Archive for December, 2014

Star in the Night, an Award Winning Holiday Short

With Christmas Day right around the corner, two meals to prep for, gifts to wrap, stockings to stuff,  and more goodies to bake, this will probably be my last post until January 2015.  I decided it would be right and fitting to write about a short film that I saw on Turner Classics last year in December, Warner Brothers 1945 Star in the Night.

Star in the NIght

Star in the Night, is a modern(1945 modern) re-telling of the Nativity story.  It was written by Robert Finch and Saul Elkins, produced by Gordon Hollingshead, and directed by Don Siegel.  It was Siegel’s first film to direct and it touched so many audiences and the Motion Picture Academy that it won the Oscar for Best Short Subject in 1946.  Siegel went on to direct more films, including the first Invasion of the Body Snatchers, several Clint Eastwood starring movies, such as Dirty Harry, and John Wayne’s last movie, The Shootist.

A Star in the Night is set on Christmas Eve, at a diner/motel in a small Southwestern US community.  Instead of 3 wise men who see a star in the sky and follow it, we meet 3 cowboys riding the range late at night who see the light from the motel’s”Star” sign and follow it to find hot coffee and a warm place to get away from  the night’s coldness.  The motel owner, Nick Catapoli, is a bit of a grump/scrooge.  He’s tired, wants to just close up for the night and go to bed.  He’s grumbling about how people treat each other nowadays, poorly in his opinion.  His wife, Rosa, is much more optimistic about life than Nick is, and she bustles about greeting all who enter the motel and doesn’t want to close up early.  Besides the 3 cowboys, there is a traveling salesman drinking coffee, a hitchhiker-who challenges Nick on his dire views of mankind, a lady complaining about the noise from a traveling singing group(whom we hear but don’t meet) who are next to her room, a traveling married couple, and then we meet a young couple who need a place to stay, Jose and  his very pregnant wife, Maria.

As soon as Jose receives some hot coffee and Maria is looked in on, it is quickly discovered by Rosa that the young woman is in labor!  The negative views, bickerings that were going on, complaints by motel guests-the negativity abruptly stops and all jump in to help  this young couple.   Alls well that ends well, and Nick gains  a much better outlook about his fellow man.

I was not familiar with any of the cast members other than J. Carroll Naish, who plays Nick.  Naish was one of Hollywood’s excellent character actors,  and despite being of Irish descent, he was often called upon to play Spanish or Italian characters due to his olive skin tone and black hair.

J. Carroll Naish as Nick, the motel owner

J. Carroll Naish as Nick, the motel owner

I have posted the link from Youtube, where a very kind soul  has put Star in the Night in order for it to be viewed. With this, I will sign off and wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

50 Years…Wow!

November 26th, 1964-November 26, 2014.   Those dates are my parents’  wedding anniversary and a couple weeks ago, just a few days after Thanksgiving, our family, my brother and his family, relatives, and friends of my parents,  all gathered to help them celebrate this momentous occasion.

I told a few friends after we got back to Rolla from OH that we  not only celebrated Thanksgiving  but that we also celebrated my parents 50th Wedding Anniversary and without fail, all said the same thing: “Oh that’s so wonderful! That is really an achievement as so few marriages seem to be able to go the distance,” phrases like that.  Believe me, I am very grateful that my parents’ marriage has been able to go the distance.

Back in the 60’s, my parents were high school sweethearts.  Dad went to tiny Oakwood high school, near Paulding, OH.  All the grades, K-12, in one building.  (In fact, Oakwood Schools doesn’t even exist anymore as I believe it was eventually absorbed by Paulding’s School District.)  Mom went to Defiance High School, the bigger school, due to Defiance being the county seat and all that that means.  If a Junior Achievement assignment hadn’t been given for my mom and her club members to take turns selling cheese balls at the Chief Supermarket where my dad worked first as a bag boy then in the Produce Dept., they may not have ever met!

During the anniversary party, each guest was asked to stand and say how they knew my parents.  One anecdote that  I enjoyed was from one of my mom’s younger cousins.  He was an elementary aged boy when my parents were dating and he fondly remembered my dad being the “cool” boyfriend who on the 4th of July showed up at my grandparents’  home with tons of neat fireworks that they all got to set off later that day.  It’s kind of weird, and funny and sweet, all at the same time to hear one’s dad referred to as “cool”!!

