This past summer when I visited the Jimmy Stewart Museum in Indiana, Pennsylvania, I was pleased to purchase a DVD copy of the 1980 TV special Mr. Krueger's Christmas in their gift shop. I own it on VHS tape but a digital copy is preferred. I know Jakki loves this TV special--anyone else love this one as much as we do? Let me remind you about it.
The half-hour special is a simple yet heartwarming story starring James Stewart as Willie Krueger, an elderly custodian of an apartment building spending Christmas Eve alone.
After work on Christmas Eve sweeping floors, Krueger walks home. He passes a men's shop and looking through the storefront windows, Krueger fantasizes about buying a new suit. Continuing on his way, Krueger buys a small tabletop Christmas tree. Arriving home, Krueger greets his cat George and settles in for the evening.
The lonely man puts a record on his turntable and sits to enjoy the music. Listening to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sing "White Christmas," Krueger closes his eyes and dreams he's conducting the singers.
The fantasy continues as the choir sings "Sleigh Ride" and Krueger dreams he's enjoying a sleigh ride with the choir and their children. As the music continues so does the fun as Krueger sees himself frolicking in the snow, building a snowman, sledding, and throwing snowballs with his new friends.
Krueger is startled from his imagination when he hears carolers outside the windows of his modest basement apartment. Excited by his visitors, Krueger invites the group to step inside his home for a minute to warm themselves. The leader agrees to a brief stopover and the singers enter. Krueger imagines welcoming his guests inside a luxurious mansion staffed by servants.
|The youngest of the visiting carolers waves goodbye.|
After his visitors leave, he flips the record over and Krueger's fantasy continues as he listens to more music by the world famous choir. Now he imagines decorating a tall tree for Christmas. As the song "Winter Wonderland" continues, Willie dreams of dancers spinning gracefully around the tree. Mr. Krueger may be alone this Christmas Eve but his spirit is filled with joy.
|While decorating his own tiny tree, Willie imagines trimming a larger tree in a city square with others.|
Next, Mr. Krueger arranges the miniature Nativity set on the end table in his living room. As he hears the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sing "What Child Is This?' he imagines himself in Bethlehem greeting the newborn baby Jesus.
The story doesn't incorporate much dialogue--the dream sequences take place against a musical backdrop. But the longest piece of spoken dialogue occurs in this scene where Willie thanks Jesus for being an important part of his life. It's a very tender and sweet moment that shows off Stewart's on-screen charisma.
In the end, the youngest caroler returns to Krueger's apartment to retrieve her forgotten gloves. The precious little girl invites the lonely man to join the carolers as they continue walking the streets singing. With a little encouragement, the old man grabs his hat and coat to join the group in going door-to-door to raise the spirits of others. This story is simple but powerful and emotionally satisfying.
This 1980 TV special was produced by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and features the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. The dancers are the BYU Dance Ensemble. And of course, at its center is Jimmy Stewart whose charm makes this rare TV special unforgettable.
Do you remember this TV classic? What's your favorite Jimmy Stewart holiday movie?