Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Littlest Angel


In January, I was shopping in Cleveland, OH in a very cool vintage shop and found this LP. I probably paid too much but I don't care. This is the soundtrack to one of my favorite Christmas TV specials, The Littlest Angel. This two-hour special was a Hallmark Hall of Fame production based on the popular children's book authored by Charles Tazewell. It is also a musical and features songs sung by Johnny Whitaker, Fred Gwynne, Tony Randall, Connie Stevens and Cab Calloway, among others.

In The Littlest Angel, child actor Johnny Whitaker plays the young angel Michael who doesn’t like Heaven very much. The unhappy eight year-old angel is homesick, he doesn’t know how to fly and he’s much younger than the other angels. His guardian angel, Patience, tries to help him get flying lessons and to fit in so he can enjoy paradise, but to no avail. Michael is eventually allowed a brief return to his earthly home to retrieve his favorite box of things which includes: a dog collar, several broken birds eggs, a couple of river stones, a feather and a butterfly. Once he’s back in Heaven, all the other angels are busy preparing for the birth of God’s son and planning their gifts. While the other angels have made precious gifts befitting royalty, Michael has nothing to offer except his favorite box of treasures. Although he’s embarrassed by its inadequacies, he humbly shares his most prized possessions. However, God is pleased with Michael’s generosity and turns the humble gift into the bright Star of Bethlehem.


the album's back cover


If you can get over the fact that Michael is a homesick little dead boy who is unhappy with being sent to Heaven, then the story can be sweet. This version of the popular Christmas story was originally produced on videotape and so it lacks the image quality of a filmed production. However, the casting is superb and more than makes up for the low image quality and budget chroma-key special effects.

Moreover, who would have known that actor Fred Gwynne, fondly remembered for his patriarchal role as Herman Munster on the 1960s TV series, The Munsters, would have a lovely singing voice? (Anyone who has seen the Christmas episode of Car 54, Where Are You? which also includes Gwynne singing--that's who!)

This is one of my favorite Christmas specials because it includes Johnny Whitaker--whom I adored as a child. I've always had a thing for Whitaker, Billy Mumy and Danny Bonaduce. Yeah, the red-heads were all over television in my childhood. But I'm also a *huge* Tony Randall fan. So I had to buy this album, at any price, when I found it at that vintage shop in Cleveland.


the back cover of the album unfolds to reveal these pop-out images from the TV special


The cast of The Littlest Angel includes: Johnny Whitaker as Michael; Fred Gwynne as Patience; Tony Randall as the philosophical angel, Democritus; music legend Cab Calloway as the angel Gabriel; actress Connie Stevens as the Flying Mistress; James Coco as Michael’s father; and E.G. Marshall as God.

This Hallmark Hall of Fame production was rebroacast in 1970 and 1971 however it can now easily be found on cheaply produced dollar DVDs.



Part 1 of The Littlest Angel

8 comments:

  1. This is one of my very earliest "TV remembrances"...vaguely remember the plot etc, but recall Whitaker as an angel etc. Haven't seen in decades...thanks for posting.

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  2. Oh my God . . . I remember seeing this when I was five years old! I just watched the first part of this on the YouTube clip above, and when Johnny Whitaker began singing "Where Am I?", the memories came flooding back . . . I can't watch this nowadays; the concept of a sad, dead little boy is more than a bit depressing for me. And if you think about it - the boy died from a fall from a cliff as he was chasing a beautiful white bird . . . sent by God. I don't want to point fingers, but - that's not right. Anyway, thanks for the abbreviated trip down memory lane.

    You wouldn't happen to have "J.T.", would you?

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    1. Why yes, I do. You are welcome to use the search box along the right-hand side of this blog to find your Christmas favorites--and if I haven't written about it in the past, feel free to request it. I'll see what I can do. http://www.christmastvhistory.com/2010/05/do-you-rememberjt-1969.html

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  3. Saw this as a child! I remember vividly how he turned and fell from the cliff, and I remember him hugging his mother when he went back for his box. I remember the box too, but not much else about the story! I suppose it didn't become a beloved classic because of his death, which did seem to be orchestrated by God. Not exactly a feel-good moment! But the fact that God used his box for a miracle does make it a lovely story in the end. Thanks for bringing me back to my younger days!!

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    1. It would seem to " arrange " a death, using a dove, symbol for God's Spirit, as a lure, but - mysterious ways, unknowable mind / will of God, etc..... People accepted that kind of thinking more back then.
      There was a story called " The Star " on the 1980's revamp of the Twilight Zone. Adapted from a story by Arthur C. Clarke, it dealt with archeologists in space visiting a world that was home to a great civilization. Said civilization was destroyed by its star gone " nova ". It turned out that light from the nova appeared over the town of Bethlehem. Just thought I'd mention.

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  4. Thank you a million thanks for this Joanna!!! My family grew up on this recording and in recent years it's gotten so worn. We thought our time was measured for enjoying this with our family. We bribed the next generation into listening to it out of fear it would be their last chance. =) None of us have ever seen the film/video, but just knowing there's a way for us to continue to enjoy this most endearing and one of our favorite celebrations at Christmas time is a tremendous gift. Thank you!!!

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  5. Thank you Joanna!!
    Well, I was just searching for WEB entries on "The Littlest Angel" and this showed up. I am truly honored that so many remember this GREAT Christmas Classic. The Tunic I wore will be at the Hollywood Museum to benefit A Minor Consideration from 08/14/16 through Christmas/New Year. There is some narration of my experience doing the film on my YouTube Channel at https://youtu.be/xKvcJSGyc2g

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    1. Thanks Johnny! I'll be sure to share the news about the costume at the Hollywood Museum and the good work A Minor Consideration does for child actors. Thanks for sharing.

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