About Christmas TV History

Friday, December 19, 2014

Shirley Temple's Storybook Christmas (1960)

This review first appeared on the website Holiday Film Reviews as an exchange for guest blogging. I love guest blogging--especially for JA Morris and RigbyMel of Holiday Film Reviews who I first met on my book tour through the South in 2010.  What a fortunate meeting!  It's always nice to meet people with whom you share much in common!  Thanks for hosting me, JA and RigbyMel.

Yes--THAT Shirley Temple had a TV show!
Christmas is certainly a time of nostalgia.  Most of us reflect back to simpler times, especially to our childhoods, when Christmas was still filled with fantasy, magic, and life lived at a slower pace.  With this in mind, I'd like to share about an often overlooked Christmas episode of the TV anthology series Shirley Temple's Storybook.  The 1960 episode "Babes in Toyland" was created during the second season after the series had changed its name to The Shirley Temple Show--but it's the same series.  Most installments of the family-friendly series were a re-telling of popular fairy tales or children's literary classics. "Babes in Toyland" however is an hour-long adaptation of the 1903 operetta by Victor Herbert.

In this 1960 episode, a now grown Shirley Temple introduces and narrates the story accompanied by her own children.  Left to right: Charlie Black Jr., Lori, and Linda Susan.

The 1960 TV adaptation is a comedy version of Babes in Toyland and is loaded with music and dancing.  The story is a familiar one--youngsters Alan and Jane are being looked after by their mean and nasty Uncle Barnaby who wants to cash-in on the children's generous inheritance.  Barnaby decides he desires their money sooner, rather than later, and hires three cutthroat thieves to set the innocent children adrift in a leaky boat.

Uncle Barnaby (Jonathan Winters) is a greedy, nasty man.  However Winters' comedy style of mugging for the camera deflects a great deal of what potentially could be a frightening story.

The adventure story continues when the children survive the open seas and wash up on nearby shores.  Alan and Jane are discovered by the gypsy witch Floretta and find themselves among friends with the band of dancing gypsies. That is, until Floretta sells knowledge of the children's whereabouts to Uncle Barnaby.  Alan and Jane escape and run into the frightening Spider Forest, eventually entering Meantown.

Jane and Alan (foreground) arrive at the gypsy camp where there is much dancing and merry-making.

Jane and Alan are jailed in Meantown, accused of the crimes of smiling, niceness, and kindness!

The nasty residents of Meantown find a way to jail the youngsters in the center of town.  Once again, Alan and Jane escape just one step ahead of Floretta, Uncle Barnaby, and his three bumbling henchmen.  The next stop on Alan and Jane's flight is the kingdom of Toyland, where all the toys for Christmas are made.  The children feel happy and safe amongst the land of the dancing toys and ask the royal Master Toymaker if they can stay forever.

To avoid being recognized by Uncle Barnaby, the children hide in plain sight as a dancing ballerina and wooden toy soldier during the Toyland parade.

The king likes the children however Floretta, Uncle Barnaby, and his minions arrive in Toyland to take Alan and Jane back home.  In the end, the Master Toymaker and the gypsy witch stand up for the children and Uncle Barnaby's evil scheme is thwarted.

In the end, the cast gathers to sing "Toyland," the most recognizable and still popular song from the original operetta.

You may already be familiar with other filmed adaptations of the operetta Babes in Toyland.  The most noteworthy include the 1934 movie starring comedians Laurel & Hardy which has since been re-issued under the title March of the Wooden Soldiers. Walt Disney created his own version in 1961 starring Annette Funicello and Tommy Sands. Let's not forget the surreal 1986 TV movie version starring Drew Barrymore and Keanu Reeves. And, in 1997 an animated version was created featuring the voice talents of Jim Belushi, Lacey Chabert, Christopher Plummer, and Charles Nelson Reilly.  Most of the adaptations alter the story quite a bit from the original plot.  However, I think the best adaptations are the ones that feature the original music by Victor Herbert and Glen MacDonough.

While imprisoned in Meantown, Jane sings "Go to Sleep, Slumber Deep" to her brother Alan, another song from the original operetta.

Shirley Temple's "Babes in Toyland" features the best of the original Herbert compositions including "Toyland," "Go to Sleep, Slumber Deep," "I Can't Do the Sum," and "March of the Toys."  In addition to these familiar Babes in Toyland tunes, the 1960 episode features numerous shorter musical performances.  This is an asset in an hour long program which allows for more performances to be included while preventing slow, drawn out segments.  The program also squeezes in two major dance sequences--the gypsy camp scene and the Toyland parade at the end--which makes this Christmas TV variety program even more entertaining.

