Saturday, August 12, 2017

Detroit Festival of Books 2017




Last month, my publisher 1701 Press had a booth at the first-ever Detroit Festival of Books. The all-day event was held in Detroit's historic public market, Eastern Market. The turn-out from readers and book collectors was fantastic! Many, many thanks to all the people who showed up and the wonderful new friends I made. It was quite a rush--in July, no less--to meet so many people excited about Christmas entertainment! And, I extend congratulations and much gratitude to the efficient event organizers who hosted the successful happening.




Between conversations with readers, I stood on a chair to take a photo of some of the crowd. Michigan is filled with people interested in reading books in print. Don't believe the hype that says "No one reads anymore" or "Print books are dead." It's just not true.




While I was in Detroit, I decided to enjoy myself and go record shopping. In Ferndale, I found a used record store and hit the jackpot! They had a sizable Christmas music collection and I found several vintage records that I needed for my growing collection. As you can imagine, I'm usually looking for holiday records that tie into television, film, and popular culture. Here are a few of the records I got in Detroit:


from 1965 musical TV special

I've been looking for this for a few years--the music from ABC's 1965 musical The Dangerous Christmas of Red Riding Hood. The production stars Liza Minnelli, Cyril Ritchard, Vic Damone, and the British Invasion band The Animals. I'm very excited to finally have my own copy of the original soundtrack. If you haven't seen the production, you should. Several years ago it was officially released on DVD so it's fairly easy to find.


(1974)

I've been keeping an eye out for this album for a while now too. It's a collection of Christmas carols sung by professional singers but Earl Hamner himself (the original creator and narrator of the TV series The Waltons) provides some storytelling. Will Geer (Grandpa Walton) can be heard too! Great album cover--I may just hang this on the wall! I'm so happy I finally found this.


(1983)

I grabbed this record as fast I could! This LP is the 1983 release of the 1973 animated TV special The Bear Who Slept Through Christmas, by DePatie-Freleng. There is both music and spoken word on the record. I'm pleased that it includes the original voice actors: Tommy Smothers, Louie Nye, and June Foray. More on this record release from the expert Greg Ehrbar: http://cartoonresearch.com/index.php/depatie-frelengs-bear-who-slept-through-christmas-on-records/



1970 animated production

Ha! This one is still sealed. According to the cover (I haven't opened it yet), this record is the story and music from the soundtrack of the 1970 animated production Santa and the 3 Bears. Should I open it or keep it in sealed, original condition? I don't know yet. Decisions, decisions....



(1967)

Ooohh I've been looking for this one too. This is a recording from the soundtrack of Rankin/Bass' cel animated TV special Cricket on the Hearth. It features Danny Thomas and his real-life daughter Marlo Thomas, as well as Ed Ames, Hans Conried, Abbe Lane, Paul Frees and even Roddy McDowall. This TV special is one of the lesser-known Rankin/Bass Christmas stories--one adapted from a Charles Dickens tale. This LP was probably a promo copy--it has a small hole punched through the top left corner, but I'm just glad to finally have my own copy.


(1979)

I didn't know what this was when I pulled it from a box of Christmas records in the store, but for one dollar it was coming home with me. The album's cover shows considerable wear but for one dollar, who can complain!? Storytelling and music with Mel Blanc--what's not to love? Again, I defer to Greg Ehrbar for more info: http://cartoonresearch.com/index.php/bugs-bunnys-high-fructose-christmas-record/



(1984)

This was another one that I just grabbed and added to my growing pile. I didn't care what songs were on it, it was one dollar and it was coming home with me. Now I see it includes familiar holiday carols, such as "Deck the Halls" and "Sleigh Ride," as well as less familiar ones, like "Children Go Where I Send Thee"--a song that always reminds me of Tennessee Ernie Ford's Christmas TV specials. There are also original holiday songs written just for the Cabbage Patch Kids! It's a little nuts.


(1962)

Although this album cover has seen better days, it IS 55 years old so copies aren't that plentiful. This recording is the spoken-word story of Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates, the live action Disney TV movie based on an original story by Mary Mapes Dodge, which takes place during the mid-nineteenth century in Holland. The story is set over the Christmas holiday. The movie originally aired in 1962 on The Wonderful World of Disney, in two parts. Do you remember this movie adaptation?





