About Christmas TV History

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Rankin/Bass Voice Actors in Other Christmas Entertainment--Part 3

This is another updated post from a three-part series first written in December 2009.  My first year of blog posts have few photos and many of those earliest posts are overlooked.  I thought I'd brush off the dust, add some photos, and supply more commentary.  Did you see catch Parts 1 and 2?  Click HERE to see Part 1 againClick HERE for the link to Part 2.

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:

TV Guide ad for the stop motion holiday special Rudolph's Shiny New Year.

Careful with that sickle!  It's Father Time voiced by comedian Red Skelton.
Skelton also voices Baby Bear in Rudolph's Shiny New Year.

Comedic actor Red Skelton provided his voice for 1976's Rudolph's Shiny New Year as the narrator Father Time and Baby Bear. The curious lock of red hair on Father Time's forehead is actually a reference to Skelton's own ginger appearance. Skelton was an extremely popular comedic actor with his own television series for twenty years, The Red Skelton Show. Before that he was popular on the radio. His humorous style included joke telling, pantomime, and a regular cast of characters he brought to life in narrative sketches including Clem Kadiddlehopper--a confused rube, Willie Lump-Lump--the drunk, and Freddie the Freeloader--an adorable hobo clown.

After hearing the beautiful music coming from the church at Christmas time, Freddie the Freeloader decides against his "life of crime."

Two of Skelton's shows from his TV series are Christmas classics including 1954's "The Cop and the Anthem," an adaptation of the heartwarming but twisted tale from American writer O.Henry starring Skelton's lovable Freddie the Freeloader.  (I think I like the Christmas story of The Cop and the Anthem even more than O.Henry's more popular tale The Gift of the Magi).

The rag doll (Cara Williams) and Freddie the Freeloader (Skelton) share a laugh after falling down while ice skating in "Freddie and the Yuletide Doll."

Skelton also used his hobo character in the second classic 1961's "Freddie and the Yuletide Doll" which is Skelton at his best, pantomiming a skit about the lonely Freddie finding a rag doll on a park bench and fantasizing a day full of events for the two desperate souls on Christmas.

Singer/actor Danny Thomas and his real-life daughter, actress Marlo Thomas lend their voices to the 1967 animated classic Cricket on the Hearth. Danny Thomas plays the toymaker, Caleb Plummer while Marlo voices Caleb's daughter, Bertha.

Caleb and Bertha Plummer in Cricket on the Hearth.

Even if you've never seen The Danny Thomas Show--also known as Make Room for Daddy, you can see Danny Thomas in the live action introduction to Cricket.

Rumor has it that Danny Thomas' family sitcom Make Room for Daddy offered several Christmas-themed episodes, unfortunately they are impossible to find. (If you've seen them--let me know!)

Marlo Thomas in "Christmas in the Hard Luck Kid" on That Girl.  The little boy Tommy in that same episode--seen above in the chair--is played by Christopher Shea.  Shea provided the voice for Linus in A Charlie Brown Christmas.  Now you can see what he looks like as well!

Fortunately, Marlo Thomas' groundbreaking comedy series That Girl includes two Christmas episodes "Christmas And the Hard Luck Kid" in 1966, "‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, You’re Under Arrest" in 1967 and a New Year's episode "Should All Our Old Acquaintance Be Forgot" in 1968.

Remember this minor hit from Rankin/Bass?  It also stars voice actor Angela Lansbury (see Part 2 again).

Actor Cyril Ritchard provided the voice for the character Father Thomas in the 1975 animated special The First Christmas which is more commonly retitled The Story of the First Christmas Snow.

Liza Minnelli (left) as Red Riding Hood and Cyril Ritchard (right) as Lone T. Wolf.

Ritchard made his career mostly playing roles for the stage but can also be seen in the 1965 TV special The Dangerous Christmas of Red Riding Hood, as Lone T. Wolf.

DVD cover of 1965 TV musical special.

This TV special is available for viewing on DVD and stars a very young Liza Minnelli as Red Riding Hood, crooner Vic Damone as the Woodsman, and British Invasion rockers Eric Burdon and the Animals as the wild Wolf Pack. Those are some rockin' woods Red Riding Hood is walking through!

The caveman One Million BC, nicknamed OM, and Rudolph.

And to return to 1975's Rudolph's Shiny New Year, the talented Morey Amsterdam breathes life into the caveman character One Million B.C. The actor with the distinctive voice also appears on one of the most treasured classic TV Christmas episodes of all time: 1963's "The Alan Brady Show Presents" of The Dick Van Dyke Show.

Amsterdam plays joke writer Buddy Sorrell, the co-worker of Rob Petrie (Van Dyke). In this Christmas show-within-a-show, (we watch the Christmas variety special of "The Alan Brady Show" as the holiday installment of The Dick Van Dyke Show), Buddy not only sings with the ensemble cast but plays "Jingle Bells" on the cello. Click HERE to see the post I recently wrote about the first musical number in this classic Christmas TV episode.

Next: an all-new post, Part 4 about Rankin/Bass voice actors including Vanessa Williams, Fred Astaire, and Dennis Day.


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