Saturday, December 12, 2009

A Classic TV Christmas



Christmas and Holiday themed radio shows were very popular during the 1930s and 1940s, and so it comes as no surprise that Television carried forth that tradition when it came into its own.

Just about every TV series had a Christmas episode each year.  Some shows repeated the same show (or a variation of it), while others managed to do a new Christmas show every year.


The Jack Benny Show, each year, had Jack out trying to buy the cheapest gifts he could for his staff, driving the store clerk to the brink of madness.   While everyone knew what was coming, it managed to be hilarious every year anyway. 

From 1960, we’ve an example where an indecisive Jack drives sales clerk Mel Blanc to suicide.



The Jack Benny Christmas Show - Jack Benny
An annual event on Jack Benny's radio show, Jack takes a trip to the local department store, only to run into some familiar characters. Notice Mel Blanc in his usual role as the salesmen unfortunate enough to have to wait on Jack, again, again, and again! 




The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet ran on ABC TV from 1952 until 1966, outlasting many of its contemporaries.   Never a huge ratings success, it nonetheless proved durable with its gentle humor, helped along by the enormous popularity of Ricky Nelson who became a teenage heart throb.


Prior to its TV incarnation, Ozzie & Harriet ran on the radio from 1944 until 1954.


This particular episode is a repackaging of a 1956 episode, with a new opening and a closing song by Ricky, broadcast in 1964.


"The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet" 1956 Christmas episode



Charles Ruggles (1886-1970) had one of the longest careers in Hollywood, lasting nearly 6 decades.  He appeared in more than 100 films, and countless TV shows.   During the early days of TV, he starred in a very early sit-com called The Ruggles.


While few episodes survive today, the Christmas episode from sometime between 1949 and 1952 remains.  This is a kinescope of a live episode, and frankly its is better than many other TV shows of this genre that would come along over the years.


This classic TV program, "The Ruggles", aired on the ABC-TV Network from 1949 to 1952. A few episodes survive, and presented here is one of them, a "Christmas" episode. The show was aired live, but this print missing a few minutes of footage, however it's still watchable.




Classic TV: 'The Ruggles' Christmas episode




You Asked For It  was a very popular viewer request show which ran, first on the DuMont Network and then ABC, from 1950 to 1959.


The premise was simple on this, admittedly, low budget show.   Viewers would write in with requests of things they'd like to see on TV.


Here is a Christmas themed episode (missing a few minutes) from sometime in the 1950s.




Classic Christmas TV: 'You Asked for It'



And last in our roundup today, an episode from the Gruen Guild Playhouse, an  early anthology series sponsored by the Gruen Watch Company.   Broadcast in 1951, this Christmas special is summarized on the IMDB thusly:


Disgusted that he's been moved from the hardware department to duties as a department store Santa Claus and angry that his wife wants to go to work and earn money, young father Joe Peters deserts his family. While in his Santa role, Joe chances to meet his daughter and discovers what she really wants for Christmas.



Classic Christmas TV: 'Joe Santa Claus'

Friday, December 4, 2009

Holiday Movie Fest





With Christmas 3 weeks away, now is a good time to present a unique archive of Christmas related movies and cartoons. 

This particular repository can be found at Classic Movies Online, which has a great selection of public domain movies of all types.  Each week they feature 5 movies on their marquee, but you can access all of their movies (by category) anytime you wish.


A few of these movies have been featured in the past on this blog (like the 1955 TV version of Miracle on 34th Street), but you’ll find a nice selection of obscure, yet entertaining holiday fare on this site.




Babes in Toyland (1934)


A Holiday Classic in every sense of the word.  You don’t have to be a Laurel & Hardy fan to love this film, as this is nothing like any of their other films.  Based on the Victor Herbert/Glen MacDonough operetta, this weaves Mother Goose characters into a Christmas pastiche.


