Tyrone Power Santa: Merry Christmas from Comet

Merry Christmas! 

A Christmas card from me to you. Screencapped from Summer Place by Me

A Christmas card from me to you. Screencapped from Summer Place by Me

With some help from my coworkers at the Shelby Star, I recorded a Christmas Eve video for everyone.

As my present to all of you, here is an anecdote I found from the official Tyrone Power page: King of 20th Century Fox.  David Niven tells how Tyrone Power plays Santa at a children’s Christmas party (sadly I have no photos): 

One Christmas I gave a party for my two small sons, and Tyrone Power offered to play Santa Claus. He lived a few blocks from me, and I went over to help him dress and brief him on the impending operation.

He was extremely nervous.

“This is worse than a first night on Broadway,” he said, helping himself liberally to the scotch bottle. “I’ve never performed for a bunch of kids before.”

I pushed and pulled him into the padded stomach, bulky red outfit, and high black boots rented from Western Costume Company and helped him fasten on a black belt, a huge white beard, and little red cap.

“Don’t worry about it,” I said. “It’s all fixed. I’ve left the gate open at the bottom of the garden. I’ve rigged up some sleigh bells down there and stashed away the presents, and at exactly six o’clock we’ll give ‘em the bells; then you pick up the sack and make it up the lawn to the house — they’re all expecting you.”

After discovering he would be entertaining 50 children- including the offspring of Gary Cooper, Rosalind Russell, the Fairbanks’, Deborah Kerr, Loretta Young, Charles Boyer, Edgar Bergen and Jerry Lewis- Ty was drinking a great deal of scotch.

During the five minute drive to the party Ty begged me to let him off the hook.

“Why don’t you do it? he asked. “It’s your party.”

“You suggested it,” I said firmly.

By six o’clock Santa Claus was loaded; sack on shoulder and hidden in some bushes at the bottom of my garden.

“Off you go,” I said to Ty. “Lots of luck!”

When he was spotted by the excited children, shrill shrieks and applause broke out. At that point I had intended to turn on the garden lights to illuminate the scene but for some reason I missed the switch and turned on the sprinklers. Ty fell down. He picked himself up, gave me a marked look and squelched on toward the shining, expectant faces in the windows.

Like all actors, once the curtain was up and the adrenaline had started pumping, Ty was relaxed and happy in his work.

“HO! HO! HO!” he boomed.  “And who is this lovely woolly lamb for, eh? Candace Bergen. Come here, little girl. HO! HO! HO!”

He was doing beautifully by the time I had sneaked in by the back door, seated in a big chair in the hall with excited children climbing all over him.

“Maria Cooper! My, what a pretty girl! HO! HO! HO! You tell your daddy that old Santa thought he was just dandy in High Noon and ask him for Grace Kelly’s phone number while you’re about it. HO! HO! HO!”

Maria Cooper was a little more sophisticated than the other children. “Where did you see the picture, Santa?” she asked sweetly.

“Oh,” said Ty, pointing vaguely above him, “Up there!”

After a while Santa made his good-byes and staggered off down the lawn. Some of the children cried when he left.

Back at the bottom of the garden, I helped him out of his outfit. He was as excited as if he had just given a triumphant Broadway performance of King Lear.

“I really enjoyed that!” he said. “Weren’t the kids a great audience?” 

And Merry Christmas from one of my favorites- Annette Funicello

And Merry Christmas from one of my favorites- Annette Funicello

 

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“Merry Christmas, Mama”: Christmas scenes in non-Christmas films

For me, it’s always a treat when there is a Christmas scene in a film that isn’t considered a holiday film.

Not only is it because I’m a lover of Christmas, but usually something important or climatic happens during Christmas related scenes.

Below are a few non-Christmas films with important holiday scenes:

1. Battleground (1949): “Battleground,” starring a plethora of stars such as Van Johnson, John Hodiak and George Murphy, is a World War II film set during the Battle of the Bulge in Bastogne. The Battle of the Bulge (Dec. 16 to Jan. 25) is when the Allies were surrounded by the Germans and were unable to get airborne assistance due to heavy fog and snow.

During one scene, a Lutheran Chaplain played by Leon Ames delivers a Christmas sermon for the men. It is a particularly moving scene, because he describes the importance of why they are fighting this war. It’s my favorite scene in the whole movie and still holds meaning today.

2. A Summer Place (1959): “Summer Place” is a stereotypical late-1950s sleezy melodrama. Already married Sylvia Hunter (Dorothy Malone) and Ken Jorgenson (Richard Egan) were teenage sweet hearts and rekindle their romance one summer when their families meet on vacation in Maine. This breaks up their marriages with Bart Hunter (Arthur Kennedy) and Helen Jorgenson (Constance Ford). To complicate things further, Sylvia’s son Johnny (Troy Donahue) and Ken’s daughter Molly (Sandra Dee) fall in love.