Can you recognize Shirley Temple under the fake nose and chin, gray wig and kerchief, and long pointy finger nails?  She's Floretta, the gypsy witch.

Recognize these comedic actors' faces? Left to right: Joe Besser, Jerry Colonna, Carl Ballantine.  Center is Jonathan Winters, of course.

Even if you're not already familiar with the music from Babes in Toyland, you will be impressed with the stellar ensemble cast in this 1960 musical comedy.  Not only does Hollywood icon Shirley Temple introduce and narrate this adventure story, but she also stars in it as Floretta, the fortune-telling gypsy witch.  The evil Uncle Barnaby is played by Jonathan Winters.  The three bumbling cutthroats--Gonzales, Gonzorgo, and Rodrigo--are played by Jerry Colonna, Carl Ballantine, and Joe Besser, respectively.  And, the children, Alan and Jane, are played by Michel Petit and Angela Cartwright.

Jane and Alan lost in the Spider Forest.  Jane is played by actress Angela Cartwright who was also on The Danny Thomas Show in 1960.  Later, she would appear in the TV series Lost in Space--and sing in the movie musical The Sound of Music.

An added bonus: keen viewers may be able to spot animatronic fantasy figures--just like the kind that used to fill department store window displays at Christmas time--in the background of the Toyland scenes.

In addition to the music, dancing, and amazing cast, I think 1960's Babes in Toyland has something else going for it. The production was staged live which means the camera captures the authentic performances as they occur--and a few unpredictable moments as well. For example, the boat scene includes Petit nearly knocking over the ship's mast to which he is bound.  You can also see the boom microphone above the actors' heads in several shots. Although the camera moves a bit more slowly than we are used to, and the sets are often flat backdrops, I'm still caught up in the fantasy and adventure of the storytelling and music.  I love the more simple production values of this 1960 TV episode.  The lack of CGI elements isn't a weakness but rather its strength--a reminder of simpler times when entertainment included the viewers' imagination.  At Christmas time when I want to feel nostalgic, it's comforting to watch a program that also makes me feel nostalgic for quality Christmas entertainment.

Yes--Babes in Toyland is available for viewing on DVD.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Truman Capote's A Christmas Memory (1966)

Hopefully some day--and some day soon--this Emmy-winning program will be released on DVD for American audiences.
Originally broadcast as a segment on the anthology series ABC Stage 67, Truman Capote's A Christmas Memory has aired on TV independently of the series--although not for some time.  I own an official black-and-white release of the program on VHS--one I bought at a library sale many years ago.  However, I'm grateful to a Christmas TV fan who shared with me a digital copy he burned from a broadcast in the 1990s.  Now with the ability to capture images, I'm happy to share with you about one of my all-time favorite Christmas TV programs.

Even though I spend a tremendous amount of my time watching television, I'm also a reader.  I have always loved books and I spent my childhood at a local library engrossed in books.  Capote's short story A Christmas Memory, first published in 1956, is one of my favorite reads and features his one-of-a-kind voice and diction.  Not only does this Emmy-winning TV adaptation capture the short story's complex tone but it also includes Truman Capote himself narrating the program.

Geraldine Page as Sook.  "Oh my. It's fruitcake weather."

The story is a reflection back thirty years into the past during the Depression (now much longer ago) when the young boy called Buddy shares a happy Christmas with his best friend Sook.  Sook is an elderly distant cousin with whom Buddy lives after his parents left him in the care of others.  Although Sook is much like a simple child herself, she is a sensitive soul who loves him. Both Buddy and Sook dream of a better life despite living in a stern and cold household under the control of other family members.  Their precious friendship is detailed here in this holiday story--another Depression-era Christmas that is made meaningful not by gifts but by their common bond and warmth for each other.

A local farmer's warning about trespassers and a barbed wire fence do nothing to stop Sook and Buddy from collecting their pecans.

Buddy is played by Donnie Melvin.  Here, Sook proudly rattles off a long list of ingredients she wants to buy--even after the skeptical grocer questions their ability to pay.

As the holiday approaches, Sook announces it's time to begin making fruitcakes.  Buddy knows what this means since it is a ritual he shares with Sook each year at Christmas.  Together they walk to a nearby farmer's orchard to collect pecans.  Then they count the pennies, nickels, and dimes they have saved over the year to purchase the other ingredients from the grocery store.  The biggest challenge the partners face is acquiring the whiskey--a necessary ingredient in Sook's recipé.  Whiskey is illegal in the rural South where they live but everyone still knows where to buy it.  The intimidating bootlegger Mr. Haha Jones ends up offering them a bottle in trade for a fruitcake.

