Christmas with the Stars: Fred Astaire in The Man in the Santa Claus Suit (1979)

Welcome to the last week in our series, Christmas with the Stars! Over the course of this month we have explored some of the most enjoyable holiday gems that television has offered, but sadly, our time has come to a close. I can think of no better way to end the series than with the man who defines the sophistication and elegance of the Golden Age of Hollywood, Fred Astaire.

In The Man in the Santa Claus Suit, Fred is a costume shop owner (or is he…?) who rents three different men Santa Claus suits, thereby changing their lives. These three men are all at a similar place in their life’s journey. They are unaware of their own worth. Throughout the movie, Fred helps them realize their value and what they need to do in order to reach their full potential.

The Man in the Santa Claus Suit provides a living portrait of New York City in the 1970’s. The first shot is of the skyline with the Twin Towers standing proudly, followed by overhead shots of the bustling city. Over the credits, Fred sings the tune “That Once a Year Christmas Day/Once a Year Night” composed by three time Emmy Award winner Peter Matz. I can’t believe I hadn’t heard this song before. Fred’s rendition is quite lovely, and I believe “Once a Year Night” deserves to be added to the anthology of Christmas songs.

Included in the cast are Gary Burghoff (MASH), John Byner, Bert Convy, Nanette Fabray, who co-starred with Fred in The Band Wagon (1953), and Harold Gould. Regrettably, Nanette and Fred don’t have any scenes together (insert a few tears), but I still think it’s neat that they worked on the same project together twenty-six years after The Band Wagon.

Eighty years old and still young, Fred charms in his second to last movie and last television performance (insert more tears). Truth be told, the most fun aspect of The Man in the Santa Claus Suit is waiting to see where the mysterious Fred is going to pop up next! He is credited with nine roles, and while viewing it becomes like a game of Where’s Waldo.

While Fred’s role adds a great deal of whimsy to this holiday drama, the movie is not without its drawbacks. Running at an hour and thirty four minutes, The Man in the Santa Claus Suit could have been edited considerably. The musical numbers by Fabray and Gould feel out of place, and it can be tiresome going back and forth between the three story lines.

So, what makes The Man in the Santa Claus Suit worth the watch?

The message of Christmas rings clearly in the resolution of this feel good holiday confection, plus you have the incomparable Fred Astaire infusing his special charm into the project.

When Fred isn’t on screen the movie suffers a bit, but when he does appear it is pure magic.

Watch The Man in the Santa Claus Suit (1979) here:

Perfect Pairing: The Bishop’s Wife (1947)

You are viewing Part 4 of my series, Christmas with the Stars: Holiday Specials on YouTube You Won’t Want to Miss. Thank you for joining me all month long for this special celebration of television work done by some of Hollywood’s greatest stars!

To view the introductory post click here.

To view Part 1 of the series click here.

To view Part 2 of the series click here.

To view Part 3 of the series click here.

This post is my contribution to The Second Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers Blogathon hosted by Love Letters to Old Hollywood and In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood. Thank you, ladies, for letting me participate in this end of the year celebration of the great Fred and Ginger!

Put on your dancin’ shoes, and head over HERE and HERE to read the other entries.

Thanks for reading and for visiting The Classic Movie Muse!

The 12 Days of Christmas Movie Tag

Deck the halls with lots of movies…Hamlette’s Soliloquy has created The 12 Days of Christmas Movie Tag for adding to the festivities of the season. Check out her awesome blog and her answers here.

For my edition of the tag, I’m choosing Christmas movies (or movies tied to Christmas in some fashion) for the answers. This was not mandatory or specified in the rules but I have enjoyed the addition and the challenge it provided!

The rules of the tag:

  1. Use a different movie for each prompt
  2. Add photos and/or explanations of how your choices fit the prompts
  3. Tag a few friends to play along

Here we go…

#1. A Partridge in a Pear Tree – a movie that involves agriculture

Holiday Inn (1942)

Jim (Bing Crosby) is sick of show business and buys a farm in Midville, Connecticut for a complete change of pace. Dreaming of “no work to be done,” he quickly realizes he had no idea what he signed up for. Jim returns to the showbiz scene by turning his farm into an inn that is open only on holidays. Romance falls into his lap, but trouble ensues when Ted (Fred Astaire) shows up, the guy who usually steals Jim’s girl.

#2. Turtledoves – a movie about a long-lasting relationship

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

In this beloved and timeless film, we follow the life of George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) who comes to realize that “no man is a failure who has friends.” Perhaps his best friend is his wife, Mary, (Donna Reed) who has had a crush on him every since she was a young girl.

