Archive for Monday, December 21, 2015

Christmas movies a highlight of the holiday season

December 21, 2015

One of the real pleasures during the holiday season is watching the large number of wonderful TV shows. Yes, I know most of them have been around for many, many years, but they are fun for young and old to watch. For many people these pleasant stories are a Christmas tradition.

My favorites are the Charlie Brown Christmas tree saga with the great musical background, the Grinch Who Stole Christmas and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Certainly the many cartoon versions of the origin of Santa Claus and Frosty the Snowman are great, too. What I like most about Charlie Brown, the Grinch and Rudolph is the emphasis on doing the right thing. They really are morality plays.

I think the Grinch is an excellent story. Here we have a mean dude who hates Christmas and wants to spoil it for others. Yes, he has a change of heart and celebrates the big day. To me the message is that we can always change and improve our behavior. In many ways the Grinch is patterned after Ebenezer Scrooge, who went from a mean skinflint to a benevolent person. Of course being visited by three ghosts might be a good reason to change.

However, my favorite is Rudolph, who overcame an appearance problem that caused him to be an outcast. His bright, red nose went from a liability to an asset, which made him successful and “the most famous reindeer of all.” It is a story that can teach children a very valuable lesson.

Poor Rudolph was like many children today. Due to his physical appearance he was bullied by the other reindeer and was an outcast. Yet, he discovered he had a talent that saved Santa Claus from having to cancel Christmas. His bright red nose served as a beacon to light the way.

I read that the story of the creation of Rudolph had an interesting history. Robert L. May, 34, was a Montgomery-Ward ad man in Chicago when he got the assignment to create a Christmas character. The original story was illustrated by Denver Gillan and first published in 1939.

May was facing a real-life crises at that time as his wife was dying of cancer. One version I read was he wrote the story for his young daughter. Anyway it was an instant success. In 1939, Montgomery-Ward sold 2.4 million copies of the book. I remember having a copy when I was very young, and I wish I had saved it.

Rudolph met some early oppositions. Purists didn’t like the addition of another reindeer and felt the original eight were enough. That didn’t deter Rudolph, who was soon “the most famous reindeer of all.” The story got a big boost in 1949 when Gene Autry, the popular singing cowboy and movie star, recorded the song at the urging of his wife. It became an overnight hit and was soon a Christmas classic.

The Rudolph story took another big step forward in 1964 when the animated version hit television. Incidentally, it is the oldest TV Christmas special, coming out one year ahead of Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree epic in 1965.

Although Robert May created the character, it wasn’t until the late 1940s that he started receiving royalties. He was an employee of Montgomery-Ward and the company held the copyright. They relinquished the rights to May who enjoyed the fruits of his creativity.

I doubt many think of Rudolph as a lesson in successful living. The character overcame problems and used his talents to become a success. That’s a lesson that is excellent for all of us at any point in the year. All I can add is have a joyous, meaningful and safe Christmas!


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