Sunday, December 31, 2023

Auld Lang WHAT?

It's that time of year when you hear this tune, especially today, New Year's Eve. 
Why it it typically heard only then. What does it mean?

We're not New Year’s Eve celebrants. Our get together will be at home watching movies that include New Year's Eve festivities and some include this tune — Auld Lang Syne

And, like us, you may not be the only one(s) curious about its history. Some may recall this exchange in the final scene of the 1989 rom-com film, When Harry Met Sally. It's when Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan, as Harry and Sally, reunite at yet another New Year's Eve party.

Harry: [about Auld Lang Syne] What does this song mean? My whole life, I don't know what this song means. I mean, 'Should old acquaintance be forgot'. Does that mean that we should forget old acquaintances? Or does it mean that if we happened to forget them, we should remember them, which is not possible because we already forgot 'em?

Sally: Well, maybe it just means that... we should remember that we forgot them, or something. Anyway, it's about old friends.

It’s a classic film and a wonderful way to spend New Year’s Eve. It's on our watch list along with An Affair to Remember

Fellow blogger David G. asked what makes a movie a classic and who decides and also what makes a film epic? So, of course, I did some research, there's a lot more info online.

According to some critics, criteria for what makes a movie classic or epic varies and can be a matter of personal opinion. A Classic film is considered one that has passed the test of time with lasting power over the years and decades (Casablanca, Gone With the Wind, Citizen Kane). These films often deal in emotional issues that people identify with, no matter how much time has elapsed; many contain lines that are remembered and quoted. An Epic film (Ben Hur, Star Wars) typically include spectacular settings, specially designed costumes, perhaps a sweeping musical score and ensemble cast. These are considered the most expensive films to produce. 

About Auld Lang Syne
Robert Burns
Credited to Robert Burns, the national poet of Scotland, this oft-sung tune is set to a traditional Scottish folk melody. Burns never claimed the song as his own. In the latter years of his short life (he died aged 37), Burns had become an avid collector of Scottish folk songs and ballads. He described the words to the now classic tune as having been taken from fragments of a tune sung by a "old man." In collecting and writing songs to provide words for traditional Scottish airs, Burns regarded his efforts as service to Scotland. He never claimed Auld Lang Syne, which he described simply as an old fragment he had discovered.

In 1788, Burns transcribed and embellished the lowland song, but the poem didn't appear in print until shortly after his death in 1796. It's since become a timeless classic in the English-speaking world. Every year it's the tradition tune ringing in the New Year; sung, but not fully understood, by party goers worldwide.

The title, translated literally into standard English, is Old Long Since, which loosely translated from Scotish means ‘in remembrance of old times. The words have been interpreted as since long ago or for old times’ sake. The lyrics tell a tale of old friends who have parted and then meet again celebrating their long friendship with a drink. They reminisce and recall adventures and memories from long ago. Ironically, there is no specific reference to the New Year.

Guy Lombardo 
As Scots immigrated around the world, they took the song with them, and it's believed that's how it became known worldwide. 

The version sung today was popularized by Canadian bandleader Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians band. Their performance of Auld Lang Syne was broadcast nationally from the Roosevelt Grill in NYC every New Year’s Eve from 1929 to 1976. Variety named Lombardo the only Canadian to create an American tradition and Life wrote that if Lombardo failed to play it, the American public would not believe that a New Year had arrived.

Additionally, the song was used in films as early as the 1920s. As our plans include watching movies that include New Year's Eve, this post has a New Year's Eve Trivia Quiz

Spoiler Alert — this quiz is a bit harder than the Christmas song trivia quiz earlier. It's all fun, no prizes, just braggin' rights. Answers below, you can see how well you fared (no peeking).

Movie Trivia — New Year's Eve 
1. What movie and its sequel (starring RenΓ©e Zellweger) begins and ends on New Year's Eve, both times with a blank diary? 

2. What 1972 disaster movie involved a luxury cruise ship capsized by a rogue wave on New Year's Eve? 

3. What 1936 film had a married couple, based on characters by Dashiell Hammett, who wind up solving a mystery on New Year's Eve? What were their names and who played them?

4. What film has a woman seemingly stop aging beyond 29? She attends various New Year's Eve parties throughout the years; January 1 is her birthday in the film. 

5. This 1957 classic had two main characters (Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr) engaged to others, kiss on New Year's Eve and agree to meet up six months later atop the Empire State Building. Years later, it inspired a 1993 film with a similar theme that referenced this one. (Bonus points if you name both films.)

6. The plot of this Sandra Bullock rom-com begins on Christmas Day, and reaches a climax on New Year's Eve.

7. What classic musical film celebrates every holiday, including New Year's Eve? (Hint, it's the one in which White Christmas was introduced.)

