Having been tagged by J. C. Loophole over at The Shelf (and bearing the angry red dodgeball welts on my forehead) to partake of a little favorite Christmas musical performances meme, mine are as follows:
When it comes to Christmas music in general, I’m partial to any performance, TV, CD, in person or otherwise by soprano Kathleen Battle accompanied by classical guitarist Christopher Parkening. But, since this is Another OLD MOVE Blog, I’m going to sort through only those performances you can find in old movies.
1. “I’ll Be Seeing You” (1945). Joseph Cotten, Ginger Rogers, Tom Tully, Spring Byington, and Shirley Temple all sit around the dining room table singing “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” It is homey, amateur night, and I like the way Cotten sings a little off the others. He is the stranger in the house trying to fit in, and he makes a game try with his touchingly pathetic warbling.
2. “Meet Me in St. Louis” (1944). Judy Garland pacifying little sister Margaret O’Brien after little Margaret freaks out and attempts a mass murder on the snowmen in the yard. Judy sings the really more-sad-than-cheerful “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” which says so much more about Christmas during wartime when the film was made than it does about St. Louis in 1904.
3. “White Christmas” (1954). Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, and Vera-Ellen’s singing double singing “Snow”. I like it because it is staged like a Busbee Berkeley chorus number, yet nobody gets out of his seat. I also like it because it takes place on a train, and I love trains more than I love people. (Oh dear. That sounds a bit mentally unbalanced. It’s not true. I only love trains more than I love some people. Better?)
4. “The Bishop’s Wife” (1947) discussed here, I like this moment with the Mitchell Boys Choir coming together bit by bit as each boy arrives to take the individual parts and meld them into a choir. We should all work so well together.
5. “It’s a Wonderful Life” (1946). At the very end of the movie, James Stewart and gang sing “Auld Lang Synge” and by this time, I am usually sobbing and singing with them. The sobbing almost always starts when his brother Harry raises his glass and says, “To my brother George, the richest man in town.” Cue sob.
6. “Holiday Inn” (1942). Where Bing gives us “White Christmas” for the first time, tapping his pipe on the bell decorations on the tree.
7. “White Christmas” (1954). Where Bing gives us “White Christmas” for the second time, at the very end of the movie where the camera pans back and we see all the soldiers at the reunion table hopping, raising glasses, and little girls hugging their daddies.
8. “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” (1945), discussed here, when James Dunn helps his kids lug the Christmas Tree up several flights of their tenement building, his wavering tenor leading everybody in “Silent Night” while the neighbors come out to enjoy the sight, and Peggy Ann Garner’s face lights up. I’m not sure I could sing while lugging a large tree up several flights of stairs, but I would give it my best try if somebody really needed me to.
9. “Meet John Doe” (1941), discussed here, in which rapacious and power hungry would-be despot Edward Arnold listens morosely, but perhaps pensively, to the soft chorus of Christmas carolers outside his mansion on Christmas Eve, and he puts a tip for them on his butler’s grog tray. The music is brief, but feels like a benediction. If only he would take it that way, rather than an annoyance.
10. “Christmas in Connecticut” (1945), in which Dennis Morgan sings "Oh Little Town of Bethlehem" at the piano while Barbara Stanwyck decorates the tree, but concentrating more on Morgan. It is the perfect Christmas scene, and it’s being fake to trick Morgan and Sydney Greenstreet, who are willing participants in this “Christmas play” only makes the scene more loveable.
People who celebrate Christmas should sing, no matter how lousy our voices, no matter if there’s no piano or Dennis Morgan. It is perhaps the only time anymore that many of us know the words to the same songs.
“Popular” music is no longer universal. There was a time when singalongs were easy because everybody knew the same songs. Now with so many types of popular music catering to different tastes, we’re not on the same page anymore, unless we happen to be in a room with people our age group, with our exact same musical preferences.
Christmas songs cater to neither young or old, city or rural. If you know some, you learned them as a child. For the rest of your life, you’ll fit into any makeshift street carolers or living room chorus, just like Joseph Cotten, who has a hard time fitting in any place after his bad war experience.
Just like James Stewart, who finds his way back to his community after a frightening “Twilight Zone” nightmare, and celebrates both his victory and his gratitude with a song.
Just like the old soldiers who sing at their reunion at Dean Jagger’s Vermont inn, who are far away from their homes this Christmas Eve, but the song “White Christmas”, sung anywhere, can instantly bring us home again.
Thanks to J. C. for tagging me for this fun meme. Off to pick up some salve for the dodgeball welts. I won’t tag anyone, because I’m still in the middle of wrapping presents and I ran out of tags.