Tag Archives: Christmas

Monday Matinee: Pocketful of Miracles (1961)

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Alternate title for this post would be The Christmas Movie That Wasn’t.

One of my favorite holiday movies is Frank Capra’s last film, Pocketful of Miracles. Starring Glenn Ford and Betty Davis, this film is a wonderfully corny, heart-warming film, and measures up to the Capra-Corn that for which Capra films are known. It is a worthy companion to his It’s A Wonderful Life.

Why is this film so great? First off, it’s a Damon Runyon mashup of the Cinderella story, with the twist that the Cinderalla of the film is an old street woman, played to perfection by Bette Davis. Throw in a twist where the hero of the piece is a bootlegger and club owner, played with marvelous desperation by Glenn Ford. Runyon, Davis, Ford, holidays; a guaranteed winner.

Throw in the fact that it seems like MGM emptied its lot to provide the cast for this film. I’ve written a few posts about those character actors that make you jump and shout, “Oh! I recognize him/her from ……..!” This film is loaded with those actors. Here’s a list of who’s who in the movie:

Jack Elam – wall-eyed actor known for Support Your Local Sherrif/Gunfighter
Arthur O’Connell – Anatomy of a Murder; Bus Stop
Peter Falk – Columbo
Thomas Mitchell – Uncle Billy, in It’s A Wonderful Life
Edward Everett Horton – too numerous to try to pull up, but my favorites are his supporing roles in Astaire/Rogers pics.
Mickey Shaughnessy – Elvis’s mentor in Jailhouse Rock
Sheldon Leonard – Nick the bartender, It’s A Wonderful Life
Jerome Cowan – the prosecuting attorney in Miracle on 34th St.
Ellen Corby – Shane, Sabrina, The Waltons
Grace Lee Whitney – Yeoman Rand in the original Star Trek

And then, to top it off, just as Pocketful of Miracles was Capra’s last film, it was the first film for a young ingenue, looking to break into the movies, and making her first appearance on the silver screen: Ann-Margaret.

Often when so many big names are included in a project, something goes wrong. But in Pocketful of Miracles, that doesn’t happen. With so many great names associated with the film (Runyon, Capra, Davis, Ford, Ann-Margaret), it is fitting capstone to Capra’s career.

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Dropping A Veil, pt. 3

In my Dropping A Veil #2 post of last week, I said that I wanted to address two things that I alluded to in the first post, and I wrote about how Christians are all too happy to settle for popular teachers, and don’t really look for writers and teachers who take them “higher up and deeper in.” Realizing that my verbosity had once again gotten the best of me, I ended last week’s post with a promise to address the second topic that had become important in my spiritual life: that of appreciating the difference between the living faith of the dead vs. the dead faith of the living. Continue reading

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Apostle’s Creed, part 6

(Again, I am extending something I wrote over 7 years ago.)

I believe in God, the Father Almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord:

Who was conceived of the Holy Spirit, Virgin Birth. The miracle of Christ’s birth. “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.” Is it a coincidence that I consider this line of the creed just as we are ending the time that we celebrate this event? Who knows? But it is appropriate that I rise, for a moment, from my wonder at this season and make my statement of faith. Jesus was unique in His person, unique in His conception. He was fully God, and fully man. “You can’t believe in a story like that, can you CSL?” Yes, I can. He was the God-man, sent to Earth by God the Father as the Lamb of God. Pure, spotless, sinless, he came to bear our sin, that we might be reconciled to God. His virgin birth was part of the miracle of salvation. He became our brother, not our judge/condemner. He came to bring us to God, not harangue in our guilt. As a loving brother, He came to show us the God who loves us, not hates us. Although we have estranged ourselves from Him, Jesus tells us that the Father is still waiting, still drawing us to Himself. And the Virgin Birth is part of the drawing. God became one of us, to show us the Father.

Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers. He says, “I will declare your name to my brothers; in the presence of the congregation I will sing your praises.” And again, “I will put my trust in him.” And again he says, “Here am I, and the children God has given me.”Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death–that is, the devil–and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. Hebrews 2:11-15

It is this confession of belief that separates Christian from non-Christian. C. S. Lewis’s famous trilemma cannot be evaded. The crux of Christianity rests solidly on this statement, or it falls as a house of cards. With statements like “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God,” and “I and My Father are One,” Jesus left us no wiggle-room. We either accept those words as truth or turn from them as the ravings of a lunatic or the deception of a liar. Like Peter, I have confessed,

“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life,…” John 6:68

 CSL

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Happy Christmas, #3 – Winter Warlock’s Repentance

happychristmas Merry Christmas, all. I hope you are enjoying today. For my last entry in this mini-series on Christmas songs that make me happy, I’ve saved the best for last: The Repentance of the Winter Warlock, from Santa Clause is Coming to Town. It is my contention that Rankin and Bass’s 1970 TV special is the most Christian and theologically instructive of Christmas movies, what with Christmas Eve being called the “holiest night of the year”, and Winter praying. To top it all off, the song “Put One Foot in Front of the Other” is pretty much a spot-on picture of repentance and turning away from sin. The final verse is sound that it should be preached from the pulpit:

If I want to change the reflection I see in the mirror each morn… You mean that it’s just my election? To vote for a chance to be reformed? 

