Christmas

UNSUNG HEROES – ALL MINE TO GIVE – 1957

Unsung Heroes — We all have our semi-secret, less-known personal favorites — a great B-side, an early work by an artist that later became famous, an obscure (but delicious) family recipe. Share one of your unsung heroes with us — how did you discover it? Why has it stayed off everyone’s radar?


all mine to giveI have quite a few favorite obscure movies (and Garry has many more), but this one is particularly appropriate since it is, after all, nearly Christmas.

All Mine to Give (British title: The Day They Gave Babies Away) is a 1957 film starring Glynis Johns and Cameron Mitchell that’s a four hankie special.

I crossed paths with it sometime in the pre-dawn hours during the late spring of 1969 while I was nursing my son and the television was playing late night movies. I was deeply hormonal at the time and though I’d missed the beginning, I watched it to the end.


The Story

Robert and Mamie Eunson (Cameron Mitchell and Glynis Johns) are Scots who have just landed in America (the year is 1856). Mamie is heavily pregnant upon their reaching Eureka; she delivers baby Robbie (Rex Thompson) soon after the cabin is completed. Robert eventually starts a successful boat building business and Mamie gives birth to five more children.

The Eunsons are doing well and happy — until little Kirk is diagnosed with diphtheria. Mamie and Kirk are quarantined while Robert takes the other children away. The boy recovers, but the goodbye kiss Kirk gave his Dadda before his departure proves fatal, and Robert succumbs.

Mamie takes to working as a seamstress and Robbie becomes the man of the house. Things stabilize, but only briefly: tired and work-worn, Mamie contracts typhoid. Knowing she will not survive, she charges Robbie, her eldest, with finding good homes for his siblings.

After Mamie’s death, Robbie places his brothers and sisters with townsfolk as Christmas approaches. Baby Jane is the last to be handed over — Robbie stands at the door of a house and asks the woman who answers, “Please, ma’am, I was wondering if you’d care to have my sister.”

The Rest of the Story

It would be 30 years before I found out the name of the movie. When I described it, Garry knew it immediately. Garry always knows. He’s the Movie Maven.

We watched it the other day. He saw it was on and recorded in on our DVR. What would we do without Turner Classic Movies? Surprisingly, it was still good. Still gave me the sniffles. Because now we have Google and all that implies, I looked it up and discovered the story is based on real events. The movie was made from a book written by one of the kids (grandkids?) of the children portrayed in the movie. If you are up for a good cry, this is an excellent choice.

This is definitely a Christmas story. I’m not sure if you would call it inspiring. I’d have to ponder the definition of inspiring. Touching, for sure.

SEASON OF LIGHTS

They have an annual “lighting up” night at the Heritage Museum on Cape Cod. I was lucky to be there for this particularly beautiful (and very cold!) evening.

The lights were everywhere. Each tree was wrapped in light, every building outlined by lights. It was an evening of twinkling and shining!

Week Photo Challenge: TWINKLE

RUDOLPH AND OTHER STORIES OF CHRISTMAS SONGS

Some of the stories behind our favorite Christmas songs, by Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog

I did not know Dasher, Dancer and the gang until I learned the song. Of course, I learned it rather young, so perhaps no one had a chance to tell me. Besides, why would I want to get to know them since “they never let poor Rudolph join in any reindeer games?” But then one foggy something eve, I guess it was, I learned more about him.

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Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer was a celebrity in this part of the country long before he became an international hit. Chicago-based department stores and mail order giant Montgomery Ward had been giving out their own coloring books at Christmas time for years. Robert L. May, an advertising copywriter, was assigned to come up with a Christmas story in 1939 — and Rudolph was the result.

When his wife passed away, the retailer offered to take May off the project, but he went on to complete it. The resulting book was distributed, but World War II stopped its publication due to restrictions on paper use. Rudolph made a grand reappearance in 1946.

Rudolph might have faded into a mere footnote of Christmas lore had it not been for May’s brother-in-law, songwriter Johnny Marks. He turned the story into a song. Which made Rudolph famous throughout the country.

The song led to sequels by May, eventually to television and movie specials.  Rudolph really did “go down in history.”

2014 is the 50th anniversary of the animated Christmas special children and adults still watch today.

The song was recorded by cowboy star Gene Autry. Legend has it, he was not fond of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, but his wife, liked the song. Autry’s 1949 recording became number 1 on the charts. It was the first number 1 song of the 1950s and became the second biggest-selling song of all time, until the 1980s.  Another Christmas classic was already number one.

The Christmas Song is commonly called “Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire” and also has a Chicago connection.

Musician, singer, actor, composer Mel Tormé, a Chicago native and performer about town before hitting the big time, wrote the classic in 40 minutes one sweltering July day in California in 1944.