The Miracle on 34th Street (1955) [tv]


Last year I blogged about this production in Two Small Miracles For The Holidays.  I wrote:


A lesser known remake appeared on the 1955 20th Century Fox Hour television show, which ran on CBS from 1955 to 1957.  The show aired at 10pm on Wednesday evenings, and was shown on alternate weeks.


The US Steel Hour, another anthology show, shared the time slot.


Starring Teresa Wright, McDonald Carey, and Thomas Mitchell, this 1955 remake runs only 45 minutes, but retains a good deal of the warmth and whimsy of the original. 


A Christmas Without Snow (1980) [tv]


A TV movie that deserves to be a Christmas Classic, starring Michael Learned (The Mother on The Waltons), and irascible John Houseman (The Paper Chase, among others).


A sentimental and at times emotional drama. Probably not something that younger kids would enjoy.


Santa Claus Conquers The Martians (1964)


`Fabulously awful’ and `Spectacularly appalling’ according to one reviewer on IMDB, and that is about right.  But little kids may not notice, and may be entertained (if not brain damaged).

Pia Zadora’s infamous screen debut, and a foil for MST3K.  You’ve been warned.


Scrooge (1935)


Seymour Hicks as Scrooge


Even though the 1935 British entry, Scrooge, was the first talkie version of this Christmas Classic, it was at the very least, the 7th filmed version of the tale. The earliest being Marley's Ghost made in 1901.


Starring Seymour Hicks as Scrooge, this was a familiar role for the 64 year old veteran actor.  He'd practically made a career out of the character, first appearing on stage as the skinflint Ebenezer in 1901, and playing the role many times thereafter.


In fact, he played the role in the 1913 silent film Scrooge.




The Candle Maker (1957)

A candlemaker entrusts his son with making candles for their church on Christmas Eve.

Somewhere In Dreamland (1936)

An early Fleischer cartoon, about two poor children who dream of a land filled with ice cream cones, popcorn fields, and a chocolate syrup river.

Snow Foolin' (1949)

A Sing-along cartoon with the bouncing ball, but with a lot of funny sight gags as animals prepare for winter.

The Shanty Where Santy Claus Lives (1933)

Santa takes a poor orphan to his workshop.

Santa's Surprise (1947)

An attempt at racial diversity with 5 children from around the world attempting to `help Santa’, but unfortunately suffers from some racial stereotyping common during that era.

The Little King - Christmas Night (1933)

The Little King was a cartoon strip, originally in The New Yorker, which began in 1931.  It eventually became part of the Hearst Newpaper syndicated strips in 1934.   This is a cartoon rendition of a Little King Christmas story

Jack Frost (1934)

A young grizzly bear ignores his mother’s warnings about going out into the winter, and needs Jack Frost’s help.

Hector's Hectic Life (1948)


Hector is a dog with who has to keep 3 puppies from making a mess while his owner is gone.


The Christmas Visitor (1959)

A British rendition of `Twas the Night Before Christmas . . .’

Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964)

The Burl Ives animated Classic we all remember.


Christmas Comes But Once A Year (1936)

Another depression era Fleischer cartoon, with kids in an orphanage disappointed to receive broken toys.  There’s a happy ending, though.




And one more, this time from The Internet Archive, of a half hour Four Star Playhouse production called `The Answer' (1954), starring David Niven, Carolyn Jones, and Anthony Caruso. 


`The Answer' was nominated for 4 Emmy's & won the 1955 DGA award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement for Television. 

The story is by Leonard Freeman, a name that many will recognize as the producer of such critically acclaimed shows as Hawaii Five-0 and Route 66





Four Star Playhouse - The Answer - Leonard Freeman
Starring David Niven Directed by Ray Kellino Original Air Date: 23 December 1954 (Season 3, Episode 13) Anthony Caruso ... Bart John Harmon ... Sailor Carolyn Jones ... Dolores Jack Lomas (as Jack M. Lomas) David Niven ... Deacon Nestor Paiva ... Rocco Richard Reeves


The Answer reaffirms just how good early Television writing and acting could be.