Christmas recommendations | Mark’s Remarks

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Some of my earliest memories of Christmas involved being sprawled out in front of the television set, watching all the Christmas shows.  

Back then, the early-to-mid-1970s, I don’t think they started in with Christmas commercials or TV shows until at least after Thanksgiving. Folks back then would most likely laugh at all the rush these days.

Do you remember when they’d start showing the Norelco shaving commercial when Santa rode over the snowy slopes on the head of that razor? You knew it was Christmas then, didn’t you?

I had a conversation this week about TV memories at Christmas time, and I thought it might be cool to write it all down for reference.  

Many special Christmas shows always were prefaced by a colorful graphic announcing a special presentation.  You can still see some of them on Youtube if you search.

I’d hunker down in my footie pajamas and watch for an hour or more, hoping to get in all the good stuff before bedtime at 8 p.m.

These days, kids still watch the old favorites I watched back then. I don’t want to mention the travesty that happened this year.  Suffice to say it was the first year a little bald-headed kid and his beagle didn’t show up on a network station. That’s almost a sin, I’d say. 

PBS still showed it on Sunday night.

Of course, us older kids will tell you younger folk that our TV viewing over the holidays were mostly pre-VCR days in which one waited an entire year to see the old favorites.  You had “Rudolph,” “A Year Without Santa Claus,” “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” and “Frosty the Snowman,” among others.

Since my own kids came along, I’d also recommend 1989’s “Prancer,” “The Snowman” from 1982, and one that was also of claymation fare, “The Little Drummer Boy” from 1968.  I hope you get to see the bald-headed kid and all these other favorites. I’d recommend them as my favorite holiday shows for kids.

As a youngster, I remember seeing all the big stars doing variety shows every year at Christmas.  My grandparents especially liked those, and I can remember being at their house watching Bing Crosby, Dean Martin, Andy Williams and others with their families every year.

When you look these guys up on Youtube, there are several to choose from in addition to one from the early 1960s when Judy Garland still had her TV show.  I know guys are not supposed to admit they like Judy Garland, but I could give a rat’s patootie. It’s a good show, and it’s cool to see how things were done in the early days of television.

I also found a couple of Christmas specials from the Hollywood Palace, which was before my time but fun to watch.

God bless Youtube.

One of my all-time favorites is the Christmas special that served as the pilot for The Waltons. It’s called “The Homecoming,” and has the original Grandma, played by fantastic Ellen Corby, as well as the kids when they were younger.  Patricia Neal plays the mother. It’s good stuff. They don’t show this one on network TV anymore, but I think you can watch on Youtube or a streaming service somewhere. Do a little searching if you want a treat.

Most of the children of the early 70s will remember “The House Without A Christmas Tree.” Still a huge fave of mine. I try to read the story every year to my students and show them the movie, which I have on DVD. Not sure if it’s available to stream, but it’s worth a shot. Also a treat.

Movies are also a fond holiday memory, and I still try to see my “Top 12” every year. Of course, like everyone, I love “It’s a Wonderful Life” (remember when they used to show it over and over and over?), but one of mine and my family’s favorites is a little known “B” movie with few well-known stars. It’s called “It Happened on 5th Avenue” from 1947. I really think you’ll like it.

I also like to catch any of the versions of “A Christmas Carol,” although I think I like the one from the 30s best. “Miracle on 34th Street” from 1947, “The Bells of St. Mary” from 1945, and “The Bishop’s Wife,” also from 1947, are all favorites. 1954’s “White Christmas” is a must, as well as “Remember the Night” with Fred Macmurray and Barbara Stanwyck from 1940. I like that classy dame Barbara, and I think she’s highly underrated.  My favorite Christmas movie of hers is “Christmas in Connecticut” from 1945.

Being a fan of the old movies, I’m going to try to see some with a Christmas theme that I’ve heard about but never seen. “Holiday Inn” from 1942, “Boys Town” from 1938, “The Singing Nun” from 1966 and Bob Hope’s “The Lemon Drop Kid” from 1951.

One I do not plan to see, ever, is one I just read about called “All Mine to Give” from 1957, about a large family that loses both parents. I read the synopsis of that one and realized why it isn’t talked about much during the holiday season.  If you are brave enough to watch, let me know what you think.  

There are a few more movies that would make my honorable mention list.  I am fond of “Pocketful of Miracles” from 1961 and “The Shop Around the Corner” from 1940.  I also like the one with Janet Leigh and Robert Mitchum called “Holiday Affair” from 1949.

I’ve seen a few Christmas movies from the “modern age” that I’d recommend, including “Little Women” from 2019, “The Family Stone” from 2005, “The Nativity Story” (excellent) from 2006, and also from 2006, a good one called “The Holiday” with Kate Winslet and Jack Black, among others.  

There are still a few non-vintage movies that I want to see, including “Joyeux Noel” from 2005 and “Silent Night” from 2002.

I think some of the best Christmas shows were from the sitcoms I grew up with, either watching on network TV or watching re-runs on KPLR. The only St. Louis station we could get in Fairfield, it showed a lot of the old sitcoms during the day, evening, and on weekends.  In fact, KPLR is really where I starting loving old movies.

I remember my first crush, Mary Tyler Moore, in  her sitcom’s “Christmas and Hard Luck Kid” and also the non-Christmas-yet-also-Christmasy episode called “Not a Christmas Story.”  Christmas episodes of That Girl, Bob Newhart, The Brady Bunch, The Beverly Hillbillies, Petticoat Junction and The Lucy Show are memorable and can be watched this year.  

We also used to watch Father Knows Best on KPLR and there’s a Christmas reunion show on Youtube from 1977.

I think my favorites from TV though are “Christmas Story” from The Andy Griffith Show, and the lost episode from I Love Lucy, first shown in 1956.  I also really liked The Doris Day Show on KPLR because her TV family lived on a farm, had a sheep dog named Nelson, and not only had an old truck, but also a red convertible. There’s a couple of good ones from her show called “A Two-Family” and “It’s Christmas Time in the City.”

I remember watching one of them on a snow day, way back when.

Got any TV or movie recommendations from the holiday season?  I’m ready to hunker down after the year we’ve had.  How about you?

Send your recommendations to me at MarksRemarks10@gmail.com.  

Happy Holidays to all of you!  God bless!

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