With much trepidation, Buddy knocks on the door of the rowdy and disorderly cafe run by Haha Jones.

The two friends put every effort into baking the finest fruitcakes they can craft.  Sook decides they can afford to make thirty cakes--all of which are baked as gifts for people.  Some of the cakes are destined to go to people Sook admires, such as President Roosevelt and missionaries from far away places, and some of the cakes go to folks who have showed them a bit of kindness in the past year. 

After the baking is through, Sook naively suggests they taste the remaining whiskey--a drink neither has ever drank before. Soon Sook and Buddy are both singing and dancing in the kitchen.

The party and merriment is quickly extinguished by the stern elderly aunts.  Not only do they criticize poor Sook's bad judgement (read: ignorance) but they guilt the simple-minded woman into her bed to cry for the night.

After the fruitcakes are sent in the mail, Sook and Buddy set out to chop down a beautiful Christmas tree for themselves.  Next, they hand make paper decorations for the tree.  Having spent all their money on ingredients for the fruitcakes, Buddy and Sook make each other Christmas gifts--paper kites--just like they do every year. 

After opening the disappointing gifts from the other relatives in the house, Sook and Buddy escape into the kitchen to open their hand made kites on Christmas morning.

In the most touching and complex scene in the whole program, we hear Sook express how much she wishes she could buy Buddy a bike for Christmas.  When Buddy insists that he most values a hand made kite from her, viewers can see the brilliance of Page's acting as the old woman's face flashes from regret and longing to skepticism to relief and happiness.  Her dreams for wanting to offer Buddy more than she can give him are replaced by the joy of sharing her life with someone who values her.   Buddy is able to convince her that he treasures her above his own happiness.  If that's not the Christmas spirit, I don't know what is.

With his memories, Buddy's friendship could last forever.

In the end of this autobiographical story, we see Sook and Buddy gaily flying their kites on Christmas morning in the pasture beyond their home.  The narration explains that this memory was the last Christmas he would share with Sook.  The following year it was decided by others that he should be sent away to military school. The wistful memory of Capote's childhood Christmas remains as his connection to his precious friendship long after Sook left his life. 

Buddy and Sook taking their kites out on Christmas morning.

They lie in the grass, watching their kites soar.  Although I have no fond memories of kite flying on Christmas morning, I'm still moved by the emotions that are produced by the act of looking into the past.

Although their stories are quite different, you should see a commonality between Capote's A Christmas Memory and Dylan Thomas' A Child's Christmas in Wales and even Jean Shepherd's narration in A Christmas Story.  Reminiscing about happy times of the past is a tradition most of us engage in at Christmas time.  The act of remembering is what we do at Christmas--just as we decorate the tree, bake cookies, and gather with our loved ones. Although Truman's memories are not your own, the very reminder of the act of reminiscing can be inspiring to recall past experiences that give us meaning and joy in our lives today.

You may be more familiar with the 1997 TV movie adapted from the same Capote short story--starring Patty Duke as Sook and Eric Lloyd as Buddy.  And, the 1994 TV movie One Christmas is based on another Truman Capote short story.  One Christmas continues the story of Buddy during a subsequent Christmas when he is sent to stay with his estranged father.  The two movies are worth seeking out and both still regularly air on TV during the holidays. However, neither is as wonderful, complex, and emotional as this 1966 classic.  Do you enjoy watching Christmas literary classics adapted for the screen and television?  Besides Dickens' A Christmas Carol, do you have a favorite?

Joanna Wilson is a TV researcher and book author specializing in Christmas entertainment. More about the TV programs mentioned on this website can be found in her book "Tis the Season TV: the Encyclopedia of Christmas-themed Episodes, Specials, and Made-for-TV Movies." Her latest book "Triple Dog Dare: Watching--& Surviving--the 24-Hour Marathon of A Christmas Story" was released in 2016. She is currently updating and expanding the encyclopedia for a 2021 release. Her books can be found at the publisher's website: 1701 press.com

*Support this website and its research by purchasing the books at 1701 press.com

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The DuPont Show with June Allyson: A Silent Panic (1960) Christmas

J.A. Morris and RigbyMel from Holiday Film Reviews have graciously shared another one of their clever reviews with me.  Today they discuss the rare TV episode "A Silent Panic" from the anthology series The DuPont Show with June Allyson.  This lost episode has recently been released for viewing after many decades of obscurity.  Many thanks to J.A. Morris and RigbyMel for guest posting today!