8. This 1995 movie has a female cast that included Whitney Houston and Angela Basset. It starts and ends on New Year's Eve and follows four women dealing with deal with love, life, and friendship over the year.

9. This rom-com film features two women (played by Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet) who  find love when least expected. Considered a holiday film, the final New Year's Eve is one of the movie's best parts (and a favorite of ours).

10. Both the 1960 and later 2001 remake of this film involve a casino heist on New Year's Eve.

11. This classic silent film starring Charlie Chaplin included a New Year's Eve party. Starring as The Lone Prospector who welcomes in the New Year by sitting on the streets alone listening as excited crowds sing Auld Lang Syne at a party.

12. The 1989 sequel of this popular film is partially set on a New Year's Eve when NYC citizens come together and sing Auld Lang Syne to banish evil from the city. 

13.This comedy (1983) starring Eddie Murphy spans Thanksgiving to year end. One of the film's crucial scenes happens on a train during a New Year's Eve party. (Hint: it involves switched identities between Murphy and Dan Ackroyd.)

14. A Christmas movie classic has the entire town singing a tune usually associated with New Year at the movie's end. (Hint: think Bedford Falls.)

15. This 2011 film wasn't a box office hit, but has a large ensemble cast and a title that befits the evening. It was entirely shot in NYC and directed by Garry Marshall and features stories of a number of New Yorkers on the celebrated night.  

16. This film, set in a fictional CA hotel, has interlocking tales that occur on New Year's Eve. A bellhop in his first night on the job has four different encounters. (Actor Bruce Willis is uncredited. He violated SAG (Screen Actors Guild) rules by acting free as a favor to director Quentin Tarantino. SAG agreed not to sue Willis if his name was omitted from the credits.)

Movie Trivia Answers
1. Bridget Jones's Diary (2001 and 2004), 2. The Poseidon Adventure, 3. After the Thin Man (Nick & Nora Charles, played by William Powell & Myrna Loy), 4. The Age of Adaline (2015), 5. An Affair to Remember, Sleepless in Seattle, 6. While You Were Sleeping (1995), 7. Holiday Inn (1942), 8. Waiting to Exhale, 9. The Holiday, 10. Oceans 11 (1960 and 2001), 11. The Gold Rush (1925), 12. Ghostbusters II (1989), 13. Trading Places (1983), 14. It's a Wonderful Life (1946), 15. New Year's Eve (2011), 16. Four Rooms (1995)

How did you do and are you planning to watch any films this weekend?

πŸŽ‰Best wishes to Everyone for 2024🎊 
Thanks from Patrick (aka Grenville) for your comments regarding the New England village. He appreciated all and wanted to share that it will remain through mid-February should anyone be in Nashua, NH, and want to see it.

Wednesday, December 27, 2023

Christmas in Nashua

'Tis true that Christmas Day is over, however, this week is still holiday time. So, in keeping with the season this post features holiday decorations seen in downtown Nashua and within the halls of Clocktower Place, the mill apartment building where we live. These escaped an earlier posting; I opted not to hold off for a Christmas in July post. 

Come along for a look at decorations in downtown Nashua and our residence building before all of Christmas disappears until at least next October. (It gets earlier very year.) This is a long photo-laden post with a multitude of decos.

