A Christmas Tradition: Lionel Barrymore as Ebenezer Scrooge

barrymoreMultiple actors have played Ebenezer Scrooge in numerous adaptations of Charles Dickens’ story “A Christmas Carol.” But one actor performed the role every year, creating a 20 year tradition.

From 1934 to 1953, Lionel Barrymore came into homes over the radio as the miserly Scrooge who is visited by three ghosts as a warning to change his cruel ways.

Barrymore only missed two performances in the 20 year span: in 1936 when his wife Irene Fenwick died on Dec. 24, 1936; and in 1938.

John Barrymore took over for his brother in 1936 broadcast and Orson Welles performed the role in 1938.

Lionel Barrymore’s radio performance in “A Christmas Carol” is credited as making the Charles Dickens story popular in the United States, according to the book “The Man Who Invented Christmas” by Deckle Edge.

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Comet Over Hollywood Holiday Special

Almost every Christmas for the past five years, I try to film a special Christmas video for the readers and supporters of Comet Over Hollywood.

Last year’s video was a little violent, so this year we opted for something briefer and food oriented.

Enjoy!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

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Check out the Comet Over Hollywood Facebook page, follow on Twitter at @HollywoodComet or e-mail at cometoverhollywood@gmail.com

Christmas with James Bond

mjarestOn Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969) is a standout film within the James Bond franchise. It was the first James Bond film to not star Sean Connery and the only Bond film to star model-turned-actor George Lazenby. It also happens to be the only James Bond film set during Christmas time.

Released in the United States on Dec. 19, 1969, the film follows Agent 007 (Lazenby) as he travels undercover as a genealogist to a clinical allergy institute in the Swiss Alps. The institute is a front for SPECTRE, the crime syndicate operated by Bond’s arch-nemesis, Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Telly Savalas). Bond’s goal is to uncover what research Blofeld is really conducting and why it involves 12 beautiful women from all over the world. Outside of this excursion, Bond also falls in love with Contessa Teresa “Tracy” di Vicenzo, played by Diana Rigg.

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Stars at Twilight: “Christmas Eve” (1986)

At age 4 in 1917, she made her first film appearance as an uncredited fairy in “The Primrose Ring.” Actress Loretta Young performed in 94 films from 1917 to 1989 and was the star of the successful television show, “The Loretta Young Show.” Young acted almost all her life, performing in her last role, the TV movie “Lady In A Corner” (1989), at age 76.

But we are focusing on Young’s second to last role: the TV movie “Christmas Eve” (1986).

Loretta Young and Trevor Howard in "Christmas Eve" (1986)

Loretta Young and Trevor Howard in “Christmas Eve” (1986)

Young plays wealthy Amanda Kingsley who dedicates her time to helping the homeless, taking in stray cats, reading to children and directing choirs. Her butler Maitland (Trevor Howard) is her begrudging, but loving, sidekick and friend who accompanies her on these all-night outings of helping the needy.

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On the Small Screen: The Paul Lynde Halloween Special (1976)

Comet Over Hollywood is spotlighting Halloween episodes of classic television shows.

The Paul Lynde Halloween Special
Air Date: Oct. 29, 1976

In the 1960s and 1970s, TV specials were abundant. It seems that almost every TV star, major musician and their Great Aunt Pearl had their own special. From musical performances like “My Name is Barbra” (1965), a musical special with Barbra Streisand, to “Really Raquel” (1973), where Raquel Welch performed her nightclub show. Telly Savalas even had a 1976 musical specials called “Telly…Who Loves Ya Baby?”

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Many of these specials also focused on holidays, and performers such as Perry Como, Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and Andy Williams always had a Christmas special. And thanks to Paul Lynde, Halloween wasn’t forgotten in the mix of Halloween specials.

Airing on ABC on Oct. 29, 1976, “The Paul Lynde Halloween Special” is a ridiculous, campy (but hilarious) special featuring Margaret Hamilton as his maid, Tim Conway, Billie Barty, Betty White, Florence Henderson, Billie Hayes, Roz Kelly, and…performances from the rock band KISS.

It begins with Lynde not sure what holiday it is, celebrating Christmas, Easter and Valentine’s Day, when Margaret Hamilton exasperatedly reminds him that it’s Halloween—a holiday that is close “to the scariest holiday of them all: Election Day.”

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On the Small Screen: The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet — Halloween Party

Throughout the Halloween season, Comet Over Hollywood is spotlighting Halloween episodes of classic television shows. 

“The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet”— “Halloween Party”
Season 1, Episode 5

Air Date: Oct. 31, 1952

Plot:
The show begins with young Ricky dressed in his skeleton Halloween costume. His mother, Harriet Nelson, says it “gives her the willies.”