The DuPont Show With June Allyson:"A Silent Panic"

Premiered December 22, 1960.

The DuPont Show was an anthology series that ran from 1959 to 1961 and was hosted by actress June Allyson.

A man known only as "Benson" (Harpo Marx) is employed as a "mechanical man" (sort of a human wind-up toy) in a department store's Christmas window display.

A man is shot outside the store window

During one of his performances, a crowd gathers in front of the window to watch.  One of the spectators is gunned down, two hit men escape. Benson is the only witness to this crime.

Benson is brought in for questioning by the police, but there's a problem.  He is deaf, mute and can't help identify the gunmen.  This frustrates the police.

Benson performs a “reenactment” of the shooting for the police

The killers want to take Benson out of the picture, so they stake out the department store.

Benson notices them on his way to work and a chase ensues.  He hides at a warehouse until dark.  Daniel, the night watchman (Ernest Truex) sees him and offers him shelter.

Daniel is a lonely widower and is glad to have company for the night.  He loves to talk and calls the deaf Benson "the best listener" he's ever met.

The gunmen notice activity at the warehouse and pay a visit.  Daniel gives them the runaround, but they rough him up, believing he will lead them to Benson.

Benson escapes and tries to get help in hopes that the police will come to rescue Daniel.

J.A Morris says:
I've been a huge fan of the Marx Brothers for most of my life and "A Silent Panic" is something I've been aware of for years.  But beyond a brief clip in a documentary, I'd never seen any footage until it was released on DVD last summer as part of The Marx Brothers TV Collection.

The Lieutenant (Bert Freed) attempts to question Benson about what he witnessed

This is Harpo Marx's first dramatic performance.  He was getting pretty old at this point (72 when it was broadcast).  But signs of his old impish character are still on display, especially during the scene where he walks to work.  It's a wonderful performance, Marx conveys so much emotion here with facial expressions and a few gestures.

While it's certainly a "Christmas" story, the holiday makes its presence felt in subtler ways.  The soundtrack features bits of "Hark The Herald Angels Sing", "Jingle Bells" and "Good Christian Men Rejoice."   The interactions between Benson and the night watchman are very touching, there is lots of Christmas "good will" being shared between these men.  You might say their Christmas present is finding a new friend.

A sidewalk Santa greets Benson

If there's anything to criticize, the story is a bit slight.  We never learn anything about the victim of the shooting, the gunmen or why they killed him.  At one point, the police ask Benson's boss if Benson is illiterate.  The dialogue sort of dances around the answer.  With the exception of Benson, none of the characters are given names.  All the names listed in this review were taken from IMDB. But on the whole, “A Silent Panic” is very entertaining and heartwarming.

Benson runs through the snow and escapes to the warehouse.

In his memoir, Harpo Speaks, Marx says that whenever he had trouble remembering someone's name, he would call them "Benson."  So I'm guessing his character's name was sort of an inside joke.

While Harpo needs no introduction, here’s some information about the rest of the cast and crew:

"A Silent Panic" was directed by Arthur Hiller.  During his 50+ year career, Hiller directed many TV episodes and films, including Love Story and The Americanization Of Emily.

Daniel, the kindly nightwatchman is portrayed by Ernest Truex, who was a prolific actor in film and television. His career began in 1913, his credits include the screwball comedy classic His Girl Friday.

Ernest Truex as Daniel

Benson's employer Popper is played by John Banner.  A few years after "A Silent Panic," Banner became famous for playing the bumbling Sgt. Schultz on Hogan's Heroes.

John Banner (left) as Popper

"A Silent Panic" is a poignant Christmas tale of lonely people finding friendship in unusual circumstances.  It features a wonderful performance from Harpo Marx near the end of his career.  This show is recommended and is must-see for fans of the Marx Brothers.  I also recommend The Marx Brothers TV Collection, it would make a great Christmas gift for fans of Harpo and his brothers.

J.A. Morris' rating:

3 and a half candy canes.

RigbyMel says:

"A Silent Panic" is quite an interesting holiday rarity.   As J.A. Morris points out, the story itself is somewhat slight, but it's quite an endearing tale anyway, due to the acting.  The script and the actors interpreting it do a lot more showing than telling.