The city of Nashua, NH, doesn't have a large downtown with more restaurants than retail stores. There are some other businesses: several barber shops, a tobacco shop, craft store, two thrift stores, a Persian rug store, pharmacy, two jewelry stores and a couple of boutiques. We walked downtown, a week before Christmas on an overcast day, and saw these holiday decorations.
Capturing store window displays is always problematic because of reflections. The use of a polarizing filter can help minimize or eliminate many of these. However, my camera doesn't have the capability
for add-on filters. The mouse figurines below were featured in a jewelry store display. Yes, they are very small.
Santas and snowmen were featured in several of the storefront windows, along with a few elves. 
Santas in a barbershop, pharmacy and restaurant
Snowmen and elves in rug and jewelry storefronts
Clocktower Place apartments encompasses two 5-story buildings that house a total of 325 apartment homes. Many of these featured exterior door wreaths, some included live greenery.
Some wreaths in Clocktower Place, none of these had live greenery
Live trees are no longer allowed inside the apartments due to safety regulations. When we first moved here 8 years ago there were no such restrictions. Ironically, a couple of years ago when we were planning to have a cut tree, the policy changed (bah humbug indeed)
Trees displayed in the two lobbies at Clocktower Apartments
Trees displayed outside individual apartments
Decorations included outside some apartment entries had a single theme, others had Santas, snowman, gnomes, and Nativities. Here's a sampling of some.
Santas in various forms of dress
The reason for the season was displayed outside some apartments
In recent years, gnomes have become very popular holiday decorations. The tradition of gnomes at Christmas is derived from Scandinavia. Unlike elves, gnomes were thought to come out on Christmas day, but these appeared much earlier.
Gnome place like home ? 
Like gnomes, snowman have become increasingly popular as holiday decorations. And, while they are associated with the entire winter season, many are displayed only at this holiday.
Snowmen found no white Christmas in Nashua this holiday
Decorations outside our apartment ⬇ featured most of the usuals from the past several years. The penguin and frog were joined by Santa and a couple of elves.
Decorations outside our apartment entry
Because of limited space we didn't put up a tree inside the apartment this year. We bought an artificial one, the same year that cut ones were permanently banned. It stayed in storage and the New England holiday village was set up adjacent to the living room windows. Grenville installed new LED lighting in all the houses and the covered bridges.
Dept 56 New England village by day and night
The village can be considered a winter scene when all the Santas and decorated trees are removed and that will most likely be done next week. It takes a week to carefully unpack and set everything in place so plans are to leave it up through all of January.
Santas, snowmen and penguins were included in our interior decorations on a more limited scale than previous years. Many others are stored with the tree which wasn't put up.
Snowmen & penguins are in our apartment year-round
Holiday cards displayed in our apt
There's been an absence of a Friday Funnies post for the past couple of weeks, so here's a few year-end holiday signs posted within Clocktower Place.
The wording on this ⬆ sign is part of the monologue rant that Clark Griswold delivers to relatives in the 1989 classic film, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation as they try to leave his home. Some may remember this part, Where do you think you're going? Nobody's leaving. Nobody's walking out on this fun, old-fashioned family Christmas. No, no. We're all in this together. This is a full-blown, four-alarm holiday emergency here . . .(there is more and it can be found online).
The wording on this ⬆ sign is also from Christmas Vacation and is said by Clark's wife, Ellen, to her teenage daughter, Audrey, who's upset that both sets of grandparents staying over for the holiday. Only thing is the wording is wrong. The line from the film is: I don't know what to say, except it's Christmas and we're all in misery. Seems someone didn't know the film well.

Thanks to everyone for comments on our Christmas post. Your good wishes were appreciated. This week we're in our native NJ visiting family and friends before year end. We're home before New Year's Eve which we'll spend at home watching movies together πŸ₯‚.

Monday, December 25, 2023

Christmas is Here

It's here today and from our Nashua, NH, home to all your homes, the penguins, snowmen and Santa wish all who celebrate this special day the happiest πŸŽ„holiday.
Flannel favorites taken at the Woodstock Inn, VT, earlier this month
And, we do as well, with best wishes to everyone for the coming New Year. Thanks for the gift of your blog friendships through this past year and all the years before.
This sign is outside our apt entry annually

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Do You Hear . . .

Singing penguins
'Tis the season for endless playing of holiday tunes everywhere, including our home. These ear worm tunes start airing in November and go through to Christmas Day. Of course, like many, we have favorites ranging from the standards of our childhood and there's interesting facts about many.

That said, here's some holiday song trivia (multiple choice and fill in the blank ?)
No prizes, just braggin' rights. Answers are provided below.

1. What popular holiday tune was written in 1962 during the Cold War?
Joy to the World, Little Drummer Boy, Do You Hear What I Hear?, I'll Be Home for Christmas

2. What's the best selling song ever, including Christmas?
White Christmas, The Christmas Song, Silent Night, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Some popular holiday albums

3. What's the best selling Christmas album?
Elvis Christmas, Miracles (Kenny G), The Christmas Song (Nat King Cole), Merry Christmas (Mariah Carey)

4. What popular holiday tune was written during a July 1945 heat wave?
Let It Snow, Let It Snow, White Christmas, The Christmas Song, We Need a Little Christmas

5. What popular song played at Christmas was written for another major holiday?

6. Complete the lyric, a ___convertible, light blue from what song?

7. What holiday song released in 1984 topped the charts in January 2021, 36 years after its release (sadly, the singer died early Christmas Day 2016)

8. What did Alvin want for Christmas in The Chipmunk Song?
hula hoop, bicycle, baseball glove, his front tooth

9. What artist or group has recorded the most Christmas albums?
Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Andy Williams, Nat King Cole, Mannheim Steamroller

10. What popular holiday songs has two titles; who first recorded it?

11. What singer popularized Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas in what film?

12. What (non-holiday) song did Hugh Grant dance to in Love Actually?

13. Cheers! What should we enjoy in A Holly Jolly Christmas; what did grandma have too much of before being run over by a reindeer?

