THE HOLIDAY SEASON – Garry Armstrong

It isn’t depression.  It isn’t anger or melancholia. Maybe, it’s just a case of the “blahs,” the post-Christmas brain drain.

Last Night, Marilyn and I were doing our usual Christmas ritual of watching a classic, old holiday movie. We started with “A Christmas Story” which is always good for laughs. Darren McGavin is a treasure as the embattled but nice Dad. Peter Billingsley’s “Ralphie” captures a little of all of us when we were kids.

We were still smiling as we went to our second feature, “Holiday Inn”. This is the 1942 version (the year many future legends made their début on the world stage): Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire with lots of Irving Berlin classics including “White Christmas” making its début with Crosby, pipe smoke billowing, crooning in familiar style.

There are problems with “Holiday Inn” which we usually ignore but really couldn’t this year. The biggest is the Blackface act with Crosby and cast singing “Abraham” to mark a holiday. I left the room as the scene began and found chores to do until the next scene.

Blackface — which has stirred new controversy — has always troubled me deeply.  This classics movie lover usually fast forwards through similar scenes in beloved films from old Hollywood where racism was a staple and white stars would usually laugh benignly at the characters played by Black actors. The Stephen Fetchit, Amos ‘n Andy factor.

An old friend emailed a few days earlier, expressing her distaste for the “Holiday Inn” scene. It had made an admired film unwatchable for her. The racial controversy took a back seat as we enjoyed the rest of “White Christmas,” it’s creaky plot and great music. But it left us both feeling uneasy.

I had “A Christmas Carol” (The Alistair Sims version) ready for our holiday movie trifecta. Marilyn said she wasn’t in the mood for any more holiday movies after “Holiday Inn.” I usually stand up for old movies but I instantly knew what Marilyn was saying.

The Blackface scene reminded us of much of what’s wrong in our world now.  You can’t escape it by watching another old movie. The melancholia had settled in. We had striven all day to keep our minds off reality and just enjoy Christmas.  We couldn’t maintain the happy glow. I was reminded of Commander-In-Chief Donzo’s insensitive remark to a child about believing in Santa Claus.  All of the bad stuff started to march forward in our brains.

We settled on watching “Midsomer Murders,” a BBC series we’ve grown to love in recent years. That was the temporary Rx to our blahs as the dogs found their second wind and raced outside to bark at the moon, serenade our neighbors, and irritate the bejesus out of me now that I can hear them with my Cochlear implant.

Marilyn and I discussed some upcoming stuff and, clearly, we had lost the thin veneer of holiday cheer. We touched on my overfeeding the dogs which we’ve discussed before and I have ignored.  It endangers the furry kids’ health.  Marilyn’s point is on target even as I used their begging as an excuse to shirk responsibility.  The mood was clearly changing as we tried to engage our attention on “Midsomer Murders”.

The dogs provided some humor with their barkathon, my racing in and out to admonish them with no real success. I focused on Duke who was the main noise culprit. At one point, Duke raced into the crate before I could order him to do so as punishment.  We all laughed at the silliness of the moment. I think some of our good humor was restored as Christmas night drew to a close for us.

It’s still interesting how quickly things can change compared to the yesteryear world of Ralphie and “A Christmas Story”.

Author: Garry Armstrong

As a reporter for Channel 7 in Boston for 31 years, I was witness to most of the major events affecting the region. I met a lot of people ... politicians, actors, moguls, criminals and many regular folks caught up in extraordinary situations. Sometimes, I write about the people I've met and places I've been. Sometimes, I write about life, my family, my dogs and me. Or what might otherwise be called Life.

20 thoughts on “THE HOLIDAY SEASON – Garry Armstrong”

  1. Some old movies have gained relevance, but sadly, some have really lost it. I can’t watch that stuff anymore. I simply can’t pretend it isn’t going on. I don’t know how anyone can. There are many good scenes, but the bad ones are so appalling — I can’t watch it.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. So true. Back in those days, it was something nobody would even think extraordinary but now that we are more “ aware/ enlightened “ we cannot turn a blind eye towards them.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. We like midsummers murders too! Jim won’t watch holiday movies. I found a few cheesy ones I had not seen on OWN very similar to cheesy Hallmark movies. Cheesy meaning very predictable and obvious happy ending.

    I’m glad the dogs made you laugh.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. We felt very much the same way this year. Our daughter and her husband and kids hosted a huge family group on Christmas eve, and our smaller circle on Christmas Day. It was wonderful, but I felt the pressure of the current news the whole time.
    Last night we ended up watching the first movie of the Lord of the Rings. I think I need to see some good guys beating the crap out of such obvious bad guys. Wish I could send Aragorn to DC.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. It seems that prejudice continues to exist no matter the time or place world-wide. We are blessed in having a diversity of friends who accept my daughter and me as people, not as “older white women.” All my friends are from twenty to fifty years younger than I, which is nice for me because they will outlive me. For a while there, I was heartened that our American society was making some headway against prejudices of all kinds, but when the new administration took over, I realized we are regressing. The “beast that slouches towards Bethlehem” has arrived, spewing hate and violence. I no longer know this world. My solace lies in family and friends and expressions of love and respect among them. I am sure this is true for you, too. We have to keep hanging in there.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Agree we have to keep hanging in there but there’s so much hate and vitriol out there. I always thought things would get better over the course of my life. I’m not oblivous to progress made but we’ve regressed so much in recent years. It’s sad because it makes you wonder about the worth of the effort we’ve put in

      Like

    1. Leslie, no – we haven’t seen “Dr. Blake” yet. It’s going on our list. Thanks so much for the tip. We can always use suggestions.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I know what you mean about the Holiday Inn scene–it was always mawkish at best, even if they hadn’t used blackface. It would never have occurred to me way back when that blackface used to represent Black or Brown people was a good idea. *shrug* I haven’t seen Breakfast At Tiffany’s in decades but read somewhere that Mickey whatshisname did a very caricature Asian person because he had been encouraged by the director etc. to really ham it up, and that sort of discourages me from wanting to see it again–it really upset him afterwards to understand that people found it offensive, after he had been told to be as excessive as he could.

    Have you been happy with the implant? I hope it has been good for you.

    And in our house, it is also the husband who overfeeds the cats, since he can’t resist them. I am the toughy who gives them just enough, plus they always have dry food. I recently saw a photo online featuring a cute winsome-looking cat that said I HAVE BEEN FED RECENTLY. THE MEOW IS A LIE. Maybe you guys need something like that at home as a reminder–!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Donna, kindred spirits here. Again, I love ‘Breakfast At Tiffany’s” because of Audrey Hepburn, “Cat”, George Peppard, Martin Balsam, “Moon River” and the rest of Henry Mancini’s romantic score. But Mickey Rooney’s awful, cliche-ridden character is a blemish on this otherwise romantic gem. I’ve read somewhere that Rooney regretted doing the role. I met him in the 70’s and he expressed regret over the anger his characterization caused. He indicated he took the role to bolster his career and finances. Rooney didn’t blame director Blake Edwards for Asian stereotype so it’s out there as to who’s at fault. Certainly, the Paramount “suits’ should have known better.
      the cochlear implant continues to make my life wonderful as I hear things I’ve never heard before. Here’s to New Year filled with joy, good health and sanity.

      Liked by 1 person

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