Chuck Brooks Viewpoint: Not too early to talk Christmas films
Over the last five years, you've learned a lot about me via our weekly connection. It should not come as a surprise to you once again to read something about Christmas long before December because I am the one who has a child firmly entrenched inside my adult psyche, and there's nothing I can do to control this love for the season. Nor would I want to even if I could. Since next week we'll be talking Thanksgiving and my December columns are booked, it's this week I have to focus on this topic if I'm going to focus on it at all. Pop some corn, grab your favorite beverage and get in your comfy chair because we're goin' to the movies!
Two years ago, I shared my list of favorite Christmas movies I enjoy each year. Of course, I mentioned many that a lot of you love as well. What I didn't share were several titles most of you would never classify as Christmas films, but guess what? I do. By the time I'm done here, I'm sure you'll be certain I've lost my handle on what is and what isn't Christmas material.
I'll ease into my list of five with one some of you might be able to connect with. On Dec. 14, 1961, Disney brought to the theaters a little musical called "Babes in Toyland." I was 6 years old when my mother took me to see it. I've always wondered exactly where my memory began to work, and as I researched this release date, I have to admit I was surprised to discover I have a memory of being 6. I remember standing in front of the concessions counter with Mom, looking at still photos they had posted of the movie we were about to see. For whatever reason, they made an impression with me. The movie has nothing to do with Christmas until the final portion which takes place at Santa's workshop only manned only by the Master Toymaker and his assistant. The song Toyland appeared in the first version of this film with Laurel and Hardy back in 1934, but Disney also included it in their version. I pull out this DVD on Nov. 1 and return it to the vault on Dec. 26 but will play it numerous times throughout "my" season. It still makes me smile.
Next up, a Bob Hope film. The "Lemon Drop Kid." This movie begins with its credits all
appearing on decorations on a Christmas tree. Again, Christmas is not the focus in this film. However, at one point, the debut of the song Silver Bells occurs, sung by Bob Hope and Marilyn Maxwell as they walk along a snowy downtown street during the Christmas season. The movie is a comedy about a gambling Hope who has gotten himself in a bit of financial trouble with a mobster. Again, I only bring it out for the two months. It speaks Christmas to me.
My third film is one you may have heard of since it has Bette Davis as the lead female: "A Pocketful of Miracles." Davis is Apple Annie, a bag lady who sells apples on the streets and more specifically to one of New York's gangsters who finds her apples good luck. They end up having to help her out by trying to transform her from a homeless woman into a sophisticated society lady. The movie opens with a brief medley of Christmas tunes before changing into the theme song of the movie's title. Winter is basically the movie's setting. At one point, when they reveal a made-over Annie, the Nutcracker Suite is the background music for her entry into the scene. Surely that speaks Christmas movie to you, doesn't it? Why certainly!
My final two titles are a tough argument, but I somehow manage to make one for them. The first is "Snow White and the Three Stooges." It has absolutely nothing to do with the holiday. There are some scenes that occur during winter. However, it's traditional Three Stooges fare. I must have seen it during the holiday season when I was a kid, and I've always equated it with the season, so there's my defense for that one. "Snowball Express," a Disney comedy, takes place at a ski lodge and that's about the only explanation I can make as to why I bring it out on Nov. 1. I will admit both movies are still in my crosshairs after the 25th as long as there's snow in the forecast.
I haven't even mentioned "The Bells of St. Mary's" or "Going My Way" with Bing Crosby. Bing Crosby, Mr. Christmas! Neither requires explaining or defending.
Next week, we'll talk turkey. I'll take a different slant on the traditional "What I'm Thankful For" list. I think a certain age group will find it interesting. See you then!