I don't see a year on the album cover--and I can't find anyone else suggesting a year on the internet. If you know when this was recorded or released, let me know. I believe I have the photo rotated--the title should not go across the top but along the left-hand side of the album. Anyway, this record used to belong to a radio station--it has a station identification written across the back cover.

The LP is a collection of ten recordings by Hollywood entertainers expressing their thanks, gratitude and holiday greeting to members of the U.S. Navy for their service. The celebrities speak over Christmas music. It's actually pretty cool. Celebrities on this album include Eddy Arnold, Phyllis Diller, Jack Webb, Norm Crosby, Florence Henderson, Robert Young, Gary Crosby, Shirley Jones, George Maharis, and Edie Adams. I'm guessing it's from the late 1960s or early '70s. The mother from The Brady Bunch and the mother from The Partridge Family on one record!? yup.



(1980)

This is another weird one that I'm pleased to have found. It is still sealed and I haven't opened it yet. It is a spoken word recording of the 1980 Salvation Army annual Christmas program. The program consists of two parts--"A Search for Beauty" and "Christmas-Reflections by Starlight," featuring actor Michael Landon. There are chorale and orchestration credits on the back cover so clearly Landon is speaking over music. Again, it's still wrapped and sealed in the original plastic and I haven't decided to open it yet, but...it IS tempting.

Do you collect Christmas records? Have you seen the documentary movie Jingle Bell Rocks about Christmas music collectors? When I visited Christmas music collector Jeff Fox last year, we also went record shopping--here's that post again. I hope your summer is going well. Christmas is just around the corner.


Joanna Wilson is a TV researcher and book author specializing in Christmas entertainment. Her latest book "Triple Dog Dare: Watching--& Surviving--the 24-Hour Marathon of A Christmas Story" was released in 2016. Her books can be found at the publisher's website: 1701 press.com



Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Christmas in July 2017: Jim Fanning


Christmas in July 2017: Jim Fanning of Jim Fanning’s Tulgey Wood  
1) Who's your favorite Santa Claus?

I agree with the many participants who said that Edmund Gwenn in Miracle on 34th Street (1947) is the perfect Santa Claus. But there are others either equally intriguing or at least interesting, whether in animated form (e.g., The Flintstones) or live-action (e.g., The Brady Bunch, I Love Lucy). Of all of them I think I'll pick Santa Claus in Frosty the Snowman (1969). Each of the Rankin/Bass specials that feature Santa Claus has a slightly different take on the beloved figure, and here I like his firm command of Christmas magic as he explains how a good jolly December wind will bring Frosty back to life. And of course his voice is performed by the great Paul Frees so how can I resist?



2) What's your favorite Christmas episode from a TV series?

Again so challenging to answer. There is the gold standard "Christmas and the Hard Luck Kid II" from The Mary Tyler Moore Show which is the one holiday episode I make sure I see every Christmas time. And I agree with George Prentice about the annual The Late Show with David Letterman holiday show on CBS featuring Darlene Love and (best of all) Paul Shaffer's  timeless impersonation of Cher singing “O Holy Night.” But that only reminds me of a bona fide classic that I am lucky enough to have on video tape: Christmas with the Lettermans, David Letterman's 1984 spoof of a 1960s Christmas special complete with a phony family for Dave and classic guest stars such as Pat Boone and the Doodletown Pipers, as well as everyone’s dream holiday visitor, Brother Theodore. Weird, disturbing and affectionate in an odd (very odd) way it's a wry, ironic and downright demented tribute to some of the cheesier holiday themed variety specials we have been subjected to. (Of course we always watch them anyhow.)


3) Do you enjoy watching Christmas entertainment year round or do you only like watching it during the holidays? And, why?

I try to watch holiday specials, shows, movies and other programming only at Christmas time because to watch them other times of the year, for me at least, makes them seem less special. Having said that I will usually sneak something in July or thereabouts—often inspired by the in-depth answers right here at the annual Christmas TV History questionnaire!

4) This is the 21st century--how do you watch TV and/or Christmas entertainment?