We see the kindness of the night watchman as he shares his meal with the frightened Benson.  Harpo Marx's skillful performance as Benson communicates the character's whimsy and worry without ever uttering a word.  (Benson is sort of the ultimate in "show, don't tell" characterization!).   The holiday message of being kind to one's fellow man comes through loud and clear without coming across as twee.    I also quite enjoyed checking out the "holiday downtown of yesteryear" decorations and sets.

"A Silent Panic" is well worth checking out if you have the time and inclination this holiday season.

RigbyMel's rating:

3 candy canes.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Twitter Christmas Party Schedule 2014

Thanks for your feedback about the upcoming Christmas TV listings.  Here's my schedule for the live Twitter Christmas party:

--Tuesday, Dec. 9th, 8pm(ET) for the CBS broadcast of RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER.  Add #Rudolph to your tweets so we can all stay connected.  (If CBS suggests another hashtag on screen during the program, we'll use their suggestion, okay?)

--Wednesday, Dec. 10th, 9:30pm(ET) for the ABC sitcom BLACKISH.  This is the first broadcast of the new series' holiday episode--so we should have some spontaneous fun with that one.  We'll use #blackishABC--unless ABC suggests another hashtag on-screen.

--Wednesday, Dec. 17th, 8pm(ET) on AMC for the classic holiday movie WHITE CHRISTMAS.  This musical with Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, and Rosemary Clooney turns 6o years old this year.  This will be fun.  We'll use #whitechristmas--unless AMC suggests another on-screen hashtag.

--Thursday, Dec. 18th, 8pm(ET) on AMC for the 1947 movie MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET.  Another classic Hollywood movie with the Christmas spirit.  We'll use #KrisKringle unless AMC suggests another on-screen hashtag, okay?

--Tuesday, Dec. 23rd, 10pm(ET) on MeTV for the 1978 Christmas episode of LAVERNE & SHIRLEY, and at 10:30pm(ET) for the 1974 Christmas episode of HAPPY DAYS.  We'll use #metvxmas to stay in touch.

I hope you'll be able to join me for at least one of these programs so we can enjoy watching Christmas on TV together.  If you are going to live tweet any other Christmas TV programs, please invite me and my readers below in the comments.  Maybe we can join in too.  As always, I'll remind everyone of the schedule on the facebook page Christmas TV History and on twitter: @TistheSeasonTV

Friday, December 5, 2014

The Christmas Secret movie (2014)

Some times it can be overwhelming to keep track of the hundreds of hours of holiday entertainment airing on TV during the holidays.  One of the things I do to stay on top of it all is to pay attention to the individual networks that premiere new Christmas programming.  One such network is HMM--or Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, a sister channel to the Hallmark Channel.  Each year HMM seems to grow their holiday programming--an exciting development to those of us that love Christmas entertainment.  On the HMM schedule you can find Christmas episodes of our favorite mystery TV shows, classic Hollywood Christmas movies, older Hallmark Channel original TV movies, as well as premieres of new Christmas TV movies.  I recently had the opportunity to preview a new HMM Christmas TV movie, The Christmas Secret which debuts on Sunday, Dec. 7th at 9pm(ET) and repeats at 11pm(ET).

VanLiere's books have become popular Christmas TV movies before!

One of the things that stands out to me is that The Christmas Secret is adapted from the best-selling book by Donna VanLiere.  This is exciting news because there have been three previous popular Christmas TV movies adapted from her books.  Remember the TV movies The Christmas Shoes in 2002, The Christmas Blessing in 2005, and The Christmas Hope in 2009?

Actress Bethany Joy Lenz plays Christine (center).

In The Christmas Secret, the main character Christine is near the end of her rope.  The single mom loses her job, faces eviction, and may lose custody of her two children all before Christmas.  But Christine never loses hope as she tries to overcome the struggles and challenges set before her.  In the meantime, a misunderstanding causes Christine to meet a handsome new man and mistake him for a private detective.  Jason, the handsome stranger, is looking for Christine to offer her a reward for a good deed--the same act that caused her to be late for work and cost her her job!  But Jason and Christine don’t realize they are each hoping to find the other.

Christine's locket inspires her to be hopeful despite life's many obstacles.

A family heirloom will help end any confusion over identity in the end--and bring Christine more meaning at Christmas than she ever dreamed possible.  This romantic movie is a satisfying story about fate winning out and the hope of finding a happy ending at Christmas.  Will you join me in watching the premiere of The Christmas Secret on Sunday, Dec. 7th, at 9pm(ET) on HMM?