14. Do you know how many gifts are given in The Twelve Days of Christmas?

15. What Christmas standard was first a popular WW II holiday tune?

Song Trivia Answers
1. Do You hear What I Hear? (really), 2. White Christmas, 3. Elvis' Christmas album (1957), 4. Let It Snow and The Christmas Song (both written during a July 1945 CA heat wave), 5. One Horse Open Sleigh (1857) which later was renamed Jingle Bells and written for Thanksgiving, 6. '54 from Santa Baby (Eartha Kitt), 7. Last Christmas (George Michael of Wham!), 8. hula hoop, 9. Mannheim Steamroller with 8, 10. The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting Over an Open Fire) and Nat King Cole Trio first recorded it in June 1946, 11. Judy Garland in Meet Me in St. Louis (1944), 12. Jump (for my Love) Pointer Sisters 1984, 13. cup of cheer and egg nog, 14. 364. 15. I'll Be Home for Christmas (recorded in 1943 by Bing Crosby)

Rudolph by R. May (1939)
This tune came from a store promo . . .
In 1949, a recording of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer by the singing cowboy and actor, Gene Autry was No. 1 on the U.S. charts the week of Christmas and it was his biggest hit. 
The song written by Johnny Marks was based on a 1939 story,  Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, written by his brother-in-law, Robert L. May.

That story first appeared in 1939 when the Montgomery Ward company, a department store chain, asked one of its copywriters, 34-year-old May, to create a Christmas story it could give away to shoppers as a Christmas promotion. The retailer had been buying and giving away coloring books annually and decided that creating a book would save money. 

May created Rudolph as the ninth and youngest of Santa's reindeer, who uses his luminous red nose to lead the reindeer team and guide the sleigh on Christmas Eve. May considered "Rollo" or "Reginald" before selecting Rudolph, thankfully. 

The story goes that May while thinking about how to craft a reindeer story looked out his Chicago office window. When, a thick fog from Lake Michigan inspired him to use a bright red nose that would shine through it like a spotlight. Ironically, that story line was initially rejected as in 1930s popular culture, a bright red nose was associated with alcoholism and drunkards. May asked Denver Gillen, an illustrator friend at Montgomery Ward to draw cute reindeer. The alert, bouncy character that he created, convinced management to support the idea.The company gave away more than 2 million copies of the book in its first year, rising to 6 million copies by 1946. 

Holiday songs written by Jewish composers . . .
White Christmas (Irving Berlin)
Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire (Mel Torme & Robert Wells)
Let it Snow (Sammy Cahn & Jule Styne)
Santa Baby (Joan Javits & Phil Springer)
It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year (George Wyle & Eddie Pola)
Silver Bells (Ray Evans & Jay Livingston)
Walkin’ In a Winter Wonderland (Felix Bernard & Richard B. Smith) 
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree, A Holly, Jolly Christmas, Silver and Gold (Johnny Marks)

Non-holiday songs played mainly during Christmas, include . . .
Let It Snow, Winter Wonderland, Baby, It's Cold Outside, Ave Maria, My Favorite Things, It's a Marshmallow World, Walking' in a Winter Wonderland, Frosty the Snowman, You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch, I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm, Hallelujah (Leonard Cohen), Carol of the Bells

This fun post was compiled from various internet sources and print articles. 
It was an interesting look at popular holiday tunes. Hope you enjoyed as well.πŸŽ„

Your turn — if you know any interesting song facts, please share in a comment !

Wednesday, December 13, 2023

40th Christmas Anniversary

A previous post featured two popular holiday tunes, each of which hit No.1 on the Billboard Top 100 during the Christmas season — years after they debuted, both considered classics

1983 Movie Poster
This long post focuses on a classic film celebrating its 40th anniversary this year —
 A Christmas Story (1983) is one of our favorites. Like millions of others, we watch it every year.

For anyone not familiar with the story (is that possible?) here's a synopsis: The film is a series of vignettes involving the home, family, friends of 9-year old Ralphie Parker (Peter Billingsley) during the 1940 holiday season. He lives with his parents (played by Darren McGavin and Melinda Dillon) and younger brother Randy (Ian Petrella) in the fictional Midwest town of Hohman, IN. 

Before Christmas, Ralphie daydreams about his perfect Christmas gift — a  Red Ryder carbine-action, 200-shot range model air rifle with a compass in the stock and this thing that tells time. This Christmas wish is thwarted by his mother, teacher and a department store Santa who taunt him with You'll shoot your eye out.

The gun wasn't a made-up product (unlike the leg lamp) but made by Daisy, only it didn’t have a compass or sundial. It's still among the most sold BB guns. Red Ryder was a popular comic strip character that debuted in 1938 and ran in some 750 newspapers, later a radio and TV show.