Mel spotted a few of the opening lines in a notebook by Bob Wells, a frequent collaborator, and went on to finish them and add music. Wells had just been writing down a few cold weather ideas to help him deal with the sweltering summer weather.

The song was subsequently recorded by Nat “King” Cole and his trio in June 1946, but Cole convinced the record label to re-record the song with strings. It is the second version, recorded in August 1946, that became a hit. Cole went on to record it again in 1953 and 1961. The 1961 version is the one you hear continuously throughout the season. The vocal performance of the last version is considered the best of Cole’s recordings.

Tormé recorded the song too. Years later he added a verse and a “coda,” which came from “Here We Come A-Wassailing.” In 1992, the composer of one of the best know Christmas songs of all time finally recorded an album of Christmas songs. Legend has it that The Christmas Song was not one of Tormé’s favorites, but he was grateful for the royalties.

The all time best-selling song was written for a movie, but not for the movie of the same name. White Christmas was one of twelve songs written by Irving Berlin that were included in his 1942 movie Holiday Inn.

The romantic comedy musical starred Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire in a boy-wins-girl, boy-loses-girl, boy-wins-girl story. Crosby leaves a musical act to run an Inn that is only open on holidays. Astaire comes to the Inn after his dance partner leaves him, giving us the opportunity to hear a variety of holiday songs by legendary song writer, Irving Berlin.

In the movie White Christmas is a duet when we first hear it, and when it reappears late in the story, the female character Lila, played by Marjorie Reynolds, sings it.  The song picked up the Oscar for best song of 1942.  The recording by Bing Crosby the same year has gone on to sell over 50 million copies and holds the top spot by far. It too is part of our non stop Christmas soundtrack.

It is the overwhelming popularity of the song that led to a movie entitled White Christmas. Of course, Bing Crosby is back in another role, this time teamed up with Danny Kaye. Fred Astaire turned down the project.

White Christmas, like Holiday Inn, achieved great success, but its soundtrack never got a remix into stereo for release as an album. The master recordings were destroyed in a fire.

HEY, SANTA BABY! – GARRY ARMSTRONG

It’s that time of year. Decision time. What do you want from Santa? Whether you are 7 or 70, there’s stuff you’d like to see under the Christmas tree. Yes, Virginia, I am 72 and still believe I am among Santa’s chosen few.

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I’m a big fan of the NCIS TV series, but my wife has cleaned out that store for me. Some days, I’m a walking clone of Leroy Jethro Gibbs. I even stretch my neck in Gibbs fashion. Today it’s real because my back aches something fierce.

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So, I’m set with Gibbs stuff. What do I want? Wait for it. Wait for it. It’s from the Geek Love store. My very own At-Home Drone!

I saw it in this past Sunday’s news magazine section. I want it! The Protocol Dronium is remote-controlled. It soars through the air. It snaps photos you can later share via USB connection. It’s only $99. I want it!

I’ll be the NSA deep cover agent in my town and valley. I’ll spot perps before they pull their caper. I’ll share my intel with local leos. I want my drone, Santa!

Dwight Eisenhower was our President-elect the last time I felt so strongly about a Christmas present. My wishes were fulfilled when I found the glistening 2 gun Roy Rogers set under the wonderfully decorated tree that seemed 10 feet tall. My Dad looked 10 feet tall too, as I strapped on my guns.

Dad has been gone a dozen years now, followed by Mom. I’m sure both would agree I deserve this Christmas present.

My own drone.

I’ve been a good boy this year, Santa Baby. Surely, you know I’m counting on you.

(Note from Santa: Don’t call me Shirley.)

WHERE’S MY WIFE?

As we were packing up to come home — really, I wasn’t packing so much as stuffing my belongings into a duffel — I was bummed. At having to come home to reality. Reality is full of telephone calls. Details. Bills. Thanksgiving is next week, Christmas just a month after. Holidays and gifts mean money. Which is always a problem and […]

DO YOU COME HERE OFTEN?

Greetings, Stranger 

I’m sitting at a café when a stranger approaches me. He asks my name. “Marilyn,” I answer.

The stranger nods, “I’ve been looking for you.”

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I gaze into his soft, brown eyes “Well,” I reply, with a hint of teasing, “I’ve been looking for you, too. Do you come here often?”

“Not nearly often enough, it would seem,” he says, juggling the bags he’s carrying. He pulls me to my feet and loops an arm through mine. “I think there’s a burger joint over there. I’m hungry. How about you?”

As I rise to my feet, he continues: “You were supposed to meet me by Kohl’s. Where were you?”

I organize my own packages. “I’ll never tell you. You’ll have to kill me first.”

Garry and I go hand in hand through the crowded mall. He says: “I hate shopping this close to Christmas. It’s a madhouse.”

“I know,” I respond, giving his hand a squeeze. “But it’s worth it  … because I get to meet such a handsome stranger.”

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