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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Christmas on Film: The Cheaters (1945)

Last Christmas I was wrapping presents and watching made-for-TV Christmas movies on YouTube when—after finishing Susan Lucci’s Christmas Carol— this film began autoplaying.

I was excited to find a new-to-me classic Christmas film (which I have previously mentioned can be hard to find).

“The Cheaters” (1945) most likely won’t be added to my mandatory list of Christmas season viewing, but it’s a fairly enjoyable film.

Wealthy James C. Pidgeon (Eugene Pallette) is about to go bankrupt while his wife Clara (Billie Burke), children (Ann Gillis, Ruth Terry, David Holt), and brother-in-law (Raymond Walburn) are all still happily living off what little money he has left.

To top off the financial issues, Pidgeon’s daughter Theresa (Terry) demands that the family invites a charity case to their home for Christmas. She wants to impress her soldier boyfriend, Stephen (Robert Livingston), because his mother always invites a charity case for Christmas.

For their charity case, the family selects Anthony Marchaund (Joseph Schildkraut), a has-been actor who was injured in car wreck at the height of his career. He now drinks too much and walks with a limp.

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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!

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My gift to you: More Hollywood Christmas photos

As a reporter, sometimes you have to do things like work Christmas Day.

So as I am here at work, I will entertain all of you good people with more classic Hollywood Christmas photos.

gloria swanson christmas

Gloria Swanson

Mary Martin in Sexy Santa Costume

Mary Martin in 1940

Louise Brooks christmas

Louise Brooks, sort of matching her Christmas tree

lillian roth jean arthur

Jean Arthur and Lillian Roth fighting over toys by the tree

joan crawfrod charity gifts 1943

Joan Crawford with charity Christmas presents in 1943

eddie cantor christmas shelly winter lynn merrick maxine fifie leslie brooks

Eddie Cantor as Santa at the Hollywood Canteen with Service men and Shelly Winters, Lynn Merrick, Maxine Fifie and Leslie Brooks.

dianna lynn

Diana Lynn with Frosty the Snowman. She’s always been a favorite of mine.

christmas peter lorre

Peter Lorre dressed as Santa in between takes while playing Mr. Moto.

bette davis christmas 2

Bette Davis in “The Man Who Came to Dinner.”

annette funcillo 2

Annette Funicello

bela logusi santa

Bela Lugosi, famous for playing Dracula, dressed as Santa Claus

Merry Christmas from Comet Over Hollywood

Me here at the Star being festive for all of you!

Me here at the Star being festive for all of you!

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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 McGuire) 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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