Other film storylines include: narrow escapes from neighborhood bullies, battles with a smoke-belching furnace, attempts to get his younger brother to eat, parental disagreements over his father's infatuation with an lamp that looks like a woman's leg, and an unpleasant visit with a department store Santa.

Humorist Jean Shepherd
The film is based on the humorous writings of Jean Parker Shepherd, born July 1921 in Chicago, IL to Jean Parker Sr. and Anne (Heinrichs) Shepherd. He grew up in Hammond, IN, which served as the model for the Parker family’s fictional Midwest town in the film. Like Ralphie, the movie's lead, Shepherd grew up on Cleveland St and went to Warren G. Harding Elementary School in Hammond, IN. 

Shepherd was a popular radio personality on KYW in Philadelphia, then on WOR in NYC where his nightly radio broadcast entertained a legion of young people, including Grenville. Many of Shepherd's semi-fictional anecdotes appeared in Playboy magazine and were collected in a 1966 book, In God We Trust: All Others Pay CashIn Playboy, the book chapter was called Duel In The Snow or Red Ryder Nails the Cleveland Street Kid. 

A Christmas Story is narrated by Shepherd as an older, adult Ralphie. This narration is a welcome tradition as the holiday wouldn't be complete without seeing the film at least once, easy to do now— it's become a marathon viewing event on cable TV.

Some well-known memorable scenes include: delivery of a major award won by Ralphie's father; its unpacking and setting up in the front window; Ralphie's letting an f-bomb slip, his imaginary shootout with Black Bart's gang, his father chased by a pack of at least 785 smelly hound dogs owned by the hillbilly neighbors, the Bumpus family; his best friend Schwartz daring friend Flick, to stick his tongue to an icy flagpole; Ralphie pummeling a bully tormentor.

Ironically, the film was almost never made. It was only made after a deal was struck between the director and MGM.

Director Robert Clark
In the late 1960s, director Robert Clark heard a broadcast of Shepherd’s recollections growing up in Indiana in the late 1930s-early 1940s. When the program finished, Clark knew he wanted to make a movie from them.
For years, he tried to find a studio to finance the film, none were interested. Clark, a journeyman director, specialized in low-budget B movies and directed the 1981 film, Porky’s, a teen comedy set in 1950s FL. (Its title refers to a redneck establishment in the Everglades that fronts a brothel.) It was a box office hit and the studio wanted a sequel. Clark now had bargaining power. He agreed to a sequel if the studio would let him do A Christmas Story first. 

MGM agreed. The modestly budgeted comedy ($3,300,000) was released in 1983 a week before Thanksgiving on less than 900 screens. It was a sleeper hit earning $2 million its first weekend, double by Thanksgiving weekend, a solid showing. MGM hadn't counted on it being a success and didn't scheduled distribution to more than the opening screens for the lead up to Christmas. The holiday-themed film disappeared from theaters around Christmas. It had been "played out." 

What to do? Movie goers lodged complaints at theater owners and the studio, and it stayed in 100 theaters until January 1984. Ultimately, the film collected $19 million at the box office.

TV ad for 24-hour marathon
A Christmas Story crept into the mainstream through home video and cable broadcasts which were just starting. In 1986, MGM basically gave the movie to Warner Bros. including it as part of a 50-movie, pre-1986 film library deal. Cable network TNT aired its first 24-hour marathon in 1988 as a publicity stunt, which soon became a tradition. 

As usual, the movie will air on TBS and TNT, including a 24-hour marathon that starts on Christmas Eve and ends on Christmas Day. Over 40 million viewers will tune in at some point. It's become one of the most popular holiday films on a par with It’s A Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th Street.

Some Christmas Story Trivia
The movie was filmed in the U.S. and Toronto, Ontario. Director Clark sent location scouts to 20 cities to find an American city resembling a 1940s Indiana town, before selecting Cleveland, OH. That decision was also based on the fact that Higbee’s (an actual downtown department store) would allow filming inside the store. (Higbee's was a stand-in for Goldblatts department store in Hammond, IN, where Shepherd grew up.)

Christmas Story House, Cleveland, OH 
The house in the movie is located outside of downtown Cleveland and the Higbee building still stands downtown. Exteriors of Warren G. Harding Elementary School were filmed at Victoria School in St. Catharines, Ontario. The tree shopping scene was filmed in Toronto. A trademark red trolley is seen driving by the Christmas tree lot. 

A Christmas Story house and museum, 3159 W 11th St, Cleveland, OH, is open year round for tours and overnight stays. It features props, costumes, film memorabilia, film photos, including toys from Higbee’s window, Randy’s snowsuit, the chalkboard from Miss Shields’ classroom and the Parker family car. 

