It’s that time of year again and as a movie lover, I have my
favorite must-see Christmas films! I
tend to prefer the classics so here goes:
Reginald Owen and his ghosts of Christmas past, present and
future scared the bejesus out of me—especially that spooky doorknocker! As a kid, I shook with fear, but never missed
a chance to watch this black and white classic.
Owen was the ultimate Scrooge and the fact that he was redeemed in the
end did not convince me that even Tiny Tim could truly and forever reform him. He probably returned to his old ways as soon
as the camera stopped rolling!
This film starring Fred Astaire
and Bing Crosby is best-remembered for the classic holiday song, ‘White
Christmas’ as sung by Crosby. The tune
went on to win an Academy Award for Best Song and remained the top-selling
single ever recorded until 1997 when Elton John’s ‘Goodbye, England’s Rose’
surpassed it. Oh, and one more thing…it’s
said that the founder of the real Holiday Inn chain, named his hotels after
It’s a Wonderful Life
Imagine what the world would have been like if you had not
been born. Well, George Bailey got a
glimpse of what Bedford Falls would have become without him—and it wasn’t
pretty. Clarence the angel showed him
around town in hopes of getting his wings.
And did you know that ‘Zuzu’ was the name of a cookie made by
Nabisco? And that was why George called
his daughter ‘my little ginger snap’. It
was that same Zuzu who let us know that every time a bell rings, an angel gets
Ah, Cary Grant as Dudly the angel! Heavenly bliss! But did you know that originally David Niven
was to play the angel and Cary Grant the bishop? What were they thinking? Thank heaven director Harry Koster saw the
error in this casting and switched things up!
I especially liked the way Dudley dictated the Christmas sermon and the
typewriter clacked away. Oh how I wanted
a typewriter like that when I was a kid!
And of course, the little girl named ‘Debbie’ made it even more
appealing to this little girl!
Miracle on 34th
This film was originally released in the summer of ’47 because
the powers-that-be thought no one would go to the movies at Christmas
time. The Thanksgiving Day parade scene
was actually filmed on November 28, 1946 at the real parade in New York
City. Edmund Gwenn played Santa Clause
that day and even addressed the crowd.
Legend says that eight-year-old Natalie Wood truly believed that Gwenn
was Santa Claus and was devastated when she saw him at the wrap party without
Of course, there are others, but these remain my favorites! Now by all means, leave a comment and tell us
about your favorite holiday films…
Visiting a barbershop was not
something most girls did in the waning hours of the afternoon when school let
out. I’m not even sure how it all
started, but when I was a kid, one of my besties, Carol, and I used to walk
along Jefferson Avenue in Detroit on our way home from school. It was just part of our daily routine in the
late sixties. One of the businesses we
passed was a barbershop with its red, white and blue pole swirling near the
door. All of the local gents got haircuts at Andy’s including Carol’s dad and my grandpa. Andy was hardly a stranger, but not normally
someone we’d hang out with. I remember
his thick accent that to my young ears sounded Scottish, but may have been
Irish or English. I’m not even sure his
first name was ‘Andy’, but that was what everyone called him.
Andy always had a smile and for
some reason took a liking to Carol and me.
He’d see us walking by and wave.
We’d wave back. Before long, and
only if he wasn’t busy, we’d step inside the shop just to say hello. That’s when we learned that Andy had a son
named David and. let it be known to all, Andy was one proud Poppa! David was an actor currently working in
England in a Peter Ustinov production of ‘You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown’. David played Charlie. Whenever Andy received a letter from his son,
he’d wave us in with such excitement you would have thought he’d heard from the
Queen herself. Carol and I would each
settle in one of his chairs and he would read David’s letter out loud.
One particular afternoon, we were
walking by and Andy waved us in. He had
a letter in his hand that he wanted to share, but there were customers
waiting. We looked at each other and
made an executive decision—we didn’t stop.
We simply waved and kept on going.
The next afternoon, Andy was waiting for us. His arms folded and a frown on his normally happy
face. “You girls saw me waving at you
yesterday, but you didn’t come in.”
“You had a lot of customers,” we
tried to explain. “We didn’t want to be
“I don’t care if my customers are
hanging off the ceiling,” he shook his head.
“If I wave you girls in, you come inside.” And just like that he was smiling again. “I got a letter from David.”
So in we went and this time Andy
was very pleased. David had mentioned
his sister. Andy’s daughter had died
some time ago. I believe she had cancer
and she left a husband and small children.
David apparently was devastated and never talked about her—until now. Andy just couldn’t wait to share that bit of
news with us. One afternoon, he waved us
in not because he had heard from David, but because he had gotten a handwritten
note from Dame Judith Anderson singing his son’s praises. She was impressed not only with his talent,
but also his work ethic and gentlemanly ways.
She wanted Andy to know what a fine son he'd raised. I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
The barbershop is long gone and I’m
sure Andy is no longer with us. I don’t
know what happened to David, but I will always remember our visits with Andy
and the way his face lit up whenever he received a letter from his son.
