About Christmas TV History

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Rankin/Bass Voice Actors in Other Christmas Programs

Ever wondered what the celebrities who loaned their voices for our favorite Rankin/Bass animated specials looked like? Want to actually SEE them in other Christmas programs? Look for them in the following:

Shirley Booth gave her voice to bring Mrs. Claus to life in 1974's The Year Without A Santa Claus. Booth also appeared in the holiday episodes "Hazel’s Christmas Shopping" and "Just 86 Shopping Minutes to Christmas" from the 1960s TV sitcom about a savvy maid--a character inspired from a comic strip.

Mickey Rooney lends his voice as Kris Kringle in 1970's Santa Claus is Comin' to Town, as Santa Claus in 1974's The Year Without A Santa Claus and as Santa Claus in 1979's Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July. Rooney can be seen in the holiday episode of the family sitcom Full House entitled "Arrest Ye Merry Gentlemen" from 1994. He's made several appearances in Christmas movies but my favorites are 1990's Home for Christmas and 1938's Love Finds Andy Hardy--which also stars Judy Garland and Lana Turner. yeah!

Jimmy Durante sings and narrates the story in 1969's Frosty the Snowman. You can see him in one of my all-time favorite Christmas movies, 1942's The Man Who Came to Dinner. This film is filled with pop culture references of its day and Durante plays a rambunctious character named Banjo that was a then-obvious nod to Harpo Marx. If you haven't seen it, this film is a fast-paced, hilarious story that is sure to please. How often have you seen actress Bette Davis in a comedy? Have I convinced you yet? Durante is also in The Great Rupert from 1950--a very weird movie worth catching if you've never seen it. Not wanting to spoil it for you, I'll just say an absurd squirrel plays a primary role in moving the storyline forward.

Of course, these actors where originally hired to lend their voices because they were already celebrities of their time. But these Rankin/Bass animated classics have outlived their original context and have been embraced by a younger generation that may not be as familiar with the work of these celebrities. Maybe seeing the actors in live action programs will give those interested a renewed enthusiasm for the voices that seem so familiar.

If you like this post, let me know--I can post more live action programs with Rankin/Bass voice casts.

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