Sunday, October 21, 2012

Santa Claus is Coming To Town!

View off our back deck, Oct. 8, 2012.
Here is a gorgeous Minnesota autumn view off our back deck from around Oct. 8, two weeks ago.  My wife Chris takes wonderful photos, a hobby she has perfected the past ten years.  We have had a hard frost but today promises to reach the mid-60s and the last gasp of Indian Summer.  Gasp!  Won't last....

As the last leaves fade and fall, as Jack Frost wends his way toward Old Man Winter and the ghosties and ghoulies creak in a week you know that Santa can't be far behind.  The biggest celebration of the year for both religious and secular -- Surprise!  Christmas! -- follows the shortest darkest day of the year, but with a two-week holiday from school and work, who notices that much.

A big tradition is family gatherings, recalling memories, gifts, the big meal and then watching "A Christmas Story" or "It's a Wonderful Life" on TV.  New Year's spawns the same desires in many to look back at years gone by.  Movie theaters and TV stations can and do take advantage of this seasonal desire for nostalgia by showing holiday films.  Almost every TV series during the 1950s had their special TV episodes from Ozzie and Harriet to Dragnet, Robin Hood, Sherlock Holmes, etc.  You can view all of our Christmas films HERE.

Here are a few examples:

Adventures of Robin Hood: “The Christmas Goose.” (12/23/1957)
Young Davey has a pet goose, who is very attached to him. One day it saves him from a flogging from Sir Leon's men, but in so doing is caught and sentenced to become Sir Leon's Christmas dinner. 

Ozzie & Harriet: “The Miracle” (12/25/1953)
At Christmas time, Ozzie recalls the special childhood wish he had for it to snow so he could use his new skies, even though the weatherman said no way. Ricky plays Oz in a flashback to the 1930s, David plays his brother while Ozzie and Harriet play Ozzie's parents. 

Captain Gallant of Foreign Legion: “The Boy Who Found Christmas.” (12/25/55) For Christmas this year, Capt. Gallant has promised Cuffy a trip to America. However, all of the Legions' gifts are stolen from the caravan, and it looks like the captain won't be able to let Cuffy go on his promised trip. Cuffy runs away to try to find the missing presents, and learns what Christmas is really about. 

Best of the best Xmas TV shows!
Racket Squad: “The Christmas Caper.”(12/25/1952)
Several con artists use street corner Santa Clauses to collect money for poor children but then keep it themselves, so it's up to Captain John Braddock to work Christmas to catch the bad guys.

You Asked For It! North Pole balloon twister, soldiers sing Christmas carols, Abie’s Irish Rose scene, video X-Mas cards. 

Annie Oakley: Santa Claus Wears a Gun (1956) Gail Davis stars. An elderly sharpshooter, Snowy Kringle, arrives in town for a show where he will demonstrate his skill with a flintlock rifle and cap-and-ball pistol. 

I had a conversation with a movie theater last week that said they are located downtown in a vintage restored theater, their town is holding a holiday festival of some sort, and what could they show for free in their theater that people could walk into and out of at leisure?  My answer was Christmas cartoons since they are short, many in color, timeless themes and don't involve plots like TV shows.  My Christmas Cartoon Festival contains 10 secular films followed by 2 religious cartoons at the end. The last two can either be run or skipped.  I recommend showing the story about the birth of Christ to all faiths, and it makes a strong ending to the show by injecting the real Christmas, but they have the choice to stick to Santa Claus and end with "The Night Before Christmas."

SANTA'S SURPRISE - first Little Audrey cartoon.  Kids stow away in Santa's sleight and help him recover at the North Pole.
RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER - Max Fleischer cartoon with the famous song and story.
CHRISTMAS NIGHT with the Little King
TOYS WILL BE TOYS -- color singalong in a toy shop.
CHRISTMAS COMES BUT ONCE A YEAR - Fleischer classic with Grampy playing Santa to Orphans.
HECTOR'S HECTIC LIFE -- dog at Xmas time.
SOMEWHERE IN DREAMLAND - another Fleischer classic about two poor kids who dream of gifts and food.
NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS - live action telling of the famous poem.
LITTLE CHRISTMAS BURRO -- little burro ends up at the manger.
STAR OF BETHLEHEM -- Lotte Reiniger color Nativity.

Like cartoons, many of the vintage TV shows cover the Santa Claus and gift giving aspect of Christmas.  What happens when the Santa in Betty White's department store starts giving away presents?  How does miser Jack Benny shop for cheap Christmas presents?  How does homeless bum Freddy the Freeloader (Red Skelton) have a happy Christmas?  

Others do tell the story of the birth of Jesus Christ, as in Westinghouse Studio One's "The Nativity."  One of my favorites as featured in "Heavenly Christmas Film Classics" is "Three Young Kings."  Set in Latin America, three young boys are chosen by the local parish each year to dress up like the 3 Wise Men and distribute gifts from wealthy parents to their children.  As they ride through town on donkeys they pick up an increasing crowd of poor children, to whom they eventually give all the presents paid for by others.  This precipitates a crisis of conscience in the church.  The film was shown without commercial interruption on the DuPont Theater in 1956 during an era when the majority of America was Christian, and yet can still be enjoyed by all today regardless of religion.

In hopes of some online religious retailers selling the Heavenly Christmas DVD, we created an alternate cover as shown here with a medieval nativity scene replacing the fatherly Santa Claus.

You can view all of our Christmas films at this Festival Films website page.

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