Franksgiving: A tale of two Thanksgivings

The year 1939 is filled with notable dates in history.

World War II was declared in Europe on Sept. 3, 1939. Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians recorded “Auld Lang Syne” for the first time on March 7, 1939. Lou Gehrig retired from the Yankees on June 21, 1939. Considered Hollywood’s greatest year, films like “Gone with the Wind” and “Wizard of Oz” were released.

And there were two Thanksgivings that November.

On Aug. 15, 1939, newspapers announced that President Franklin D. Roosevelt was going to move Thanksgiving up a week to the third week of November, rather than the fourth. In 1939, that made Thanksgiving Day Nov. 23 rather than Nov. 30.

The move was to help boost holiday sales after the president received complaints that the last Thursday in November was too late for Thanksgiving. The date was too close to Christmas and cut down on Christmas shopping, according to an Aug. 15, 1939, Associated Press (AP) article, “Thanksgiving Moved Up A Week.”

President Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt at Thanksgiving dinner in 1939 in Warm Springs, GA.

The change met some praise but mostly criticism.

Not only did the change affect when families gathered for a large meal, it also threw a wrench into calendars like academic schedules and the football industry.

“The precedent-shattering change … promised to upset the nation’s multi-million dollar Turkey day football industry,” according to the AP article. “Some of the season’s biggest and oldest grid games are scheduled for Nov. 30, which the schedule makers thought would be Thanksgiving Day. Moving the games back to Dec. 2 or up to Nov. 23 will be impossible in some cases.”

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The Christmas Tree (1969)

I’m on a constant quest for new-to-me Christmas movies. I search for them like I have a job in it with benefits.

And that’s how I found Terence Young’s “A Christmas Tree” (1969), also titled “L’arbre de Noël” and “When Wolves Cry.”

Starring William Holden, Virna Lisi, Bourvil and Brook Fuller, Laurent (Holen) is a widower who goes on summer vacation with his son Pascal (Fuller). Pascal wants to do something new and go camping on a remote island in Corsica.

While camping and swimming, Laurent and Pascal witness a plane carrying crash into the ocean and explode, and Laurent learns that the plane was carrying a nuclear device.

Pascal starts to have strange symptoms, like blue spots appearing and disappearing on his skin. He’s diagnosed as having an incurable disease due to nuclear exposure and is only giving a few months to live.

Not telling his son his diagnosis, Laurent pulls Pascal out of school, and they leave Paris and head to a chateau in the countryside of France. Laurent and the groundskeeper Verdun (Bourvil) let Pascal have whatever he wants — including a tractor to ride around the property and stealing wolves from the zoo.

The wolves are vicious creatures, but Pascal tames them with his gentle nature.

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Musical Monday: Mister Magoo’s Christmas Carol (1962)

It’s no secret that the Hollywood Comet loves musicals.
In 2010, I revealed I had seen 400 movie musicals over the course of eight years. Now that number is over 500. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

This week’s musical:
Mister Magoo’s Christmas Carol (1962)– Musical #597

Studio:
NBC

Director:
Abe Levitow

Starring:
Jim Backus, Morey Amsterdam, Jack Cassidy, Royal Dano, Paul Frees, Joan Gardner, Les Tremayne, John Hart, Jane Kean, Marie Matthews, Laura Olsher

Plot:
Mr. Magoo (Backus) is on Broadway playing Ebenezer Scrooge in a stage version of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” Scrooge is visited three ghosts and take him on a journey of self-exploration of his past, present and future.

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Watching 1939: Miracle on Main Street (1939)

In 2011, I announced I was trying to see every film released in 1939. This new series chronicles films released in 1939 as I watch them. As we start out this blog feature, this section may become more concrete as I search for a common thread that runs throughout each film of the year. Right now, that’s difficult. 

1939 film:  Miracle on Main Street (1939)

Release date:  Dec. 19, 1939

Cast:  Margo, Walter Abel, Jane Darwell, Lyle Talbot, William Collier Sr., Veda Ann Borg, Wynne Gibson, Jean Brooks (billed as Jeanne Kelly), Pat Flaherty, George Humbert

Studio:  Columbia Pictures Corporation

Director:  Steve Sekely

Plot:
On Christmas Eve in the Spanish quarter of Los Angeles, Maria (Margo) is performing as a hoochie coochie in her husband Dick’s (Talbot) show. When one of the attendees is a police officer, the couple run from the police, but Dick says they should separate so they aren’t caught. Maria hides in a church where she finds an abandoned baby. While her husband remains absent for a year, Maria’s life is changed for the better by the baby and a new man she meets, Jim (Abel).

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Musical Monday: Shirley Temple’s Storybook “Babes in Toyland” (1960)

It’s no secret that the Hollywood Comet loves musicals.
In 2010, I revealed I had seen 400 movie musicals over the course of eight years. Now that number is over 500. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

This week’s musical:
Shirley Temple’s Storybook” presents “Babes in Toyland” (1960) – Musical No. 596

Shirley Temple Black introducing the Dec. 25, 1960 episode of “Shirley Temple’s Storybook” with her children Charles Jr, Lori and Linda Susan
(Screen Cap by Jessica P.)