I watch Christmas programming anyway I can get it: my extensive collection of video tapes, DVDs, and Blu-ray discs, network TV, cable such as TCM (Turner Classic Movies), YouTube, Netflix and Amazon Prime. And to combine this answer with my previous answer I just watched the Christmas episode (never before seen by me) of the animated series BoJack Horseman on Netflix. So its Christmas in July on a streaming service! Just call me a 21st century boy.


from 1972 TV movie The House Without a Christmas Tree.

5) If you were to be stranded on an island (maybe Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean!), what three Christmas movies, specials, or episodes would you like to have with you?

Another question that takes the wisdom of Solomon or at least Santa Claus which I definitely do not have. However, forced to choose right now, my answer is The House Without a Christmas Tree, A Muppet Family Christmas and the all-time, unmissable TV classic, A Charlie Brown Christmas.


Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Christmas in July 2017: RECAP


Did you check out all the responses by our Christmas in July participants?  In case you were late to the party this summer, here's your chance to catch up. Below is a complete list of links to each of our guests who participated in July. It goes by quickly, doesn't it?

If you're the curious sort, you may be interested to note that Edmund Gwenn, the actor who played Kris Kringle in the 1947 movie Miracle on 34th Street was overwhelming chosen as Favorite Santa Claus. And, White Christmas and A Charlie Brown Christmas were programs that participants most wanted to bring with them to a deserted island.

Thanks to everyone who participated in Christmas in July and to all who left comments. If you would still like to leave comments, please feel free to do so--the discussions don't have to end just because July is over.




Introduction to Christmas in July 2017 and Joanna Wilson's responses

Hugh H. Davis 

Johnny Holmes from Radio Once More and The Holmsey Blog

Clifton Barnes from North Carolina




George Prentice

Donna Bock

Drew Flowers, Co-Moderator for ChristmasMoviesandMusic

Patrick Manning
 



Mitchell Hadley, from It's About TV!

Cathie Kahle, member of Christmas Movies and Music

Linda M. Young from www.flyingdreams.org

Ed South - What's Your Favorite Movie? podcast




Ronda Roxbury

Jim Inman - Christmas Movies and Music

Randall Buie from Henderson, Nevada

Jeff Fox




Rob Martinez - The Nights Before Christmas

Laura Rachel at What to Watch.

Kevin Bowman

David Hannah
 



Tom Howley
  
Joe Mello from Wish You Merry Christmas and My Third Parent  

SleepyKittyPaws

Jim Randle of Paris, Tennessee




David Hofstede from Comfort TV

Dominic Caruso from 1701 Press

Net from It's a Wonderful Movie

Jakki from Christmas Movies & Music




Niall McGarry

Daniel Budnik from Some Polish American Guy Reviews Things

Jennifer Lundgren, from Stockholm, Sweden

J.A. Morris from Holiday Film Reviews

Jim Fanning of Jim Fanning's Tulgey Wood



If you're interested in our mini-questionnaires from years past, here are some links:

Christmas in July 2016

Christmas in July 2015

Christmas in July 2014

Joanna Wilson is a TV researcher and book author specializing in Christmas entertainment. Her latest book "Triple Dog Dare: Watching--& Surviving--the 24-Hour Marathon of A Christmas Story" was released in 2016. Her books can be found at the publisher's website: 1701 press.com


Sunday, July 30, 2017

Christmas in July 2017: J.A. Morris


Christmas in July 2017: J.A. Morris from Holiday Film Reviews

1) Who's your favorite Santa Claus?

Edmund Gwenn as "Kris Kringle" in Miracle on 34th Street (1947). There have been lots of great movie and TV Santa's in the 70 years since, but I think Gwenn is still the gold standard.  


John Candy as Johnny LaRue on SCTV.

2) What's your favorite Christmas episode from a TV series?

The 1981 Christmas episode of SCTV, "Staff Christmas Party." My father and I watched it when it first aired more than 30 years ago and taped it off Nick At Night a few years later. Now my family watches it every year during the week of Christmas on DVD and we've shared it with relatives who never heard of SCTV before!

 
3) Do you enjoy watching Christmas entertainment year round or do you only like watching it during the holidays? And, why? 

Since I review Christmas entertainment, I occasionally watch it out of season. But I generally prefer not to, I get a bit queasy when I hear "Jingle Bells" in May.


4) This is the 21st century--how do you watch TV and/or Christmas entertainment?

I primarily watch DVDs, Turner Classic Movies and channels like MeTV and Antenna. 



