About Christmas TV History

Monday, July 11, 2016

Christmas in July 2016: Kevin Bowman

Christmas in July 2016: Kevin Bowman

1) What Christmas episode/special/or movie always puts you in the holiday spirit?

Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol is probably the one special that my family makes certain to watch every year.  If we manage to gather the family and put on Mr. Magoo, that usually means we are serious about the Christmas season being upon us.

In that vein, let me say that I actually enjoy watching regular television (something I do less and less of) and seeing the first Christmas advertisements are starting. That genuinely helps put me in the spirit. Is that the epitome of succumbing to the commercialization of Christmas?  There is probably something very wrong with me.

2) What Christmas program or scene brings you to tears?

There is scene in the Alastair Sim’s Scrooge from 1953, at the end, in which Scrooge shows up at the home of his nephew Fred, as he and his friends and family are celebrating Christmas day. Scrooge asks Fred’s wife (Olga Edwardes) if she can forgive him  (“Can you forgive a stupid old man who doesn't want to be left out in the cold anymore? Will you take me in?”) She tears up and embraces him. 

The wonderful score was composed by Richard Addinsell.  (I actually bought a CD of Adinsell’s scores, including this one, because I like it so much)  Addinsell used the old folk song “Barbara Allen” as a leitmotif for Scrooge’s sister, Fan, throughout the movie.  She dies in childbirth, and Scrooge, as his father had with him, blames the baby, Fred, and Fred’s father, of whom he disapproved. Then, when Scrooge shows up on Christmas morning, Fred and his wife are singing at the piano, and they are singing ‘Barbara Allen’ (of course).  Then, when Olga Edwardes embraces Alastair Sim, the score swells.  These threads of loss and forgiveness are being tied together.  It’s a wonderfully composed scene.

I am tearing up now just thinking about it.

If you look up Olga Edwardes on Google, as I had to, the picture of her is taken directly from that scene.  I think it must affect other people the same way it does me.

Let me also put in a plug for one of my more obscure favorites:  It Came Upon a Midnight Clear, with Mickey Rooney, Annie Potts, and young Scott Grimes from 1984.  I have this on VHS (which sells for collectors prices now), and I don’t think it’s ever been released on DVD.  The movie is kind of a Christmas-version of Heaven Can Wait.  It is mostly goofy holiday fun, but there is a heart at the center of the movie in the devotion between Scott Grimes and Mickey Rooney and in Mickey Rooney realizing that this is his last Christmas on earth.  Mickey Rooney is an underappreciated actor.  Olivier called him “the best film actor America ever produced.”  Here, he gives a stem-winder of speech at the end that really tugs at the heartstrings.  Only a Scrooge could avoid getting misty.  

3) What's your favorite quote of dialogue, song lyric, or sentiment from a Christmas program?

“Man," said the Ghost, "if man you be in heart, not adamant, forbear that wicked cant until you have discovered What the surplus is, and Where it is. Will you decide what men shall live, what men shall die? It may be, that in the sight of Heaven, you are more worthless and less fit to live than millions like this poor man’s child."  (‘Wicked cant’ is such a great phrase.  I use it whenever possible.)

“Reprieved, reprieved, curfew shall not ring tonight!”  (Scrooge, again)

Tillie: “I’m running away, Mrs. Jones.”  Mrs. Jones: “Good” (from the 1980 CBS special, Christmas Everyday.  My family thinks this is hilarious.)

“Mousetrap.  I wanted to play mousetrap.  You roll your dice.  You move your mice.  Nobody gets hurt.”

“The custom started long, long ago when first the wise men three gave gifts of love to a newborn baby.”  (This sounds better, when sung by Fred Astaire, than it looks in text)

"All I want is what I have coming to me.  All I want is my fair share."

“And razzleberry dressing”

4) Is there a Christmas program that unintentionally frightens you--or turns you off?

This is a hard question.  I like being frightened.  And I don’t mind Christmas entertainment that is ironic or deliberately anti-Christmas spirit, or Christmas entertainment that is more melancholy than uplifting.  That said, there are two Adult Swim specials that really bothered me.  The Squidbillies Christmas episode was so violent and amoral that it kind of sickened me.  The show itself is violent and amoral, but often funny, but this episode made me queasy.  And Adult Swim aired a Moral Orel Christmas episode, which is a kind of adult-humor parody of Davey and Goliath.  It was so bleak, with a kind of smug nihilism substituted for humor.  I thought it was loathsome.  This probably doesn’t precisely answer the question, because I don’t think it was unintentional.