My mom had told me the day before their party that she wanted me to say a few words.  I groaned a bit at this, but told her I would.  This led me to a search back at the hotel, on my laptop, for famous quotes about marriage.  Some quotes weren’t very optimistic.  Take this sad one attributed to President Abraham Lincoln: “Marriage is neither heaven nor hell, it is purgatory.”  Historians have theorized about the mercurial Mrs. Mary Todd Lincoln and her husband, Abraham.  If he really uttered this quote, I’d guess it was made after a bad argument between the two Lincolns.  Then I read a sweeter one attibuted to Winston Churchill: “My most brilliant achievement was my ability to persuade my wife to marry me.”  When one considers Churchill’s place in history, I think it makes him all the more human to state that getting a woman to fall in love with him and marry him as his best achievement.  American poet Ogden Nash wrote a clever quip about marriage and I did use that in my bit of speaking at the party: “To keep your marriage brimming, With love in the loving cup, Whenever you’re wrong, admit it; Whenever you’re right, shut up!”  To Mr. Nash’s credit, he was married to his wife until he passed away in 1971, so I think he probably heeded his pithy advice!

I couldn't locate a photo of Ogden Nash with his wife, so this will have to show his dilemma at being on the 1950s tv show Masquerade with actress, Dagmar! I think he hoped Mrs. Nash wasn't tuning in!

I couldn’t locate a photo of Ogden Nash with his wife, so this will have to show his dilemma at being on the 1950s tv show Masquerade with actress, Dagmar! I think he hoped Mrs. Nash wasn’t tuning in!

Winston Churchill and his wife, Clemmie.  They look like a fun couple!!

Winston Churchill and his wife, Clemmie. They look like a fun couple!!

The Lincolns

I lastly shared a passage from the bible, Corinthians 13, often called the love passage as it is read aloud at so many wedding ceremonies.  I didn’t quote it verbatim, but gave it my own paraphrase: “…love is patient and kind.  It doesn’t envy, boast, nor is it prideful.  It doesn’t dishonor anyone, it’s not selfish, it’s not easily angered, and it doesn’t keep track of wrongs.  Love doesn’t delight in evil, but rejoices in the truth.  It always protects, trusts, hopes, and perseveres; it never fails…”  I tried to continue speaking, but too choked up to continue, so I merely gave my parents a thumbs up, ala Happy Days and Fonzi, and the audience was kind, clapping anyway.  If I hadn’t gotten choked up I would have finished my little speech, to affirm aloud to my parents how grateful my brother and I were, and still are, that they are still married to one another.  That through good times, through hard times, through sickness and health, they illustrated to us the kind of love that Paul wrote about in his Letter to the Corinthians.  I would then have ended with this: “May God continue to bless you both as you continue on your way journeying through life together.”  Happy 50th Anniversary, Mom and Dad!!  Love you so very much!!!!

Two Classic Christmas Movies You Might Not Know

I’ve been away from my blogging due to Thanksgiving and travels, celebrating my parents 50th Wedding Anniversary, and getting the house decorated, cleaned for Christmas, and getting my gift shopping done.  Now that a lot of those activities have been dealt with, the quiet voice in my mind began to grow louder, “Get back to your Blog!” Hence today’s offering.

There have been a lot of movies made with Christmas as the theme or as the backdrop.  Many of these films are fan favorites: It’s a Wonderful Live, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, Elf, just to name a few.  I decided that for today’s purpose I was going to focus on some delightful Christmas movies, classics in their own right, but ones that might not be as well known to the movie viewing public.

First up, 1940’s Beyond Tomorrow. It stars some of Hollywood’s best character actors in their Senior years: C. Aubrey Smith, Charles Winninger, and Harry Carey(former silent film star).  These three elderly gents portray life-long friends, engineers by trade, now retired and living in a NYC mansion.  They have a devoted housekeeper in Madame Tanya(another great character actress, Maria Ouspenskaya) and butler, Josef(Alex Melesh).