There's minimal special effects due to the film's small budget. Some characters were locals. A child wearing goggles that Ralphie and Randy meet while waiting to meet Santa was a local extra, as was Santa, his elves, and the Wizard of Oz characters.

Shepherd’s concept for the “major award” leg lamp was based on a Nehi soda logo. The style of the leg lamp was created by production designer Reuben Freed who had never seen (or heard) of a leg lamp. Three lamps made for the movie all broke on set during filming.
One of several Nehi soda advertisements
Nehi is a flavored soft drink created in 1905. In the early 20th century, its national advertising logo typically showed a woman's legs. The skirt was high to show the stockings up to the knee, suggesting the phrase "knee-high" to illustrate correct pronunciation of the company name. Nehi is now owned by Dr. Pepper Snapple Group which limits its sales and distribution countrywide.

Director Clark & Writer Shepherd
In addition to providing voice-over narration, writer Jean Shepherd had a cameo appearance as a department store customer who sends Ralphie to the back of the Santa line. The woman standing behind him is his wife.

Director Bob Clark also has a cameo as Swede, the Parker family’s neighbor who stops to marvel at the major award leg lamp from across the street.

The Radio Orphan Annie decoder that Ralphie receives is the “Speedomatic” model, indicating that the movie takes place in December 1940. Different decoders were made each year from 1935-1940. By 1941, they were made of paper due to WW II metal shortages.

The role of Ralphie Parker’s father, was originally offered to Jack Nicholson, who reportedly was interested. Clark lobbied hard for Darren McGavin and producers, worried about Nicholson’s usually large salary, approved McGavin. 

Darren McGavin & Belinda Dillon
McGavin was 61 years old, his movie wife Belinda Dillon, was 43 at the time.

McGavin ad-libbed profane rants while fighting with the furnace, done to ensure a PG rating. He said he spoke gibberish as it was impossible for him to ad-lib angry words without using profanity.

According to Peter Billingsley (Ralphie) the string of  gibberish curses he exclaimed while beating up bully Scut Farkus were scripted, word for word, perhaps to avoid him from accidentally using real profanity.

In the dream scene when Ralphie is firing at Black Bart's bandits in the backyard, young Billingsley was chewing on real tobacco, not black licorice as cowboy actors did. The prop department had provided it to the child actor, something that shouldn't have been done. He reportedly had some after-effects.

Did you really think that Flick’s tongue was stuck to the flagpole? Fear not, it was an illusion. A piece of plastic was wrapped around the pole with a hole in it. A hidden suction tube was inserted and attached to a hidden vacuum motor. Tests have shown that a human tongue can get stuck to a frozen pole; cold metal will turn saliva into “a kind of superglue.”
Flick (Scott Schwartz) accepts dare
The Radio Orphan Annie decoder that Ralphie gets is the “Speedomatic” model, indicating that the movie takes place in December 1940. Different decoders were made each year from 1935-1940. By 1941, due to WW II metal shortages, they were made of paper.

Some of the “snow” used during the bullying scenes was actually soap flakes and fire fighters foam. Movies often use fake snow to create winter wonderlands. It's  easier to control than real snow, and easier on actors who won't freeze while delivering lines. (That was done in the snowstorm scenes in It's a Wonderful Life shot in July during very hot weather.)

Zack Ward (Scut Farkas)
The character of Scut Farkus (Zack Ward) was created for the movie and never appears in the book, there Grover Dill is the only bully who torments Ralphie and his friends. 

In a final scene, the Parker family goes to a restaurant on Christmas and a group of waiters sing Jingle Bells. Director Clark didn’t tell the actors the men were going to sing. Their reactions to the singing were genuine.

Actor Peter Billingsley took home three film props; the Red Ryder BB gun, pink bunny suit, and broken glasses. Ironically, the broken glasses weren't a prop, but his own that broke on set.

In 2022, Billingsly played Ralphie for the first time in almost 40 years reprising the role in A Christmas Story Christmas. As a grown-up, married-with-kids adult, he returns home for the holidays. The film included many original 1983 cast members, excluding McGavin and Dillon who had died. 

