Monday, December 23, 2019

Christmas Comes but Once a Year

Kicked off the day with breakfast and the first Christmas episode of Happy Days. "Guess Who's Coming to Christmas?" Fonzie, who claims he's going to a party for the holidays. Richie suspects otherwise and invites him to his Christmas Eve celebration, over the protests of Mr. Cunningham who wants it to be strictly for the family.

Headed to work shortly after it ended. My shift didn't start out badly. I spent most of the first half of the day gathering carts. The weather was perfect for it, too. Sunny, blue sky, breezy, temperatures in the lower 50's. Couldn't have been a nicer day for South Jersey in late December. The trouble happened later, after my break and a second bagger came in. While we weren't as busy as I figured we would be, given we're two days before Christmas, we were still off-and-on steady. I ended up in the register quite a bit. We simply didn't have enough help to handle everything. Otherwise, I did returns and bagged.

Had to make one last quick shopping trip. I needed pads rather badly. Several shelves of non-food dollar "Value" items are replacing some things on the Christmas shelves. I grabbed scouring pads, which I haven't had in ages.

Hurried straight home and online for a little writing. Isobel doesn't believe the soaking wet, sturdy, and practical Della is a princess. Princesses are sweet and dainty. She suggests a "Princess Test" to prove she's a real princess. Brett and Gene aren't too sure about this, but Della will agree to anything that'll convince Isobel that she's the real deal.

Broke around 5:30 to make pumpkin bread for Jodie's Christmas brunch. This is the same recipe I used at Thanksgiving. It's a simple one-bowl loaf that takes minutes to make and smells amazing while baking. This is the last thing I need to do for Christmas. Nothing else needs to be wrapped, baked, or sent out. I just have to bag the bread and give everything out on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Watched Christmas In Connecticut as I worked. Elizabeth Lane (Barbara Stanwyck) is one of the most popular magazine columnists in post-World War II America. Her articles about her cozy farm and family and scrumptious recipes are wildly popular. There's only one problem. It's all fiction. In reality, she's a city girl who can't boil water. The fiction is exposed when her boss Yardley (Sydney Greenstreet), a stickler for the truth, decides to visit her farm for the holidays. He's joined by Jefferson Jones (Dennis Morgan), a handsome war hero who has never had a real Christmas. Snobbish architect John Sloan (Reginald Gardner) offers to let her use his farm for the guests if she'll marry him. They keep trying, but never get the chance, thanks to wandering cows and Elizabeth's Hungarian friend Felix (S.K Sakall). Meanwhile, Elizabeth finds herself falling hard for Jefferson, even as she has to keep up the charade of being a perfect wife. In the end, as babies are switched and carriages run away, Elizabeth finally learns that honesty is the best policy, especially where love is concerned.

Cute screwball comedy leans on the considerable charisma of Morgan and Stanwyck and an appropriately homey feel. Greenstreet and Sakall also come off well as the two very different bosses.

Made a quick dinner while watching the Oscar-winning short A Star In the East, which is included as an extra on the Christmas In Connecticut DVD. Master of accents J Carrol Naish stars as Tony, the cranky Italian owner of a hotel in the desert. He's not impressed when a stranger shows up in the hotel's coffee shop and starts talking to him about peace on Earth and goodwill towards men. None of his demanding and nasty customers ever show him any goodwill. It takes a young couple with a blessed event who end up sleeping in the stable to bring everyone together, and prove that Christmas can bring out kindness in even the hardest of hearts.

Switched to It's a Wonderful Life while doing the dishes and reading Christmas books. George Bailey (James Stewart) thinks life has passed him by. He's spent all of his years in tiny Bedford Falls, helping the community build houses and weather the Depression with his family's Savings and Loan. Even that looks like it may go under after his forgetful Uncle Billy (Thomas Marshall) loses the money needed to keep it going, and nasty Mr. Potter (Lionel Barrymore) claims he's worth more dead than alive. George is ready to end it all, until he jumps off a bridge to save a strange little man named Clarence (Henry Travers). Clarence is an angel second-class (he doesn't have wings), and he's George's guardian angel. A chance remark in anger by George gives Clarence an idea. He shows George what Bedford Falls would be like if he were never born...and in the process, reveals what a wonderful life he really has.

Iconic holiday favorite isn't everyone's cup of Christmas tea nowadays, but if you love Stewart or agree with director Frank Capra's pro-small town message, you may find a great deal to enjoy here.

The Tiny Toons spoofed Wonderful Life in their final episode, "It's a Wonderful Tiny Toons Christmas Special." Buster is so frustrated with how badly the Toons' holiday extravaganza is going, especially after Montana Max takes it over, he almost throws himself out of the show! It takes a rabbit spirit named Harvey (who sounds awfully familiar) to show him what Tiny Toons would be like without him.

Moved on to one of my very favorite TV show Christmas episodes as I went online. It's "Christmas In the Airwaves" on the rare late-90's dramady Remember WENN. WENN in Pittsburgh is gearing up for a wonderful Christmas 1940 when the owner of their studio Gloria Redmond (Betty Buckley) and her miserly financier Rollie Pruitt (Johnathan Freeman) arrive. Gloria lost her husband the Christmas before and insists that WENN stops all its Christmas programming and takes down all their decorations. The staff bands together to thwart Pruitt trying to keep their holiday shows from going on and prove to Gloria that life goes on, and just because you're grieving doesn't mean you can't celebrate.

Finished the night with Match Game. The 70's version always did at least one Christmas show per year, usually with Charles Nelson Reilly dressed as Santa Claus. In 1978, Brett joined him as a little girl who sat on his knee, complete with Shirley Temple curls and a big pink bow...and it's hilarious, probably one of their best skits together.

Match Game '78: Santa Charles and Bretzy La Brat

Here's even more holiday specials to tide you over while you wait for Santa.

The Smurfs' Christmas
A Christmas Carol (1971)
The Night Before Christmas
Famous Studios: Hector's Hectic Life
Ziggy's Gift
The Bears Who Saved Christmas
The He-Man-She-Ra Christmas Special
The Teddy Bears' Christmas
Snow White Christmas
Raggedy Ann and Andy and the Great Santa Claus Caper
A Very Pink Christmas
Fleischer Brothers Classics: Christmas Comes but Once a Year

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