Beyond Tomorrow poster

It’s Christmas Eve, the three friends are about to enjoy a wonderful meal prepared for them by Madame Tanya, but they admit to one another that they are lonely, they’d enjoy the meal more if guests could join them.  They decide to gather their wallets, putting $10 and their business cards into each one, and plant them around the neighborhood.  Whoever returns the wallets will be invited to stay for dinner.  Michael(Winninger) is the optimist of the three men and he’s sure someone will return a wallet.  George(Carey) is the pessimist of the group and is sure no one will.  Chadwick(Smith) is the happy medium between the other two men’s personalities.  Two of the wallets are returned, one by a young Texan, James Houston(Richard Carlson), a struggling singer and the other by Jean Lawrence(Jean Parker), a clinic employee.    The two young adults agree to stay for dinner and it’s obvious that they are falling in love! They also become good friends with the three elderly gents and all seems cozy and right with the world.

The movie takes a jarring turn when  the three elderly gents tragically die in a plane crash!  Their ghosts come back to their mansion and only Madame Tanya can sense their presence.  Michael, in his will, had left Jimmy some bonds that he is able to use to launch his singing career and he also draws the attentions of a radio star, Arlene Terry(Helen Vinson).  Ghost Michael can see that Arlene is no good for Jimmy, and that Jean still loves him and is crying over him a lot.  He is bound and determined to find a way to reunite the young lovers before he has to go to Heaven.   It’s a sweet little film with an endearing cast.  From an original story and screenplay by Adele Comandini, directed by A. Edward Sutherland,  you can catch it via TCM on Thursday, December 18th, but you will have to set your dvr as it’s airing at 2:15 am Eastern/1:15 am Central.   Beyond Tomorrow is also available to purchase at Amazon, at TCM’s Shop, and a kind soul has put the entire movie on Youtube.

My second movie to recommend is 1949’s Holiday Affair.  If the Hallmark Channel made romantic Christmas movies in 1949, this would have been at the top of their list!  Janet Leigh portrays Connie Ennis,  a young war widow with a 6 year old son, Timmy(Gordon Gebert).  She is employed by a large NYC department store as a “comparison buyer”; she pretends to shop at rival stores studying and taking notes about their merchandise, how it’s displayed, priced, and evaluates their sales staff.  One day she is at rival store Crowley’s and she is pretending to be interested in buying a toy train.  It’s the Christmas season, and the toy area is jam-packed with other shoppers.  The store clerk, Steve Mason(very handsome Robert Mitchum) wonders why this lady shopping for a toy train asks no questions about it and just buys it.  When Connie gets home she tries to hide the train as she is to return it the next day as part of her research on Crowley’s, and she doesn’t want Timmy thinking the train is for him.  That evening also brings by a visit from lawyer Carl Davis(Wendell Corey) who decides that after months of dating Connie, he is ready to propose to her.  Connie is in a dither, and after Carl leaves, she asks Timmy his opinion and he promptly tells her she shouldn’t marry Carl.   Holiday Affair poster

The next day, Connie tries to return the train at Crowley’s without a receipt. Steve has to handle the transaction and he says it’s against store policy to refund buyer’s money without the receipt.  Connie admits she is a comparison buyer and Steve threatens to turn her in to the store detective.  Connie then explains about being a widow with a son, and Steve reimburses her with money out of his own pocket.  A store manager finds out what Steve’s done and he is promptly fired.  Steve smoothly asks Connie to go for lunch with him and over lunch, she discovers Steve’s story and his ambitions to return to California and start up a sailboat building business with a friend.

This is one of those boy meets girl, boy loses girl, will boy get girl back?  Steve knows what he wants his future to look like.  Carl wants Connie to be his wife.  Connie is the character who doesn’t know which step to take.  She still has feelings for her dead husband, Carl seems like a safe choice to make as he has a good job but Timmy doesn’t like him, and then there is Steve, handsome, brash, and exciting.  TCM is going to air Holiday Affair twice: Sunday, December 21 at 4:00 pm Eastern/3:00 Central and on Thursday, December 25th at 12:15 pm Eastern/11:15 Central.

Holiday Affair was written by Isobel Lennart and directed by Don Hartman.  It is available to buy via Amazon, TCM’s Shop, and again, it’s been put on Youtube!

Mitchum, Gebert, Leigh, and Corey in a scene from Holiday Affair

Mitchum, Gebert, Leigh, and Corey in a scene from Holiday Affair