Your turn — Test your film knowledge with these ? (answers below). 
I triple-dog dare you! (all in fun, no prizes, just braggin' rights)
  1. The Parker family eats the same meal nightly, what?
  2. How is Ralphie’s father referred to in the film?
  3. Finish the quote: I didn’t get a … this year
  4. Ralphie puts a flyer for the BB gun in which magazine?
  5. Which U.S. state was A Christmas Story set in? (mentioned above)
  6. Finish the quote: Meatloaf, smeatloaf, double beetloaf. I hate ….
  7. What car does Ralphie’s father drive?
  8. Before getting a flat, which Christmas song were the Parkers singing?
  9. Finish the quote, You used all ..... on purpose, who said it?
  10. What does Ralphie call the Red Ryder BB gun in his dream?
  11. Who was on the cover of the magazine Ralphie put the BB gun flyer in?
  12. Which TV show was inspired by A Christmas Story?
  13. How many times does Ralphie mention wanting a Red Ryder BB Gun in the film?
  14. Which Christmas carol plays in the opening scene?
  15. What gift does Flick plan to give his father for Christmas?
  16. Ralphie uses a Little Orphan Annie decoder pin to reveal what secret?
  17. What did Ralphie's mother give his father for Christmas?
  18. Where did Randy hide, scared that Ralphie was going to be in big trouble?
  19. What does Ralphie blurt out when helping his father change a flat? 
  20. What soap is used to wash out his mouth with afterwards, name 2 other soaps mentioned 
  21. What does Ralphie’s father say as Ralphie models Aunt Clara's pink bunny suit?
  22. What word on the lamp crate makes Ralphie's father think it's foreign?
  23. Where does Ralphie find his last present?
  24. Name a present Randy gets and takes to bed
  25. What was the teacher's name; what mark did she give Ralphie's theme?
Answers: 1. Mashed potatoes, red cabbage, meatloaf 2. The old man 3.Tie, 4. Look magazine, 5. Indiana 6. Meatloaf said by Randy (his brother) 7. Oldsmobile, 8. Jingle Bells 9. Glue, said by Ralphie's father to his wife 10. Ol' Blue, 11. Shirley Temple, 12. The Wonder Year, 13. 28 times 14. Deck the Halls (by Percy Faith orchestra) 15. A rose that sprays water, 16. Drink your Ovaltine 17. Blue bowling Ball 18. Under the sink 19. Oh, Fudge! (that's not the word) 20. Lifebuoy (Palmolive and Lex) 21. He calls it a pink nightmare and says Ralphie looks like a deranged Easter Bunny 22. Fragile 23. Hidden in a corner 24. Zeppelin 25. Miss Shields, C+
Humorist, writer, radio personality Jean Shepherd died in 1999 at age 78.

Film director Robert Clark, 67, and his 22-year old son were killed in an April 2007 car accident in Pacific Palisades. Their vehicle collided head-on with a driver under the influence who was also driving without a license.

Belinda Dillon, who played Ralphie's film mother, died in January 2023 at age 84. Her on screen husband, Darren McGavin died in 2006, also at age 84.

You can hear Shepherd read the book chapter that became the film online (YouTube) — Jean Shepherd - A Christmas Story. On Christmas Eve 1974, Shepherd narrated on his long-running WOR-AM radio show. No visuals, just a listen from an amusing story teller.

Thursday, December 7, 2023

No. 1 After 65 years

Did you hear that finally there's a new Christmas song queen this year ?

Brenda Lee now
The song that Brenda Lee recorded as a 13-year old teenager in 1958, Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree is the No. 1 song on the current Billboard Hot 100 for the first time beating out Mariah Carey's long-standing holiday tune, All I Want for Christmas, now at No. 2.

The 78-year old Lee is also the oldest artist to achieve this milestone. It's a tall one for the under 5-foot tall singer. It was 65 years ago in 1958 when Lee recorded the holiday song after signing a contract with Decca Records. In 2019, it peaked at No. 2. The song's 2023 triumph is partly credited to a newly released music video coinciding with the song’s 65th anniversary. Carey's holiday tune took 25 years to reach No. 1, released in 1994 it hit the top spot in 2019.

Home Alone 1990
The song was featured in the 1990 now classic Christmas movie, Home Alone. Coincidentally, this past week actor Macaulay Culkin, who starred in the film as the 8-year old Kevin McCallister reached permanent placement on The Hollywood Walk of Fame. 

This current No. 1 holiday status marks Lee's third career first top spot on the chart, her first since 1960, when she topped the charts with I’m Sorry and I Want to Be Wanted. During the 1960s, Lee had 37 U.S. chart hits, a number that's surpassed only by Elvis Presley, The Beatles, Ray Charles and Connie Francis.

Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree was written by Johnny Marks, who specialized in writing Christmas songs despite being Jewish and not celebrating. His other holiday hits include Rudolph the red-Nosed Reindeer, A Holly Jolly Christmas, Silver and Gold, I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day. Marks is also credited with Run Rudolph Run written by Chuck Berry but credited to Marks due to his trademark on Rudolph.

Internet source
The Billboard Hot 100 is the music industry standard record chart in the U. S. for songs and is published weekly by Billboard magazine. Chart rankings are based on sales, online streaming, and radio play in the U.S.