#3. French Hens – a movie that takes place in France

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964)

Not gonna lie, this one took some digging! A tale of young love set in 1950’s France, this French New Wave musical features an entirely sung script, Catherine Deneuve in her star making role, and the most poignant ending of any film set on a snowy Christmas Eve.

#4. Calling Birds – a movie where people talk on the phone

Lady on a Train (1945)

Deanna Durbin plays Nikki Collins, the title character who witnesses a murder while traveling to visit family for Christmas. Curious as can be, she enlists the help of a mystery writer to help her solve the caper. When Nikki’s father calls to wish her a Merry Christmas, he pleads with her to sing for him. She performs a simple but touching rendition of “Silent Night” over the phone (which even delays the thug who sneaked into her room from completing his dastardly plan.)

#5. Golden Rings – a movie with multiple romances

Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)

There are a few romances going on in this candy confection of a film: Esther and the boy next door, Rose and Warren, and Lon and Lucille. Additionally, this movie is centered around the love that the Smith family has for each other, as well as the romance of days gone by.

#6. Geese A-Laying – a movie with a birth or that features babies

3 Godfathers (1948)

An interesting spin on the three magi, John Wayne heads up this moving western as the leader of a band of outlaws who honor the wish of a dying woman (Mildred Natwick) – to raise her newborn child and bring him to safety.

#7. Swans A-Swimming – a movie where someone goes swimming

Neptune’s Daughter (1949)

A Christmas movie? Hear me out. This film introduced the world to the song “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” which won an Oscar that year. While the song does not actually mention Christmas, it has been tied to the holiday in reference to the cold weather. Since Neptune’s Daughter is an Esther Williams movie, you can bet there’s a swan-a-swimming.

#8. Maids A-Milking – a movie with cows

Remember the Night (1940)

In this bittersweet drama/romantic comedy shoplifter Lee Leander (Barbara Stanwyck) and her prosecutor John Sargent (Fred MacMurray) venture to Indiana for Christmas. Along the way, they find themselves in a pasture of cows and its Fred who does the milking and the cow that decides Barbara’s hat makes a tasty morning snack.

#9. Ladies Dancing – a movie with a dance scene

Christmas in Connecticut (1945)

Elizabeth Lane (Barbara Stanwyck) is a fake Martha Stewart who needs to cook up a farm, a husband, and a baby (and quick!) when she hears that a sailor is being sent to her home for the holidays. This film is full of Christmassy imagery, over-the-top scenarios, and a Christmas Eve dance that I want to attend every year.

#10. Lords A-Leaping – a movie about athletes

Melody Time (1948)

This animated collection of stories from Disney contains one of my favorite pieces of animation done by the studio – “Once Upon a Wintertime.” I pull it out this time of year because the sleigh ride, ice skating, and snowy scenery inevitably remind me of Christmastime. I love everything about this segment: the song; the characters and story; and the gorgeous design by Disney artist Mary Blair.

It makes me smile every single time.

The original recording of the song by Frances Langford.
A preview of the animation. The song is in French in this recording.

#11. Pipers Piping – a movie with someone playing a musical instrument

The Bishop’s Wife (1947)

Dudley the angel (Cary Grant) is on a heavenly assignment to bring a couple back together who have drifted apart. He charms nearly everyone he meets (this is Cary Grant we’re talking about) but doesn’t plan on falling in love with the bishop’s wife (Loretta Young) himself.

Every angel worth his mettle knows how to play the harp.

#12. Drummers Drumming – a movie with characters in the military

White Christmas (1954)

No stranger to the Christmas canon of films, White Christmas is more than a “let’s put on a show” movie. Although it contains some of the most dazzling musical numbers in film history, it’s really a story about two ex-Army buddies (Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye) joining forces to remind their beloved army general (Dean Jagger) that he is not forgotten.

And there you have it! This was a blast (and a half) to write. Thanks again, Hamlette, for this super fun tag!

I won’t be tagging anyone, but feel free to write your own 12 Days of Christmas on your blog or share them in the comments below…I can’t wait to see which movies you would pick for these categories!

Thanks for reading and for visiting The Classic Movie Muse!

Christmas with the Stars: Jimmy Stewart in The Julie Andrews Hour Christmas Show (1972)

Hello, everyone! Welcome to week three of my Christmas with the Stars Series. I’ve really enjoyed sharing these finds with you over the past few weeks. I can’t believe we are already halfway through the series, but fear not, there are still more goodies to be found, and this one is a pinch hitter!

