About Christmas TV History

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Rankin/Bass Voice Actors in Other Christmas Entertainment--Part 2

This is another updated post from a three-part series first written in December 2009.  That was my first year of blogging and I hadn't really figured out how to add photos yet!?  While most of those earliest posts are overlooked, some of them are still interesting.  I thought I'd brush off the dust, add some photos, and supply more commentary.  Did you see Part 1?  Click HERE to see Part 1 again.

Ever wondered what the professional actors and 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:

The villain of Frosty, the magician Professor Hinckle wants his hat back from the snowman's head--even if it removes the life from Frosty!
Billy DeWolfe provides the voice for the character of Professor Hinckle in 1969's Frosty the Snowman. But you can also see him as the fussy, irritable next-door neighbor, Mr. Jarvis, in the 1970 holiday episode "It’s Christmas Time in the City" on The Doris Day Show. This episode is also special because Ms. Day sings a moving version of the classic Christmas carol, "Silver Bells."

The fussy and cranky neighbor Mr. Jarvis (DeWolfe) complains to Doris about her loud holiday party in the 1970 Christmas episode of The Doris Day Show.

Blarney Killakilarney, the narrator of The Leprechaun's Christmas Gold.

Art Carney lends his voice talent the narrator Blarney Killakilarney in 1981's The Leprechaun's Christmas Gold. Click HERE to see what I had to say about that TV special again.

Art Carney as Ed Norton (center).  "Twas the Night Before Christmas" is one of the Classic 39 of Honeymooners episodes.

Carney appears in several Christmas-themed programs including the 1955 episode of The Honeymooners' entitled "‘Twas the Night Before Christmas" as Ralph Kramdon's best friend and neighbor, Ed Norton. This episode is a very quirky re-telling of the familiar O.Henry story The Gift of the Magi but here Ralph pawns his favorite bowling ball in order to buy Alice an orange juice squeezer shaped to resemble the head of Napoleon.  I said it was quirky, didn't I?  It's also extremely heart-warming, making it one of viewers' favorite Christmas episode of 1950s TV.

The magic of the season is found just over the horizon, on the Twilight Zone.

Carney also appears in everyone's favorite Twilight Zone holiday episode, "The Night of the Meek" from 1960 as the embittered drunk that finds himself with a supernatural sack that is able to produce the perfect gift and fulfill people's Christmas wishes. This particular episode is certainly in my top five for all-time favorite Christmas TV episodes.  And, let us not forget that Art Carney is also in 1978's The Star Wars Holiday Special as the pro-rebellion outpost trader, Saun Dann.

The singing and dancing, groundhog narrator Pardon-Me-Pete in Jack Frost.

Comedic actor, Buddy Hackett provides the voice to the groundhog narrator Pardon-Me Pete in 1979's Jack Frost. Hackett can also be seen playing Ebenezer Scrooge in the TV special-within-a-movie, Scrooged from 1988.

Hackett (left) in his Ebenezer Scrooge costume during rehearsals for the TV special Frank Cross (Bill Murray) is producing in the comedy film Scrooged.

Actress Greer Garson can be heard as the beautiful voice of the storyteller in 1968's The Little Drummer Boy and its sequel The Little Drummer Boy, Book II from 1976.

Compassionate stories about orphans (and the homeless in general) are popular Christmas time subjects.

Garson can be seen in the 1941 film Blossoms in the Dust--a movie closely associated with the Christmas holiday. Though not a holiday-themed story itself, this film dramatizes the real-life story of Edna Gladney, a Texas woman in the early twentieth century that worked to help unwanted children from being raised in orphanages and instead placed in homes. The film's story about orphans and its themes of compassion and charity make it an annual holiday favorite on television.

Remember the nun Sister Theresa finds the little boy Lukas after he's struck by lightning?  When he regains consciousness, he's lost his sight until...well, I don't want to spoil it for you!

And, Angela Lansbury voices Sister Theresa in 1975's stop motion story The First Christmas, now more often retitled as The Story of the First Christmas Snow.

JB Fletcher in her ugly Christmas sweater helping prepare for the Cabot Cove holiday party on Murder, She Wrote.

Ms. Lansbury appears in several Christmas themed entertainments, however one of her most memorable roles is as super sleuth Jessica Fletcher in the ninth season Christmas episode of her series Murder, She Wrote entitled "The Christmas Secret."

Another favorite starring Lansbury is Mrs. Santa Claus, a 1996 TV movie musical by Broadway composer Jerry Herman.  This made-for-TV movie sees Mrs. Claus stranded in an immigrant neighborhood in New York City during the early part of the twentieth century, helping her new friends in their social and political struggles including child labor issues and women's suffrage.  You're more than a little curious now, aren't you?

Lansbury performing "We Need A Little Christmas " with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, a TV special which first aired on PBS in 2001.

How many people know that Lansbury was also in the Jerry Herman Broadway musical Mame in the 1960s and it is her version of the hit song "We Need A Little Christmas" that has become so popular it can still be heard on the radio every year at Christmas time?

Next up: Part 3 with Rankin/Bass voice actors Red Skelton, Danny Thomas, Marlo Thomas, Cyril Ritchard, and Morey Amsterdam.


  1. THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! I love that you enjoy Rankin/Bass Christmas specials as much as I do.....First Christmas Snow is on my list to get for Christmas 2013

  2. I've got more Rankin/Bass voice actors in other Christmas programs coming up! Thanks for reading :)

  3. I'm constantly surprised by voice actors that I don't recognize. Of the ones you listed, the only performer I could distinguish by voice was Buddy Hackett.

  4. For me, it has been all too easy to overlook the celebrity voice actors in TV specials I've been watching my whole life. It's almost as if over-familiarity dulls the wow factor.