While over-bearing Helen is decorating their Christmas tree, she discovers her daughter Molly has been writing and meeting up with Johnny.

In a rage, Helen slaps her daughter and sends her hurtling into their plastic Christmas tree which she earlier described as “solid plastic” and that it should “last for 10 years.”

Helen Jorgensen angrily slaps her daughter Molly in "A Summer Place" sending her into their plastic Christmas tree- Screen capped by Hollywood Comet

Helen Jorgensen angrily slaps her daughter Molly in “A Summer Place” sending her into their plastic Christmas tree- Screen capped by Hollywood Comet

In this unintentionally hilarious scene, Molly looks up from behind the strewn Christmas tree branches, tinsel and ornaments and says, “Merry Christmas, Mama.”

Helen looks at 18 stockings in "Yours, Mine and Ours"

Helen looks at 18 stockings in “Yours, Mine and Ours”

3. Yours, Mine and Ours (1968):  Frank (Henry Fonda), who has 10 children, marries Helen (Lucille Ball), who has 8 children, putting entirely too many people into one home.

The comedy follows the adventures of how a family that large serves breakfast, gets to school and how the older children accept their new parents.

Christmas also gets complicated. Frank is up all night playing Santa trying to put toys together and is still working when the children get up in the morning. Christmas morning is chaos with one daughter eating candy canes off the Christmas tree and a bicycle breaking as a child rides it around the house.

But the real climax comes when Helen finds out that she is pregnant again…with their 19th child.

4. Since You Went Away (1944): A film that is my all-time favorite movie, “Since You Went Away” follows Anne Hilton (Claudette Colbert) and her two daughters Bridget (Shirley Temple) and Jane (Jennifer Jones) as they adjust to life on the home front during World War II. Though this film gets shown frequently during the Christmas season, it really isn’t a Christmas movie.

It begins when Anne’s husband leaves for war and goes through fall, summer, spring and ends at Christmas.

The last 20 minutes of the movie is Christmas making you laugh and cry. Jane has transformed from a selfish young teenager to a young lady, who has lost her boyfriend to the war and is now working as a nurse. Anne has come to terms that her husband is lost in action and is trying to have a normal Christmas with her family.

Christmas party scene in "Since You Went Away" with everyone playing charades. -screencapped by the Hollywood Comet

Christmas party scene in “Since You Went Away” with everyone playing charades. -screencapped by the Hollywood Comet

The Hiltons throw a Christmas party with a woman Anne met through her war work, a soldier Jane helped nurse, a family friend Lt. Tony Willet (Joseph Cotton) and his friend (Keenan Wynn) and their boarder Col. Smollett (Monty Woolley).

The party scene is fun and happy, but after all the guests leave Anne sees their servant Fidelia (Hattie McDaniel) putting presents under the tree that Tim sent her both he was reported missing.

Anne Hilton (Claudette Colbert) receiving the cable gram that her husband is home safe. -screen capped by the Hollywood Comet

Anne Hilton (Claudette Colbert) receiving the cable gram that her husband is home safe. -screen capped by the Hollywood Comet

Anne opens her gift from her husband, a musical powder box that plays their song, and starts to cry. Then the phone rings and it’s a cable gram saying Tim has been found and is coming home.

The movie ends with happy tears, hugging and excitement.

What are some of your favorite non-Christmas movie holiday scenes? Share them below!

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Guilty Film Pleasures: A Summer Place (1959)

Troy Donahue and Sandra Dee in “A Summer Place” (1959)

I have three main guilty pleasures: ridiculous, flashy clothes; Krispy Kreme doughnuts and trashy classic films.

I love pre-code 1930s films because of their quick witted lines, snappy pace and how down trodden women somehow pull themselves out of horrible situations-whether  they are adjusting to life after Sing Sing or secretly bringing up an illegitimate child.

During the 1940s and early 1950s, not many movies were as delightfully dirty as these pre-code films. There were a few salacious films, but viewers have to sometimes read between the lines to pick up on scandal.

 But then the late 1950s happened. Actors like Connie Stevens, Sandra Dee, Tab Hunter and Troy Donahue emerged and were perfect to play teens that constantly got into trouble.

“Susan Slade”, “Parrish”, “Rome Adventure” are just a few deliciously trashy films that came out during the late 1950s and late 1960s.

However, one of my all time favorite trashy 1950s films is “A Summer Place” (1959).

Family dinner at Pine Island. Cut the awkwardness with a knife.

The film revolves around two families: the Hunters and the Jorgenson’s.