Makes me happy. Merry Christmas! Read more: Soundtrack Artists – Put One Foot In Front Of The Other Lyrics | MetroLyrics 

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Happy Christmas #2 – Bing and Bowie

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I hope you enjoyed yesterday’s song. As I said, that song makes me happy. It gives me joy to hear the chimes and hear the Royal Guardsmen shout out the chorus. Today’s song is different. Not a happy tune, but I love the absolute genius that it took to pair the old mellow crooner, Bing Crosby, with the new generation idol David Bowie.

This is the second Bingle song I’ve highlighted this week, and it has an interesting backstory. Bowie agreed to do the Christmas special because his Mum loved Bing, but he hated the song “Little Drummer Boy” and told the writers that he wouldn’t sing that song. Within an hour, the writers created the “Peace On Earth” song for Bowie to sing as counterpoint to Bing’s “Little Drummer Boy.”

Seeing these icons of two different generations produce this haunting version makes me happy: enjoy.

CSL

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Happy Christmas 1.5 – The Holly and the Ivy

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“1.5”? Yes, 1.5. I had originally scheduled three posts to come after Matinee Monday, but because I was futzing around, trying to get a CL Twitter account and have it co-ordinate with my blog, I somehow overrode the scheduling and posted it yesterday, instead of this morning. So I include a “bonus” Happy Christmas.

In a way, this error is a disguised blessing, because it gives me a chance to shed another veil, to expose a little more of what makes me happy. And that is old, old, seriously-old carols. Wife and I were talking last night, and listening to an album of Nat King Cole, Dean Martin, Der Bingle, and the like, croon their way through standard Christmas fare, and that was alright. Wife did note that while it didn’t get her in the Christmas spirit, it did help to create an air of sentiment. And she is right. Sentiment, not spirit.

But for me, an anglophile, old (even ancient) carols do help me get into the Christmas spirit. The more medieval the tune and/or lyrics sound, the more the song fills me with ‘spirit.’ There’s the standard “Bring a Torch, Jeanette Isabella”. One that over the past few year has seemingly been re-discovered is “The Cherry Tree Carol.” (Truly love that one.) But the one that sends me soaring is “The Holly and the Ivy”. I hope you enjoy this version, by The Mediaeval Babes.

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Happy Christmas, #1 – Snoopy’s Christmas

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You will observe that I say “Happy Christmas,” not “Merry Christmas.” If you are British, that is the normal greeting, but here in North America, the traditional greeting is “Merry Christmas.” So why am I using the above, rather than the traditional? Because, for the next three days, I’m putting up posts to Christmas songs that make me happy. I love the traditional carols just as much as the next guy (maybe even more than the next guy, when it comes to that!) But there are Christmas songs that aren’t carols, that I can’t get enough of, and I’m going to say a little something about them.

The first one is what many probably consider a silly song, “Snoopy’s Christmas,” by The Royal Guardsmen. A true one-trick pony, the RGs had two hit tunes, both gimmicks, singing about Snoopy and his fantasy as a WWI ace. But believe it or not, the chorus of this song moves me. I don’t know if it’s the chimes, the tenor of their voices, of the words of the chorus, but each time those bells chime and they enter the chorus, I get verklempt. It makes me happy, and I hope you enjoy it, as well.

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Matinee Monday

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Last week, I did a quick-hitter post, highlighting a Hanukkah song written by a Mormon senator. This week, as it’s Christmas, I highlight the most popular Christmas song, written by a Jewish songwriter. I can’t let the week go by without highlighting the concluding scene from one of my favorite Christmas movies, White Christmas.

I love this movie, and the pairing of the slow, lazy Bing with the frenetic and kooky Danny Kaye seems inspired, in hindsight. The pairing of Danny Kaye as dance partner to Vera-Ellen would seem, on the surface, to have been a mistake. Vera-Ellen was a superb dancer who could do both ballet and tap, but in watching the two dance, it’s always a surprise to find that I’m watching Kaye as he matches V-E step for step.

But the song. Yes, the movie is a great holiday film, but I wait for the final scene with anticipation. I’ve always loved Bing Crosby (a fellow-Washingtonian), and his recording of Irving Berlin’s White Christmas is the best-selling single of all time. According to Wikipedia, Der Bingle’s recording has sold over 50 million copies. When he wrote White Christmas, Berlin realized just how monumental a song it was. He is said to have told his secretary, “Grab your pen and take down this song. I just wrote the best song I’ve ever written — heck, I just wrote the best song that anybody’s ever written!”

Capturing both the joy and wistfulness of the holiday season, and coupled with the warmth of Crosby’s mellifluous crooning, this scene puts a final bow on top of a wonderful holiday present-ation.

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