About Christmas TV History

Monday, January 27, 2020

Christmas Records--Part 5

Does Jimmy Stewart collect Christmas records too?

Writing about Christmas episodes, specials and movies means that I also end up researching and writing about Christmas music too. Yuletide TV programs and movies often include Christmas music. When I'm record shopping and thrifting, I often pick up LPs and CDs with Christmas music. I'm proud of my growing collection of Christmas music with a TV and film tie-in. I've acquired a couple more vintage movie soundtrack LPs. Some of these movies are not usually considered Christmas movies, but still include Christmas songs on their soundtrack. You'll see what I mean.

The 1959 movie Say One for Me stars Bing Crosby, Debbie Reynolds, Robert Wagner, Sebastian Cabot, and Ray Walston. Crosby plays Father Conroy, a priest character playing off his popular earlier role as Father O'Malley in both Going My Way and The Bells of St. Mary's. In Say One for Me, Father Conroy's parish is filled with show business entertainers. One of Father Conroy’s favorite parishoners is Holly LeMaise (Debbie Reynolds) who ends up falling in love with a singing-and-dancing wolf named Tony (Robert Wagner).

On the movie's soundtrack is “The Secret of Christmas,” a song written for the film by Sammy Cahn and James Van Heusen. Below is a clip from the movie with Crosby as Father Conroy performing it. It should be noted that the song was re-recorded with a more complex arrangement, additional vocals and orchestration for the official soundtrack.

Yours, Mine and Ours stars Henry Fonda, Lucille Ball, and a large collection of child actors.

The 1968 movie Yours, Mine and Ours includes a significant Christmas scene but is not usually categorized as a holiday film. Lucille Ball plays Helen North, a widow with eight children, who falls in love with Frank Beardsley, a widower with ten children, played by Henry Fonda. I've seen this movie on TV more times than I can count--it's truly comfort TV for me. The holiday scene in the movie shows the recently blended North and Beardsley family spending their first Christmas together. Helen and Frank have to make sure they have gifts under the tree for all eighteen children! Frank stays up all night hidden inside a closet assembling bicycles for several of the youngest children. On Christmas morning, little Phillip North, played by child actor Eric Shea, hops upon his new bicycle only to have it fall apart underneath him! This holiday scene also includes an emotional moment between Helen and Frank when she encourages him to accept his commission to return to work with the Navy--a job he wanted to do but felt he should turn down for the sake of the family. Yeah, I kinda have this movie memorized.

On the official soundtrack release, there is a track entitled "Christmas." It is a variation of the main theme music that includes the sound of sleigh bells. Everything about this movie makes me feel nostalgic--even if it's not a Christmas movie!

I bought this still sealed re-issue for the soundtrack to the movie On Moonlight Bay.

Fans of singer/actor Doris Day have probably seen the 1951 movie On Moonlight Bay that also stars Gordon MacRae. The musical takes place in a small town in Indiana during the early part of the twentieth century, based on the stories written by Booth Tarkington. I don't consider the movie a holiday film, however there is a notable Christmas musical moment. Near the middle of the film, Day sings “Christmas Story” during a scene that takes place at Christmas time.  It is written by Pauline Walsh, with strains of the traditional carol “Silent Night” heard throughout.

The same song appears in the 1953 episode "Christmas" on Make Room for Daddy (also known as The Danny Thomas Show) sung by Danny Thomas. Check out the clip below to see and hear Thomas perform it:

This double album soundtrack is from the 1978 movie If Ever I See You Again.

1978's forgotten, theatrical release movie If Ever I See You Again is set during Christmas. The story follows successful jingle writer and music composer Bob Morrison as he looks to reconnect with a former love interest named Jennifer. Although his music career has its ups and downs, Bob hopes Jennifer who now works as a painter will be willing to commit to a relationship.

The movie includes quite a bit of music and the soundtrack was released as a double album including two versions of “Christmas Song.” Morrison is played by Joe Brooks--who also directed the movie and wrote the music for it. Jennifer is played by Shelley Hack (before she played Tiffany Welles on TV's Charlie's Angels). This movie also includes a young Danielle Brisbois as Bob’s daughter Amy, and Peter Billingsley in a very small role at a children's Christmas party scene, near the end of the movie. (Take note: this movie was made five years before child actor Billingsley starred in the movie A Christmas Story).

On the movie's soundtrack "Christmas Song (Version 2)" on Side One is an arrangement of the familiar carol "Adeste Fidelis." On Side Three, "Christmas Song (Montage)" is a mostly instrumental arrangement of the same carol.

Joe Brooks is best remembered for writing the Oscar and Grammy winning song "You Light Up My Life," made popular by singer Debby Boone. (She sings on this soundtrack too). One of the reasons this movie is forgotten (it's also less than mediocre) is because Brooks was at the center of a scandal. I'll let you satisfy your own curiosity--here's a link to his wiki page.

Voice work by Lorne Greene, Sammy Davis Jr., and Margery Gray.

