Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Moving Finger Writes

I started a sunny, cold last day of 2014 with Christmas and New Year's stories from Christmas With Anne, the collection of L.M Montgomery short stories I found at a yard sale a few months ago. I also read another chapter of The Storybook of Legends.

Spent most of the morning making Crock Pot Ham and Potatoes. I got the recipe from Julie's Cooking Studio, one of the later American Girl cookbooks. You layer cooked ham, potatoes (sweet in my case - I didn't have regular), and onion with shredded cheddar cheese and cream of celery soup (I only had cream of mushroom, but that worked, too) in a crock pot and let it cook for 6 hours or so. It smelled divine when I got it all cooking!

Ran San Francisco while I worked on dinner. Mary Blake (Jeanette MacDonald) has come to the City By the Bay in 1906 to pursue an opera career. She ends up with a job at Blackie Norton's (Clark Gable) Barbary Coast club. Father Mullin (Spencer Tracy), Blackie's long-time friend, keeps an eye on Mary as she becomes the toast of Blackie's club the Paradise. Meanwhile, Blackie tries to go into politics and create stricter fire codes in the Barbary. Mary's genuine talent catches the eye of Jack Burley (Jack Holt), who wants her to work for his opera house the Tivoli. He opposes Blackie's attempt to take over the Barbary Coast and arrests his performers right before a big contest between nightclubs. Mary wins the contest, but Blackie won't take money from her. As he leaves....the Earth literally moves, and Blackie learns a tough lesson in what really matters when he searches a fallen city for his Mary.

This is one of the earliest disaster movies, the grandfather of everything from In Old Chicago to Titanic. It's corny and melodramatic, but darned if it doesn't still work. Everyone's performances are great, especially the Oscar-nominated Tracy as the pugnacious priest. The special effects during the actual earthquake in the final 20 minutes continue to amaze, especially when the Earth actually opens. If you love the cast, romantic drama, or disaster films, this one is pretty easy to find for a good price on DVD and actually comes with quite a few extras, including a documentary on Gable.

Threw on a couple of party and New Year's-themed cartoons while I had a quick lunch and got ready for work. A dose of spinach turns Olive's grandma into a perfect dance partner for Popeye on New Year's Eve in "Let's Celebrake." Olive and Popeye turn the tables on Bluto when he tries to sabotage their nightclub act in "Morning, Noon, and Nightclub." "The Whoopee Party" is one heck of a shindig. Mickey Mouse's big party gets so crazy, even the furniture dances along! "Mr. Duck Steps Out" and wants to take Daisy on a date, but Huey, Dewey, and Louie keep interfering.

Work was actually quiet when I came in. It started picking up around 2:30, when people came to shop for their birthday and New Year's parties, and was only clearing out when I was leaving at 6 PM. My first computer suddenly started running slow around 4, and I had to move to another one. Otherwise, there were no major problems. In fact, I got a $5 dollar gift card for getting 5 outstanding reviews from customers on surveys (even when they gave less than great marks to the store in general).

As I was writing home, I saw the first fireworks of New Year's Eve over the Black Horse Pike. I don't know if someone in Mt. Ephram was setting them off, or if they were Philly fireworks, but they looked beautiful, really professional. It felt really festive as I rode down the Pike in the very chilly night air.

When I got home, I changed into regular clothes, then defrosted green beans and almonds to go with my tasty Crock Pot Ham and Potatoes. Put on the Max & Ruby New Year's episode while I ate. "Ruby's Gingerbread House" won't stay up, even with copious applications of frosting glue. Max just wants the girls to consider the merits of his gummy worms. Ruby's feeling a little down after the holidays are over in "Max's Christmas Passed." Max comes up with a way to cheer up his sister. Grandma holds a party for her and her grandchildren in "Max's New Year." While Grandma and Ruby try on party hats and play games, Max keeps wanting to sneak the clock-shaped cookies Grandma made.

Switched to Holiday Inn as I cleaned up from dinner. This 1942 musical is best known today for introducing the standards "White Christmas" and "Happy Holidays." Bing Crosby plays a performer who buys a farm and turns it into an inn that's only open on holidays. Marjorie Reynolds is the dancer who only wants a chance to perform. Fred Astaire is Crosby's former partner, who was just dumped by their other partner (Virginia Dale). When Astaire sees Reynolds, he falls for her too, and the two find themselves chasing the same woman all over again through most of the holidays on the calender.

Though the numbers aren't quite as spectacular as White Christmas, I actually like this a bit more. The romantic plots seem a tad bit more realistic, and there's some surprising commentary on the grind of show business and having to work extra on holidays. (Beware of the non-PC "Abraham" Lincoln's Birthday number; there's a reason this was a quick instrumental dance duet in White Christmas.) Recommended for fans of either leading man, Irving Berlin, or small-scale musicals.

I moved on to New Year's cartoons as I went online to chat with Lauren. Rudolph's Shiny New Year brings back everyone's favorite red-nosed reindeer, this time to rescue the runaway Baby New Year. Charlie Brown isn't having a much better New Year in Happy New Year, Charlie Brown. While the other kids are preparing for Peppermint Patty's big party, Charlie Brown is stuck reading War and Peace for a book report. Laverne and Shirley's "New Year's Eve - 1960" isn't fun, either. Laverne's dumped by her date shortly before the ball drops, while Shirley gets a cold and can't kiss her date Carmine. Meanwhile, Lenny and Squiggy are prepared to drop Squiggy in place of the ball at midnight.

I'm now running Broadway cast albums. Currently, it's Goldilocks, the 50s vehicle for Don Ameche and the late Elaine Stritch. Stritch plays a Broadway star in the 1910s who is convinced by Ameche to appear in his major silent picture...if he can afford to finish it!

And I wish each and every one of my readers a safe, happy, and fun New Year! Have a great time in 2015!

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