This week, I bring you not one, not two, but three stars from Hollywood’s Golden Age! Julie Andrews is back, (we kicked off the series with her marvelous The Sound of Christmas) accompanied by Jimmy Stewart as her special guest! Musical star Dan Dailey completes our merry trio with a brief solo number.

Dan Dailey, Julie Andrews, & Jimmy Stewart – Screenshots by me.

The show opens when after Julie’s introduction and jubilant opening number, “We Need a Little Christmas,” Julie and Jimmy make a deal that they will show each other what Christmas is like in their respective countries.

The merrymaking begins with Julie’s old fashioned English Christmas as the company sings traditional English carols, while the setting is like a page of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” come to life. The segment culminates with a goose dinner and a rendition of Dickens’ beloved tale with impressionist Rich Little playing Jack Benny as the miserly Scrooge and Alice Ghostley as Cratchit.

As we transition over to Jimmy’s small town American Christmas, Julie flies in a sleigh over the rooftops of a city then lands on a rooftop and dances with eight Santas! The tone, setting, and choreography of this fun segment reminds me of Mary Poppins and the “Step in Time” number.

Julie Andrews, Jimmy Stewart, & Rich Little

In America, we meet Jimmy’s nephew, Rich Stewart, played by Rich Little. Little impersonating Jimmy is hilarious, but even better is Jimmy’s reaction to this. He is so gracious and is able to laugh at himself and have a good time with it.

The cast sings “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas,” “The Christmas Song,” and “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” to reflect the musical style of twentieth century America. The American version of Dickens’ tale plays out with Little reprising his role and Jimmy as Crachit. The segment culminates with a turkey dinner and Jimmy saying a prayer for peace at the dinner table.

In addition to Julie Andrews’ beautiful, emotive voice, I greatly enjoyed seeing Jimmy Stewart singing and enjoying himself on this program. His warm presence is definitely evident here, adding to the already wonderful watch.

It is a ridiculous understatement to say that Jimmy and Julie are wonderful together, but I don’t know how else to say it. Together, they encapsulate the joy of the season, spreading warmth and good cheer, but they also underscore the sacred, serious moments as well.

How this show remains hidden is beyond me. With stars of this caliber, it should be considered a classic and aired on television every year! Thank goodness for YouTube!

(Maybe that should have been the title of my series instead…)

“The Julie Andrews Hour Christmas Show” is absolutely delightful and should be required viewing for fans of Jimmy or Julie and for those who love the music and spirit of Christmastime.

Note: This show also contains a number of famous entertainers of the time such as Joel Grey, Cass Elliott, Carl Reiner, Steve Lawrence, and Sergio Franchi. The original commercials are also included in the video.

Watch “The Julie Andrews Hour Christmas Show” here:

Perfect Pairing: It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

You are viewing Part 3 of my series, Christmas with the Stars: Holiday Specials on YouTube You Won’t Want to Miss. Join me as I uncover holiday gems featuring classic stars each week during the month of December!

To view the introductory post click here.

To view Part 1 of the series click here.

To view Part 2 of the series click here.

To view Part 4 of the series click here.

Thanks for reading and for visiting The Classic Movie Muse!

Christmas with the Stars: Charles Bronson in Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus (1991)

Eight year old Virginia O’Hanlon penned a letter that prompted perhaps the most famous newspaper editorial of all time and became the stuff of legend. Her story resonates with both young and old, rich and poor, for the message is universal. We all want to know whether reality only spans what we can see and hear, whether there are more mysterious, wonderful things beyond what our eyes can see, and little Virginia got her answer.

Last week in our series, we listened to Julie Andrews sing in the Swiss Alps, an altogether merry affair. This week, we are taking a complete 180 in terms of mood and style.

At the turn of the century in New York City, we make the acquaintance of a family of Irish immigrants. Struggling to make ends meet, they wonder how they will survive the cold and brutal winter that is already upon them. Employment is scarce, and the father (Richard Thomas) struggles to maintain the jobs that he does get. Despite their poverty, the family is held together by the love that they have for each other and are more than grateful just to be together.

On the other side of town, we meet Francis Church (Charles Bronson) who is trying to cope with the loss of his wife and child. Once a successful newspaperman, but now driven to drink away his sorrows, he falls deeper and deeper into despair. His boss and friend, Mr. Mitchell (Ed Asner) still believes in him, and nowhere is this more evident than when he gives him an assignment that will change his life.