Sylvia and Bart Hunter (played by Dorothy McGuire and Arthur Kennedy) own a summer resort on Pine Island in Maine. They live there year round with their son Johnny (Troy Donahue). The Pine Island home was owned by Bart’s family, but once he took over it fell into shambles. Bart is an alcoholic but Sylvia sticks by him in the interest of their son.

This particular summer Ken Jorgensen (Richard Egan) returns to Pine Island with his wife and daughter (Constance Ford and Sandra Dee). Ken was a lifeguard at Pine Island when he, Bart and Sylvia were teenagers. We soon find out that Ken and Sylvia were romantically involved during those summers but she married Bart because he was wealthier.

Ken and Sylvia start to secretly meet and rekindle their romance…and their children begin to follow this suite.

 Midnight meetings in the boat house, nosey old women, divorce on the grounds of adultery and teen pregnancy are sprinkled throughout the film.

This may sound like a run-of-the-mill 1950s trash fest, but there are so many things that make it very special:

Troy Donahue: Troy was a big star in the 1950s but he wasn’t running on much more than his looks. His emotions usually run from A to A. But I do feel that in “Summer Place” we get the special treat more emotion from Troy, including a tear running down his face.

Beulah Bondi: She doesn’t have a large role but she is wonderful as the busy body, but understanding aunt of Bart. My favorite line of her’s is when she first sees Sandra Dee, “Hardly proper to be so pretty. Seems all the nice girls I know have bad skin, are too fat, too thin or have thick ankles.”

•I love Constance Ford’s role as Helen Jorgenson. She does a wonderful job making you hate her. I love how she does ridiculous things like trying to strap down her daughter with a bra and de-sexing clothes. At one point Richard Egan gives a powerful speech about Helen and her prejudices. During the film’s screening at Radio City Music Hall, the audience gave a standing ovation at this part of the film, according to IMDB.

•There are so many great scenes.

            -Molly’s bra floating in the water after her dad throws it out the window.

            -Johnny awkwardly holding up Molly’s skirt after she is cut by a thorn.

            -Helen examining Molly to make sure she is still a “good girl” after having to spend the night on the beach with Johnny due to a boating accident.

            -Molly telling Johnny the plot of “King Kong” right before he um…deflowers her.

            -And my favorite part: Helen pushing Molly into a plastic Christmas tree. While still on the floor Molly looks up and says, “Merry Christmas Mama.”

Wait for it….

 “Summer Place” is also a special movie to me, because I have had the good fortune to be able to read the book written by Sloan Wilson the film was based off. It is a great read and one of my favorites and gives more insight of why the different characters are why they are.

The book explains that Helen and Ken married out of loneliness. After being jilted by Sylvia, Ken worked to be rich and successful to spite her. Helen’s father is Ken’s business partner and goes home with him for dinner where he meets Helen. They are both lonely and decide to get married. Helen is very sheltered and taught by her parents that sex is dirty-it’s a wonder Molly was ever born.

We learn that Sylvia liked Bart and was more of a tease to Ken. She married Bart because her recently wealthy father had gone bankrupt. The night they were engaged, Bart’s grandfather found out they had also lost all of their money too. Not only do Bart and Sylvia have a son, Johnny, they also have a daughter in the book.

Bart is an alcoholic because he has an inferiority complex. He is one of the idle rich who has little purpose in life. He marries a woman who he knows doesn’t love him which only makes matters worse. The book describes the only time Bart felt he had any purpose in life was when he was a commander of a ship during World War II. After the war, his alcoholism increased.

Lastly, in the film Molly wants Johnny to protect and help her when she finds out she is pregnant. In the book, Molly is more pissed than anything. She likes him still but is mad about the situation. At the end when the two stay on Pine Island together to start their life, you get the feeling that Johnny loves Molly more than she loves him.

Excited about their life of unplanned parenting!

Before I watched this movie to review, my dad had never had the pleasure of seeing it. I would like to leave you with some of his reactions I wrote down during the movie:

- “Whatever you do that woman shoots dogs, I wouldn’t trust her!” –Referring to Dorothy McGuire’s role in “Old Yeller”

-“My god, a bunch of crabby people!”-referring to the people in the Pine Island resort

-“Now I know why they don’t sleep together, surprised they have any kids!” (after Mr. and Mrs. Jorgenson fight about sex and race)

-“They’re going to do a pelvic exam?? Oh my god!”

- “Probably mom’s out hanging from her heels spying in a tree.”-While Molly and Johnny meet

-Dad making Psycho music noises about mother waiting for Molly to come home.

-Movie: “Frank Llyod Wright designed our house.” Dad: “That’s exactly what I was thinking!” (seriously)

-“I may never like that music again. It gets on my nerves after awhile”-referring to the ‘Summer Place’ theme

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