5) If you were to be stranded on an island (maybe Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean!), what three Christmas movies, specials, or episodes would you like to have with you? 

A Charlie Brown Christmas, Rudolph, and the aforementioned SCTV episode.


Christmas in July 2017: Jennifer Lundgren

2001's Call Me Claus.
 
Christmas in July 2017: Jennifer Lundgren, from Stockholm, Sweden

1) Who's your favorite Santa Claus?

That is tough. I really like Richard Attenborough [in 1994's Miracle on 34th Street], but I also like Nigel Hawthorn in Call Me Claus and who can resist Whoopie Goldberg in white dreds. She ranks as the most original.



2) What's your favorite Christmas episode from a TV series?

I really like "Twas the Episode Before Christmas" from Moonlighting and "The Ghosts of Christmas Past" from The X-Files. Though technically a solstice episode I also like "A Solstice Carol" from Xena. Perfect for the Swedish midwinter.


3) Do you enjoy watching Christmas entertainment year round or do you only like watching it during the holidays? And, why?

Year round, when the mood strikes. Either when it is so hot outside and want to see snow. To being depressed and wanting to feel uplifted.


4) This is the 21st century--how do you watch TV and/or Christmas entertainment?

I am in Sweden so not much comes on the TV. I have Netflix and numerous DVD's in my personal collection. And whatever I can find on YouTube.


1942's Holiday Inn

5) If you were to be stranded on an island (maybe Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean!), what three Christmas movies, specials, or episodes would you like to have with you?

1) White Christmas
2) Holiday Inn (it covers all holidays after all)
3) Miracle on 34th Street (the original)

If I get 5, I would say A Charlie Brown Christmas and Die Hard. It's good any time of the year.


Saturday, July 29, 2017

Christmas in July 2017: Daniel Budnik

 
Christmas in July 2017: Daniel Budnik from Some Polish American Guy Reviews Things


1) Who's your favorite Santa Claus? 

My initial thoughts are "Night of the Meek" from The Twilight Zone or Christmas Evil. But, after taking a moment, I’ve chosen Santa Claus from the Doctor Who episode "Last Christmas." I’m not going to go into the story because it’s a Moffat-fueled hoot that would take ages to explain. But, Nick Frost as Santa is fantastic. Not only is he the Santa I’ve always imagined but he kicks butt. That’s what I want from Mr. Claus. Plus, when The Doctor finally retires, I think he becomes Santa Claus. (In "The Doctor Dances," it’s intimated that he might actually be Santa. So there you go.)


from 1974's Happy Days Christmas episode.

2) What's your favorite Christmas episode from a TV series?

If you’ve read any of my previous Christmas in July columns, this will make me sound like a broken record. I go with "Guess Who’s Coming To Christmas," the second season Happy Days Christmas episode. I can watch this any time of year and it makes me happy. It’s the first real step in the show towards incorporating The Fonz into the world of the Cunninghams. It’s also the first real sign that The Fonz is human and not just a rebellious chick magnet with a great bike. (Of course, this is a season or two before he’d become the wonderful superhuman we all love). It’s also a sign that keeping up the façade of being Cool might have a price. And that price is a lonely Christmas with only your bike, a small tree and ravioli out of a can. Thank Goodness that Richie figures it all out. Plus, there’s the bittersweet moment welcoming the Fonz in and saying goodbye to Chuck. But, I won’t go into that.

I’d also like to add an OTR episode. The Fibber McGee and Molly Christmas episode from December 21, 1942. Not only is it very, very funny. But, their closing remarks about the War always make me tear up. FM&M was one of the most patrotic of OTR shows (along with Bob Hope) and this moment is just wonderful. A conflict much of the country could actually get behind. That hasn’t happened in my lifetime and I find it fascinating.

3) Do you enjoy watching Christmas entertainment year round or do you only like watching it during the holidays? And, why?

I love, love, love Christmas entertainment. However, I do generally save it for Christmastime. I watch stuff from Thanksgiving Weekend to New Year’s. I can watch Xmas stuff all year long but I prefer to save it. However, if I’m watching a show in episodic order and I come upon a Christmas episode, no matter what time of the year, I’ll savor it. And, sometimes if it gets too hot (I prefer the cold. I have little tolerance for heat.), I will put on something Christmassy and snowy. (Or the slasher film Iced, which might be set around Christmas.)