Long before the seventh inning stretch and the glory of the
grand slam, the original boys of summer took a road trip. They left New York and crossed the Hudson
River into New Jersey following their fearless leader, Alexander Joy
Cartwright, a member of the New York Knickerbockers Fire Fighting Brigade, who
also happened to organize baseball in his spare time.
Cartwright and his pals regularly played ‘town ball’, an
early version of baseball, on a vacant lot in Manhattan. Forced off their makeshift playground, the
loosely formed group had to get creative so in 1845, they traveled to Elysian
Fields in Hoboken—a picturesque park in what was then the New Jersey
countryside. It was also conveniently
located near several well-known watering holes where, after a spirited game,
the men could gather to commiserate or celebrate, whichever the case may
be. For an annual fee of $75, they
rented the place. Cartwright formally
organized the team he called ‘The Knickerbockers’ so he could charge dues and
cover the cost.
The official boys of summer now needed official rules to
play by. Cartwright, and his committee
of four, came up with twenty. Among
them, members had to be punctual; bases were to be 42 paces apart; balls
knocked outside of first and third base were considered foul and out of play;
umpires made the final decisions—no appeals allowed. He also thought that the game should be
played until one team earned 21 aces, or runs, with both sides always having an
equal number of batters. These new rules
also put a stop to ‘soaking’—making an out by hitting a runner with the
Not all of the Knickerbockers were happy campers,
however. Some of them didn’t like the
idea of traveling all the way to New Jersey for practice so these homebodies
stayed behind and called themselves ‘The New York Club’ or ‘The New York
Nine’. It was just as well because you
need two official teams to play an official game of baseball anyway.
The first formal baseball game played at Elysian Fields was
scheduled for June 19, 1846. The
Knickerbockers even wore uniforms—white flannel shirts, blue woolen pants and straw
hats. Players that day included Wall
Street clerk Henry Anthony and commercial merchant Daniel Tryon, but Cartwright
himself didn’t play. He took on the role
of umpire instead. With Cartwright
calling the shots, the New York Nine soundly trounced his Knickerbockers, 23-1,
in just four innings. In all fairness,
the Knickerbockers kept their best hitters on the bench. They thought it would better balance the game.
The afternoon wasn’t without incident, however. Cartwright fined one player, six cents for
swearing. Luckily, no one argued with
the ump (25 cent fine) or disobeyed the team captain (50 cent fine). There were obviously no hard feelings because
afterward both sides shared a gala dinner and the New York Nine all eventually
returned to the Knickerbockers team.
Over the next ten years, as other cities formed their own
baseball teams and competition increased, the Knickerbockers ruled the
roost. By the 1870s, however, when the
National League took shape, those first boys of summer had since faded into
So Punxsutawney Phil saw his
shadow—another six weeks of winter!
Groundhog Day can be traced back
to Candlemas Day, which was celebrated by early European Christians on February
2nd when clergy members blessed and handed out candles. Since February is right in the middle of the
winter solstice and the spring equinox, the weather that day was of great
importance. If the sun were shining,
winter would continue, but if the day brought clouds and rain, winter was
over. The Germans added their own twist
to Candlemas Day when they used a hedgehog.
As they settled in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, about 80 miles northeast
of Pittsburgh, the migrating Germans brought their Candlemas tradition with
them. The only problem was a lack of hedgehogs. Undetterred, they improvised with groundhogs.
The first official Groundhog Day
was celebrated on February 2, 1886 when Punxsutawney townsfolk gathered
together for a groundhog hunt. Even the
local newspaper proclaimed it Groundhog Day and reported that the animal
had not seen its shadow. The following
year, The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club gathered at Gobbler’s Knob, where they
still meet today, and christened Punxsutawney ‘the weather capitol of the world’. The group also officially named their soon to
be famous groundhog: “Punxsutawney Phil, Seer of Seers, Sage of Sages,
Prognosticator of Prognosticators and Weather Prophet Extraordinary”.
Punxsutawney folklore claims that
there has never been more than one official weather-forecasting groundhog. Unlike most groundhogs who live a mere six to
eight years, Punxsutawney Phil is over 120.
He stays fit by sipping Groundhog Punch, which adds seven years
to his life every time he swigs it. When
he’s not predicting weather, Phil and his wife, Phyllis, live in a climate
controlled area known as The Groundhog Zoo, which is conveniently connected to
the Punxsutawney Library. The couple is
cared for by the Inner Circle—those fellows who crowd around Phil wearing top
hats and tuxedos as he looks for his shadow.
Once Phil decides if spring will come early or not, he announces his
prediction to the Club President in Groundhogese. In turn, the president translates Phil’s
words to the rest of the world.
Sometimes, Phil dishes about more
than just the weather. During
Prohibition, he demanded a drink and in 1981, he donned a yellow ribbon to
remind everyone of the American hostages in Iran. In 1993, Phil was immortalized over and over
in the hit movie, Groundhog Day, starring Bill Murray.
With his flair for predicting the
weather, Punxsutawney Phil and his celebrated shadow will continue their annual
tradition at Gobbler’s Knob—unless the Groundhog Punch runs out.