Charles Bronson carries the emotional weight of this edition of the tale brilliantly. His intense but restrained acting style suits Frank Church, the sensitive, broken man who is a prisoner of the past.

Ed Asner’s gruff manner is perfect for the hard-nosed boss with a heart of gold. It’s fun to note that Asner played Santa in Elf (2003) and a few other times previously in his career, giving Yes, Virginia an interesting spin if you think of his role in the context of the story.

Then there is Virginia, played by Katharine Isabelle. Her Virginia is sweet, compelling, and innocent – the definition of childlike wonder.

For a television movie, I was impressed with the production design. It was well done and felt like a history lesson in itself. The plight of the immigrants is very real, and the atmosphere and tone of the time period is brought to life splendidly.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus is Christmas spirit personified. It reminds us of what is really important in life – to be thankful for the seemingly small things in life, for our loved ones, family, and friends. It reminds us that there still is magic in the world – the magic of kindness, of generosity, of love, and romance.

And perhaps most of all, that no matter what happens in life, there is always hope.

Watch Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus here:

Perfect Pairing: Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

You are viewing Part 2 of my series, Christmas with the Stars: Holiday Specials on YouTube You Won’t Want to Miss. Join me as I uncover holiday gems featuring classic stars each week during the month of December!

To view the introductory post click here.

To view Part 1 of the series click here.

To view Part 3 of the series click here.

To view Part 4 of the series click here.

Thanks for reading and for visiting The Classic Movie Muse!

Christmas with the Stars: Julie Andrews in The Sound of Christmas (1987)

It is always fun discovering new Christmas films to add to your line up of holiday viewing, but there’s always something special about coming back to the movies that you’ve been watching every year since you were a youngster. Julie Andrews: The Sound of Christmas is one of those for me. It was videotaped by my parents and became one that we watched as a family until the tape was lost or had broken…I can’t remember which! Thanks to YouTube, I was able to rediscover this television special all over again and restore it to it’s rightful place as one of my holiday traditions. I’m so glad to be sharing it with you today.

One of the most exciting aspects of The Sound of Christmas is that the production team returned to the gorgeous Swiss Alps and the city of Salzburg richly steeped in musical history, capturing Julie once again singing with the glorious hills all around her. You guessed it…this is where 20th Century Fox filmed The Sound of Music (1965).

The comical acapella group, The King’s Singers, country singer John Denver, and the operatic tenor Placido Domingo join Julie in this musical extravaganza giving the special a wide-ranging menu and appeal. The score is peppered with the carols that we all know and love, but there are also songs by musical theater greats including the Gershwins, Lerner and Loewe, and Rodgers & Hammerstein.

From an enchanting Christmas ball, to a skiing John Denver, to a grand concert in a cathedral, this special has something for everyone. My favorite scene is the Christmas ball when Domingo and Denver are suitors vying for Julie’s hand. (At the moment, Domingo is winning.)

I hope that you can tell from the pictures (despite the fuzziness) how beautifully filmed this special is. The cinematography is so well done and fully takes advantage of the frosty Austrian landscape and surroundings, becoming a part of the action that takes place, just as in The Sound of Music.

The special climaxes with a grand concert inside of St. Michael’s Church in Mondsee where Julie as Maria married Captain von Trapp. From the looks of it, this is a bonafide concert with what appear to be locals filling the seats. The three stars take center stage supported by The King’s Singers and a full choir, providing the ultimate Christmas concert and finale to the program.

In 1988, Julie Andrews: The Sound of Christmas garnered five Emmy awards and Dwight Hemion, the director, also won a Director’s Guild of America award. Not bad for a Christmas special!

The hills are alive with the sound of Christmas, and so will your heart be this season as you watch Julie in her element spreading her special brand of holiday cheer.

Watch Julie Andrews: The Sound of Christmas here:

Perfect Pairing: The Sound of Music (1965)

You are viewing Part 1 of my series, Christmas with the Stars: Holiday Specials on YouTube You Won’t Want to Miss. Join me as I uncover holiday gems featuring classic stars each week during the month of December!

To view the introductory post click here.

To view Part 2 of the series click here.

To view Part 3 of the series click here.

To view Part 4 of the series click here.

This post is my contribution to The Happy Holidays Blogathon hosted by the Pure Entertainment Preservation Society. PEPS, thank you for letting me take part in this festive event! You can read the other entries celebrating the joy of the season here.

Thanks for reading and for visiting The Classic Movie Muse!