4) This is the 21st century--how do you watch TV and/or Christmas entertainment?

Generally, it’s some sort of physical media. Blu-Ray, DVD, or VHS. Sometimes I will scan the TV schedules and record (or watch) stuff. But, generally, if I love it and want to watch it, I’ll get myself a copy. Never rely on a TV station or someone else to schedule something you want to watch at a holiday. Do it yourself. I’ve seen people get mad because, say, TCM didn’t show The Bishop’s Wife one year. You know what? If that’s part of your annual holiday viewing, buy the Blu-Ray. It looks gorgeous. Of course, if you like complaining, then keep complaining. Everyone needs a hobby.

 
1974's Black Christmas


5) If you were to be stranded on an island (maybe Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean!), what three Christmas movies, specials, or episodes would you like to have with you?

Black Christmas. The original. Scary, funny and oh so cold. I don’t know what Billy did to Agnes and I hope I never find out.
You Can’t Do That On Television “Christmas” Because it brings me lots of joy. I can watch this episode once a day, every day, during the Christmas season. (In fact, I have.)
I think I’d also take along a Christmas episode of The Price Is Right. Probably from the late 1970s/ 1980s. You get Bob, fun games, big prizes and lovely ladies. I’m sure that would make me very happy.
(I’d hope I got stranded on an island with lots of forest on it, like Dog Island in Humongous. Rather than a desert island. I can pass on the desert.)

Friday, July 28, 2017

Christmas in July 2017: Niall McGarry

Richard Attenborough from 1994's Miracle on 34th Street.

Christmas in July 2017: Niall McGarry

1) Who's your favorite Santa Claus?

I haven't yet found a Santa that matches up to the Santa Claus of my imagination but the Coca Cola Santa probably comes the closest but worthy mentions should also go to Edmund Gwenn, Richard Attenborough, Ed Asner & David Huddleston.


 Only Fools and Horses.

2) What's your favorite Christmas episode from a TV series?

In the UK, series tend to end before the holiday season and instead we are treated to a special extended seasonal version of a popular series. I'm going to cheat here and choose 3 very different UK favourites. My first choice is a special episode of Only Fools and Horses called 'The Jolly Boys Outing' and was first shown on Christmas Day in 1989. Like many UK Christmas specials, Christmas doesn't feature at all and the episode actually takes place over the August Bank Holiday weekend. Despite that, it is forever associated with Christmas. My 2nd choice is The Gavin and Stacey Christmas Special from 2008. This special episode actually revolves around a typically British Christmas and the prospective in-laws et al coming to stay, just delightful. My 3rd choice is "The Worst Christmas of My Life," which is a special version of the sitcom The Worst Week of My Life and was shown in 3 parts during Christmas week in 2006 and is about the new parents bringing their first baby home to the wife's parents for Christmas. This is played as a very British farce and everything that can go wrong goes wrong.


3) Do you enjoy watching Christmas entertainment year round or do you only like watching it during the holidays? And, why?

I try to limit what I watch outside the holiday season in order to rack up the anticipation but I do allow myself to watch the odd Christmas TV movie I've still got recorded when I'm in need of a fuzzy boost.


4) This is the 21st century--how do you watch TV and/or Christmas entertainment? 

We use all the platforms but I'd say we watch mostly the terrestrial channels via antenna as they are very good over Christmas but we have satellite, Amazon & Netflix as well and if there is a seasonal special then we'll catch it there. I have a collection of favourite DVDs of movies and specials and will watch those as well. If there is a special cinema showing of a Christmas classic then we might go and see that and we usually go to see Royal National Ballet's production of The Nutcracker every year if we can.


2005's The Family Stone.

5) If you were to be stranded on an island (maybe Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean!), what three Christmas movies, specials, or episodes would you like to have with you?

A very hard choice but two movies we absolutely must watch every Christmas is White Christmas & The Family Stone. Very different but both are much loved and we will only watch those during the holiday season. My third choice is an episode of my favourite sitcom Frasier, "Merry Christmas Mrs Moskowitz." It is so clever and is the classic farce with characters coming in and out of doors just avoiding each other. The dialogue & timing is just faultless and is one of the funniest episodes ever written.