The 2023 triumph of Lee's Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree has been credited to a newly released music video coinciding with its 65th anniversary. Lee, who turns 79 on December 11, pushed to help it climb the chart by recording the song's first official video, featuring cameo appearances by country superstars Tanya Tucker and Trisha Yearwood. The song has become an online sensation, according to online sources, with over 8 million views, nearly 35 million streams and 21 million radio plays to date this year.

In 2018, Billboard reconfigured its chart calculation formula, giving more weight to streaming and so catalog recordings, released a year ago or many years ago, would have a chance to chart alongside new material, as listeners are likely to stream old favorites repeatedly. During the holidays, artists usually don't release new tunes, more listeners turn to a shared body of well-loved holiday songs.

Mariah Carey 1994 Christmas album
Those Billboard changes impacted holiday music big time and in December 2018, All I Want for Christmas Is You went to No. 6 on the Hot 100, the highest position it had ever reached on the singles chart. Although it had debuted in 1994 on her 
fourth studio album and first holiday album, Merry Christmas (Columbia Records) it wasn't released as a commercial single and due to chart rules at the time, it was ineligible. 

All I Want for Christmas Is You has topped the Hot 100 every holiday for years. In December 2019, it went to No. 1 for the first time holding that spot for the next three years. It was Carey's first-ever No. 1 song on the chart. Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree annually peaked at No. 14 on the Hot 100 in 1960, then at No. 2 between 2019 and 2022.

There's $$$ in that hit holiday tune too. Carey, who co-wrote All I Want for Christmas Is You with Walter Afanasieff, has profited $60 million from a tune that she said took 15 minutes to write. On average, she earns around $3 million each holiday season. That sum is higher up when she performs holiday concerts and tours and does holiday specials and endorsements.
Olivia Olson in 2003

Coincidentally, just like Lee's holiday tune, Carey's tune was prominently featured in another popular holiday movie. 
The character of Joanna Anderson (Olivia Olson) sang it towards the end of Love Actually (2003) at a school concert and had everyone in the film cheering. Reportedly, Olson's singing was so good that the film's producers had to ask her to tone it down to make it more believable. She had such an amazing voice that writer and director Richard Curtis had it edited so it sounded more like a child singing.

The Chipmunk Song
 As of this week, several other holiday favorites are in the top 10 list as well. Jingle Bell Rock (Bobby Helms) is No. 4, Last Christmas (Wham!) is No. 5, A Holly Jolly Christmas (Burl Ives) is No. 6 and It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year (Andy Williams) is No. 10. 

Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree is only the third holiday song to go all the way to No. 1 after All I Want for Christmas Is You. That's because Christmas Don't Be Late (The Chipmunk Song) which was also released in 1958 (like Rockin') three weeks later topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It was written by Ross Bagdasarian (stage name David Seville) who sang and recorded the song and varied tape speeds to produce high-pitched chipmunk voices. Vocals were credited to Alvin, Simon and Theodore, Seville's cartoon chipmunk group.

Merry Christmas to Brenda
It Christmas wishes do come true, Brenda Lee got hers early this year, after 65 years.

Here's some of my holiday favorites: I'll Be Home For Christmas and White ChristmasπŸŽ„(1941, 1943 Bing Crosby), Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas (1944 Judy Garland)The Christmas Song (1961 Nat King Cole), It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year (1963 Andy Williams), Christmastime Is Here (1965 Vince Guaraldi Trio), Merry Christmas, Darling (1970 Karen Carpenter)Last Christmas (1984 George Michael), Believe (2004 Josh Groban), Carol of the Bells (various artists).

πŸŽ„The first public performance of the song was by Crosby on Christmas Day, 1941, on his NBC radio show The Kraft Music Hall, a few weeks after the Pearl harbor attack.

Plus, some holiday non-favorites: All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth, I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus, Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer, Christmas Why Can't I Find You?πŸŽ„ Mele Kelikimaka, Blue Christmas, Dominick the Donkey, The Twelve Days of Christmas, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, Little St Nick, Jingle Bells (barked by dogs), Santa Baby, Christmas Don't be Late, Is Zat You Santa Claus?, Happy Xmas (War Is Over!), Do They Know It’s Christmas?

πŸŽ„Written by Mariah Carey, James Horner, Will Jennings for the 2000 film, How the Grinch Stole Christmas and sung by Cindy Lou Who (Taylor Momsen).

Your Turn — do you have some likes and absolute dislikes in holiday music ?
Today, is a day to remember Pearl Harbor (Dec 7, 1941) for all the reasons already known.
Chanukah, the Festival of Lights begins tonight Dec 7 and continues to Friday, Dec 15.
Holiday Happiness is the F&P focus this month with trivia, concerts, decos and a road trip.