Studio:
NBC Studios

Director:
Bob Henry

Starring:
Shirley Temple, Jonathan Winters, Angela Cartwright, Jerry Colonna, Carl Ballantine, Joe Besser, Charles Black Jr., Lori Black, Bob Jellison, Ray Kellogg, Michel Petit, Hanley Stafford

Plot:
Alan (Petit) and Jane (Cartwright) live with their cantankerous and stingy Barnaby (Winters). The children’s parents left them a great deal of money for when they grow up, so Barnaby hires three cutthroats (Colonna, Ballantine, Besser) to kill the children so he can get all the money. The children escape being drowned and journey through a gypsy camp, Spider Forest, Meantown and finally to Toyland.

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“Holiday Affair” (1949) and interview with Gordon Gebert

After Robert Mitchum was released from jail for marijuana possession, his studio was looking to clean up his image. The answer was a romantic holiday comedy, “Holiday Affair” (1949).

“At this time Robert Mitchum was operating under the cloud. The head of the studio was eager to clean up his image with this film,” said former child actor Gordon Gebert at a recent screening of the film in Yadkinville, NC.

The film “Holiday Affair” (1949) revolves around war widow Connie, played by Janet Leigh, who lives with her son Timmy, played by Gebert. Connie has dated her boyfriend Carl, played by Wendell Corey, for two years. Carl is secure, reliable and has a steady job, but while Connie likes him, she ducks the discussion of marriage.

Then Connie meets a stranger, Steve, played by Robert Mitchum, who is a store clerk she gets fired. While they never plan on it, the two continuously run into each other, making it hard to forget the other.

Outside of the romantic triangle, the film also focuses on what post-war widows most likely faced: How do you move on from your husband who was killed in war?

Connie hasn’t and tries to honor her husband’s memory every day. She lives a quiet life with her son who she calls the man of the house. Connie tells him frequently that he looks like his father and tries to part his hair in the same way that her husband wore his. She hasn’t allowed herself to fall in love again, because she doesn’t want to be unfaithful to the memory of her first marriage.

Robert Mitchum’s character forces Janet Leigh to face a truth she has been hiding from. Leigh’s character is flustered both by her feelings and by the harsh reality quoted to her by Mitchum.

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Review: Horror stars keep us in “Suspense”

Complete with creepy organ music straight from a radio serial, “Suspense” was a live television program that aired from 1949 to 1954. The show followed a radio program of the same name, which is obvious from the narration and music.

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For better or worse: Long Hollywood marriages

Please see Part 1 of this series, which features multiple acting couples. 

The joke in pop culture is that all marriages in Hollywood are brief and frequent.

For Valentine’s Day in 2013, I created a list of 56 actors and actresses who had long, successful marriages. The list was overwhelming, and I promised a follow-up post including more long marriages.

Well five years later, I have a follow-up. This time I created a list that included nearly 60 actors. It was so long that I am only sharing 30 couples and will share more next year.

You can read the first 2013 post “In sickness and in health: Successful Hollywood marriages” here, which includes actors like Eva Marie Saint, Shirley Temple, James Stewart, Paul Newman/Joanne Woodward, and Joel McCrea/Francis Dee. 

My definition of a successful Hollywood marriage is longer than 20 years and no divorce:

Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee

Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis (Married 1948 until his death in 2005) Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee met in 1945 when they both starred in the play “Jeb.” Throughout their marriage, the two performed together in 11 plays and five films. Outside of their art, they were activists together. Dee and Davis celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 1998 by releasing the book “With Ossie and Ruby: In This Life Together,” where they were discussed their support of open marriages and that “lies, not infidelity” ruin a marriage. The two had three children: Guy Davis, Nora Day and Hasna Muhammad.

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Christmas Musical Monday: The Alcoa Hour presents The Stingiest Man in Town (1956)

It’s no secret that the Hollywood Comet loves musicals.
In 2010, I revealed I had seen 400 movie musicals over the course of eight years. Now that number is over 500. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

This week’s musical:
The Alcoa Hour presents The Stingiest Man in Town (1956) – Musical #577

Basil Rathbone as Scrooge and Johnny Desmond as nephew Fred

Studio:
NBC

Director:
Daniel Petrie

Starring:
Basil Rathbone, Vic Damone, Johnny Desmond, the Four Lads, Patrice Munsel, John McGiver, John McGovern, Martyn Green, Alice Frost, Dennis Kohler, Bryan Herbert, Keith Herrington, Ian Martin, Robert Weede, Robert Wright, Keith Herrington

Plot:
A musical retelling of Charles Dickens’ novel, “A Christmas Carol.” Miserly Ebenezer Scrooge (Rathbone) is warned by the ghost of his friend Marley (Weede) that he needs to change his ways or he will end up chained to his sins. On Christmas Eve night, Scrooge is visited by ghosts to show him his past, present and future life to convince him to change.

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Ginger Rogers’s Christmas Cake

Over the summer, I was surfing eBay for film memorabilia and came across a recipe for Ginger Rogers’s Christmas cake in a small food magazine, A & P Menu, which is “dedicated to food, menus and recipes.” I bought the Dec. 17, 1936, menu so I could attempt to make this cake myself.

Note: The cover reads “Ginger Rogers, RKO Radio Pictures star soon to appear in “Stepping on Toes,” believes in bigger and better cakes.” “Stepping on Toes” was the working title for “Shall We Dance” (1937), starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.

In addition to the cake recipe, the rest of this issue of A&P Menu gives cookie recipes and gives suggestions on easy, inexpensive meals for your family leading up to Christmas.

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