Moving on, Hanna-Barbera's animated film Heidi's Song was released into theaters in 1982. This K-Tel album is a story soundtrack. Heidi's Song is a musical adaptation of the literary favorite Heidi by author Johanna Spyri. Many of the film and TV adaptations of the story include Christmas scenes--remember the Christmas scene in the 1937 Shirley Temple version? The horrible governess Fraulein Rottenmeier breaks the precious snowglobe given as a gift to the orphan Heidi.

Back to Heidi's Song, this movie too includes a Christmas scene, a holiday spent tending to her injured grandfather. The accompanying story soundtrack includes the song "A Christmas-y Day" on Side One. The album back cover specifies that Margery Gray voices Heidi's speaking voice, but Sandi Hall sings Heidi's vocals on this song.

I always love hearing your comments about my growing Christmas music collection so please feel free to comment below. Here are some links to some more of the records and CDs in my collection:

Christmas Records in Detroit
Christmas Records-Part 1
Christmas Records-Part 2
Christmas Records-Part 3
Christmas Records-Part 4
Christmas Music on CDs

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 2020 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

Sunday, January 5, 2020

2019 Podcasts, Radio, and Press

It feels like I spent 2019 submerged in research and writing, but I did accept several invitations to talk about Christmas episodes, specials and movies. While I shared these podcasts, radio shows, and interviews on social media throughout the year, here they are again listed with links for your convenience. Thank you for checking them out.

Early in the year, I spoke with Rachel on the Hallmarkies Podcast about a variety of holiday programs. Listen to that installment HERE

I joined Kat and Pam in a conversation about Beverly Hills 90210's fifth season holiday episode "Christmas Comes Each Time This Year" from 1994. Check out this installment of the The Blaze with Lizzie and Kat podcast HERE.

Brian Earl of the Christmas Past podcast invited me to discuss my own Christmas TV History podcast series. Listen to it HERE.

I joined Dan on the Rockin' All Week With You podcast talking about Happy Days. We discuss the s2e6 episode "Guess Who's Coming to Christmas"  from 1974. This is a good one! Listen to it HERE

One of my favorite annual traditions is joining Johnny and Helen Holmes on Radio Once More for a conversation about Christmas TV episodes, specials, and movies. I've been doing this every December since 2013! This live program has since been uploaded online, and you can listen HERE.

While I'm not a health professional, I talked with a reporter from the Kansas City Star discussing whether Christmas TV movies are good for your mental health. Read that whole article HERE.

Old Man Freakboy invited me to create a bumper for his Christmas music show (12/15/2019) on the radio program Hey Kids Get Off My Lawn. I briefly discuss holiday music and The Brady Bunch. It is now available to listen to online HERE.

At Christmas Con 2019, I met and talked with a journalist from Vox. Her piece ended up one of the most thoughtful pieces written on Christmas TV movies I've ever read. (I would think that even if I wasn't mentioned in it). The Christmas TV movie industry is really crazy right now--the money involved, the devoted fan base, the sheer number of new movies generated every year. WHO ARE WE as a culture to embrace these stories in this way? I love these conversations. And I love that Emily Todd VanDerWerff takes this conversation seriously. Read the article HERE.

I was also interviewed for a local public radio station WKSU to talk about what makes a Christmas movie. I directly address whether or not Die Hard is a Christmas movie. You can listen to it online, or read the transcript HERE.

Remember when viewers became upset last year with the portrayal of Jewish characters in a couple of new holiday TV movies? Hallmark Channel received additional backlash against their pulling TV commercials with a same-sex kiss. Rewire talked to me about the importance of inclusion and viewers seeing themselves in holiday movies. Would Hallmark ever make a TV movie dedicated solely to Hanukkah? I don't know. But I'd like to see more diversity of characters in terms of people of color, faiths, and same sex relationships. I'm looking forward to seeing improvements in the future. Here's the full article.

Waldon and Patricia from a live radio program on Yesterday USA invited me for a conversation last July about Christmas TV programs and movies that featured popular radio stars. I'm sorry I don't have a link for that great conversation. However, Waldon and Patricia invited me back on their show in December, and we discussed the movie It's a Wonderful Life and its TV adaptations, and the movie Miracle on 34th Street and its TV adaptations. You can listen to this conversation HERE.

I ended the year, as I have for the past several years, in a fun conversation with Amanda, Dan and Nate from the Made for TV Mayhem Podcast. This year's Episode 50 sees us discussing the Dupont Show's 1960 Christmas episode "A Silent Panic," starring Harpo Marx and Ernest Truex. Give it a listen HERE.

You know I released my own five-part podcast last year entitled Christmas TV History, right? It's one thing to collect data for an encyclopedia and it's another to make sense of that history--which is what I attempt to do in my podcast. The five episodes include an introduction, one about Christmas animation, Christmas TV movies, Christmas variety, and TV adaptations of Dickens' A Christmas Carol. Here's more about that and where to listen HERE.

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 2020 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