One of the things I enjoy about watching Christmas TV movies is recognizing some of my favorite actors.  Bethany Joy Lenz is the same actress from the popular TV series One Tree Hill.  And, you may recognize Michael Hogan who plays Marshall Wilson, the owner of Wilson's Collective. He's the same actor who played Colonel Tigh on the new Battlestar Galactica among his many TV roles.  Have you been watching the new Christmas TV movies this year?  Any new favorites?

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

I Am Santa Claus movie (2014)

2014 movie poster.  I Am Santa Claus is directed by Tommy Avallone.
In our culture, Christmas has a very particular mythos. For example, a fairly rigid set of expectations governs what Santa Claus can and cannot do.  The rules extend to what he looks like, how he behaves, how he speaks, and so on. Christmas narratives often follow an equally rigid set of constraints, there’s always a search for the true meaning of Christmas and miracles are common.  The traditional themes that go into Christmas have become tightly interwoven with the holiday’s sacredness, and people get uncomfortable or even angry when they are tampered with. It certainly pushes our boundaries when we see saintly Santa Claus behave in ways outside of our expectations.

Because we hold Santa to such a narrow set of behaviors, it is revealing in the new documentary film I Am Santa Claus how quickly viewers may be set on edge.  The camera follows the lives of four professional Santa Clauses--and one Christmas enthusiast who takes up the challenge to become a professional Santa.  These five men express the best of intentions--they all believe the Christmas season is about spreading love, that there is no greater joy than seeing the sparkle of belief in a child's eyes, and that the magic of Christmas keeps us all young.  But the truth is, these men are human beings with bills to pay, hairy beards to bleach, diets filled with junk food, and sex lives.  Are you ready to see Santa Claus from a new perspective?

Santa Claus (formerly Santa Frank) from NY expresses what it feel like to have children see him as the beloved Santa Claus: "...I can see the glistening in their eyes, and I feel like I'm the best person on Earth."

In I Am Santa Claus, viewers are introduced to Santa Russell who is forced to move in with his adult daughter after he loses his home during the last downturn of the economy.  We also meet tattoo-covered Santa Frank, who legally changed his name to Santa Claus, and who dreams of opening his own barbeque restaurant. Santa Bob is a real estate agent in California. Gay Santa Jim struggles with a long distance relationship.  We also follow the journey of WWE Hall of Famer and Christmas lover, Mick Foley as he takes up his dream of being Santa at a Christmas resort in New England.  Foley's background in professional wrestling (and crafting a strong persona) actually lends itself well to his transformation into St. Nick.  Once he dyes his beard and puts on the red suit, Mick convincingly becomes Santa Claus--a transformation that stuns his wife and children!

This little boy (right) shares with Santa Mick that he wants only a ball for Christmas. It's one of many touching moments in the film.

It is moving to hear these men talk about discovering new meaning in their lives and connecting with others in a significant way when they become Santa.  There are unforeseen consequences and sacrifices to being a professional Santa as well, for example the pain that comes from bleaching one's facial hair over and over.  And, for many professional Santas, work means spending lonely weeks living in out-of-town hotel rooms over the holidays each year.  It's also interesting to see these older men find emotional meaning in cosplay--a popular movement more familiar to younger members of our society.  In cosplay, I think viewers are prepared to see genuine humanity and maybe even flaws in character from its participants. But in Santa Claus, we may not be so prepared to see these characters, warts and all.

I think that's the strength of this new documentary film.  It reveals the lives of these professional people that we haven't seen before and maybe have never even considered before. The film takes risks.  It shows the very human side of Santa Claus, perhaps pushing some viewers beyond their boundaries of comfort.  But that's what I like about it.  These five professional Santas in the movie don't struggle much with the iconic holiday role they have chosen to taken up--and they know the bounty of the rewards.  But watching the movie may force you to consider what Santa does the other 364 days of the year.  Happily, I didn't change my mind about Santa but I might have learned a thing or two about myself.  And that's a good movie experience.

Mick Foley isn't kidding when he claims to love Christmas. Not only has he purchased my book but we've discussed our favorite Christmas TV movies.

The new movie I Am Santa Claus is now available for viewing on DVD and BluRay, as well as download and streaming options.  I watched it on Netflix.  You can find out more about the movie at their website: www.iamsantaclausmovie.com, follow on the movie's Facebook page and on Twitter: @IamSantaMovie.

For those interested, there are at least two other documentary movies about professional Santa Clauses--each one is quite distinct.  There is 2011's Becoming Santa which follows one man's journey of becoming a professional Santa Claus, and 2012's They Wore the Red Suit which focuses on professional Santas and the industry that supports them.