 on the charts.  50 years is too long- we need a new Christmas Song to sweep these awards.  (Be sure to click the links to hear those chipmunks)

Mary and George Bailey–Christmas Sweethearts

You can argue all you want about which Christmas movie is best (as my siblings did in the car on the way to Chicago), and you can complain all you want that It’s a Wonderful Life is too sentimental, but it remains on of the American Film Institute’s 100 Best Films Ever Made (20th) and number one on their Most Inspiring Films of All Time list.

I’m sure Jeremy and I will have plenty to say about this iconic film, but what interests me tonight is the love story between George and Mary Bailey that begins when they are children, and Mary whispers into George’s deaf ear that she loves him.  Their childhood, courtship, and marriage are a perfect representation of the kind of lasting love we admire on Valentine’s Day!

When George finally realizes he loves Mary, he says, “What is it you want, Mary?  What do you want?  You want the moon?  Just say the word and I’ll throw a lasso around it and pull it down.  Hey.  That’s a pretty good idea.  I’ll give you the moon, Mary.”

All lovers start out wanting to give each other the moon.

One of my favorite moments is when they honeymoon with all of the travel posters covering the windows of their leaky old house, and they are happy all the same.  No Hawaii, Jamaica, or even Atlantic City.  All of George’s grand dreams of getting out of Bedford Falls and giving Mary the moon never come true. I admire Mary (Donna Reed) because she doesn’t see it that way.

Of course, marriage is not perfect.  Later, frustrated by the pressures of daily life and his struggling savings and loan, George says,  “You call this a happy family? Why do we have to have all these kids?”

Mary sticks with George through the horror of his banking crisis and attempted suicide.  During the film, Clarence the angel shows George the vision of Mary as an old maid (if George had never lived) and George is devastated.

I just returned from the funeral of my uncle in Iowa.  This past August, he and his wife, Rosalie, celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.  I suspect what they learned, from the first day, in 1961, to the last, February 8, is that marriage is hard, especially as we age.   Running a successful farm means being always at the mercy of nature, and, contrary to popular belief, the early years of raising children are the easiest.  Yet, they faced these challenges together and were made stronger.

It’s a Wonderful Life’s Christmas message is that we live a miracle each day, and to love others unconditionally, is the Valentine we must strive to give each other throughout our lives.  Even though it’s a Christmas movie, today I nominate It’s a Wonderful Life as a great Valentine movie.