Ricky Nelson in his skeleton costume.

Ricky Nelson in his skeleton costume.

“My skeleton costume makes me look real thin and people feel sorry for you and give you more cake and ice cream,” Ricky said.

Ricky’s brother David comes home with a box of Halloween goodies and decorations. He’s the class treasurer and just bought everything for a school Halloween party.

During the conversation about Halloween parties, their dad, Ozzie Nelson, comments “Yeh Halloween is a lot of fun for kids” and continues to say that as you get older, you get tired of parties and games aren’t fun. He says, “It’s time to give Halloween back to the kids.”

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Brief Encounter: Short Hollywood Marriages

Hollywood marriages are often butt of jokes since they are often extremely short or numerous. While Comet Over Hollywood previously identified more than 70 lengthy and successful Hollywood marriages, there are also some that are remarkably brief. This Valentine’s Day we are focusing on those brief encounters. These classic Hollywood marriages are all under a year, from marriage to divorce or annulment. For example, Rudolph Valentino and Jean Acker were married in 1919 and are credited with “the shortest Hollywood marriage” at 6 hours. However, their divorce was not finalized until 1922, so this post will not focus on their marriage. This piece also won’t look at marriages that were shortened by death. Here is a sampling of brief encounters for your Valentine’s Day:

27 Jun 1964, Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, USA --- Ethel Merman and Ernest Borgnine at Their Wedding --- Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

27 Jun 1964, Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, USA — Ethel Merman and Ernest Borgnine at Their Wedding — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

Ethel Merman and Ernest Borgnine (June 27, 1964 – Nov. 18, 1964)
Borgnine was the gruff working man in films and Merman was the glamorous Broadway diva. The two met in November of 1963, the same year Borgnine divorced from his wife, Mexican actress Katy Jurado.
Merman was nine years older than Borgnine. After they met, Borgnine started courting Merman.
“I’ve never been in love, really in love, before,” Merman told reporters according to Ethel Merman: A Life by Brian Kellow. “For the first time in my life I feel protected.”
After a six month courtship, the two were married.
“Everyone thinks she’s loud and brash. But she’s the opposite,” Borgnine was quoted in Brass Diva: The Life and Legends of Ethel Merman by Caryl Flinn. “She’s soft, gentle and shy. And you know me, I’m ‘Marty.’”
The two married on June 26, 1964, and were separated 32 days later on July 28, 1964.Their divorce was finalized that November.
Merman never gave reasons for the divorce and Borgnine said in interviews it’s because more people knew him than her on their honeymoon.
“Everybody knew me, but they didn’t know Ethel overseas,” Borgnine said in an interview. “The more they recognised me, the madder she got. That’s what hurt her, so she started taking it out on me.
After the divorce, Merman referred to the marriage as “That thing.” In her autobiography, the chapter “My Marriage to Ernest Borgnine” is one blank page.

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Mr. New Year’s Eve: Guy Lombardo

Publicity photo of Guy Lombardo in the 1940s.

Publicity photo of Guy Lombardo in the 1940s.

“Auld Lang Syne” was his theme song.

They called him Mr. New Year’s Eve, and he was part of America’s New Year’s tradition for nearly 50 years.

Before Dick Clark and Ryan Seacrest counted down to 12 a.m., January 1, there was Guy Lombardo. Each year, his saxophones would poignantly play “Auld Land Syne” as couples danced, kissed and wished “Happy New Year.”

From the crash of the stock market in 1929 through the bicentennial in 1976, big bandleader Lombardo and his Royal Canadians were a long standing tradition for Americans.

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Christmas on Film: “We’re No Angels” (1955)

Guardian angels can come in many forms, and in the film “We’re No Angels” (1955), help arrives from three convicts.

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Early Christmas Eve, Joseph (Humphrey Bogart), Albert (Aldo Ray), Jules (Peter Ustinov) and Adolf the poisonous snake, escape from prison on French colonial Devil’s Island in 1895. Joseph embezzled money and Albert and Jules are murderers. They are able to blend in easily in the town in their prison clothes, as many paroled convicts work out in the open.

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A Gift from Comet Over Hollywood

Almost every Christmas for the past four years, I try to film a special Christmas video for the readers and supporters of Comet Over Hollywood.

This year — as my gift to you — my mother and I re-enacted one of my favorite Christmas scenes from a classic film. I hope you enjoy it as much as I loved making it.

For context, here is a snippet from the trailer.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Check out the Comet Over Hollywood Facebook page, follow on Twitter at @HollywoodComet or e-mail at cometoverhollywood@gmail.com