Scrooge, the musical, with Albert Finney, scared the bejesus out of me when I was a kid.  The scene in hell was intense.  But, I absolutely love the movie now.  Such great music.  Leslie Bricusse!

5) Name one character from Christmas entertainment with whom you closely identify? and explain why.

When I was in high-school, a girl told me a looked like Hermey the elf, which may have been true.  This did not improve my prospects of fitting in.  So, I have some sympathy for Hermey.


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  3. Thanks for your thoughtful responses. Very interesting!

    I echo your comment about Christmas commercials. I, too, love seeing them, even in non-holiday shows, as it does make it seem like the whole world is getting ready for the season. (Of course, seeing them before Halloween is another story.)

    I also get nostalgic for the season when watching a DVR'd show long after the holidays have passed that was recorded in November or December and is filled with Christmas ads.

    Also, Mickey Rooney's It Came Upon THE Midnight Clear, is available, in full, on YouTube, and TCM usually shows it at least once during the holiday season, for those searching for it.

    Could the CBS special you mention actually be "Christmas Every Day" from 1986? In it there’s a magic Christmas tree ornament and a little girl makes a wish to have, well, Christmas every day. It's another one available in full on YouTube, which can be a treasure trove of otherwise "lost" Christmas specials.

    Last year, I showed my kids The Mouse on Mayflower, which I remember being shown every Thanksgiving eve when I was little, thanks to YouTube.

    1. It is indeed Christmas Every Day from 1986, not 1980, sorry. Based on the William Dean Howells story with the voice of Dick Orkin. I love that special.

    2. No apologies, just wondering if that was the one you were thinking of! I'm always on the look out for new, undiscovered Christmas specials.

  4. In that same scene you mentioned in the Sims' Scrooge, there is another part that always gets to me. Scrooge enters and hands his hat and coat to the maid as Barbara Allen is heard from the parlor. Scrooge walks to the closed doors and then stops. He looks over his shoulder and sees the maid with a tiny smile on her face and the slightest of nods, letting Scrooge know that it's OK for him to go in. It's such a subtle scene but so heart touching.

  5. I have never heard of the film "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear," but found out it exists on YouTube.


    Definitely added to my watch-list for the future...

    Great responses, btw! Christmas cartoons are always a treat...

    1. Note the Mickey Rooney Christmas title is "It Came Upon THE Midnight Clear" not "It Came Upon A Midnight Clear" ... Which I mention because there is another, theatrical release film, called "A Midnight Clear" from 2010 that is also very good, but definitely has very different subject matter.

    2. You're right - apologies for that.

      I watched the movie last night. I'm glad I caught it - some funny moments, plus a solid cast of 80s stars. The ending felt a bit abrupt, but the storyline was good overall. Thanks for sharing this with us!

  6. I'm also a big fan of the Christmas commercials slowly appearing on TV and then fully taking over. My wife and I have spent the past two months going through our DVR recordings of Elementary Seasons 3 & 4. During S3, I got very excited watching the commercials as we drew closer and closer to Christmas. Then, I sped through every commercial once January hit. Now, we're on S4 around Thanksgiving... Woo hoo! Christmas commercials are back. Excellent responses, by the way. Have a superb day.

  7. Love the movies you chose as tear-jerkers. Alastair Sim is amazing as Scrooge... That ending is truly something special! I'm always looking forward to it as I watch the entire movie.

    It's been years since I've seen that particular Mickey Rooney movie. Oh my, was he spectacular in it! I remember it bringing me to tears, too. Beautiful! Thank you for reminding me of it!

    Also, love to see that first Christmas commercial... We always know Christmas is around the corner!!!
    Blessings, Net

  8. Re: Mickey Rooney. He really was, wasn't he? It seems a shame that the movie is largely forgotten when Rooney's performance is just so good.

  9. Thanks so much Kevin for reminding us about "It Came Upon the Midnight Clear" with Mickey Rooney. I also admire the list of quotes that you supplied--from across the spectrum of Christmas programming. One of these days I'm going to have to sample razzleberry dressing! Thanks for participating Kevin :D