Saturday, April 10, 2010

Munchkin Coroner Meinhardt Raabe & Jiminy Cricket Voice Eddie Carroll R.I.P.

Meinhardt Raabe

Meinhardt Raabe, who played the Munchkin's coroner who pronounced the Wicked Witch of the East "really, most sincerely dead" in The Wizard of Oz, passed Thursday at the age of 94. He was one of the last surviving actors to play one of the Munchkins.

Meinhardt Raabe was born on September 2, 1915 in Watertown, Wisconsin. Growing up he in rural Wisconsin, he assumed that he was unique, as there were no other little people in the area. It was in 1933 that he went to the Chicago World's Fair and visited the Midget Village there. He so enjoyed the experience that he took a job as a barker there the next summer. He attended the University of Wisconsin in Madison where he received a bachelor's degree in accounting in 1937. He graduated from Drexel University in 1970 with an M.B.A.

Mr. Raabe experienced a good deal of discrimination because of his height, with one recruiter even telling him he belonged in a carnival. He eventually took a job with Oscar Mayer as a salesman. The company appointed him their mascot, Little Oscar "the World's Smallest Chef," and he spent nearly thirty years travelling with the Wienermobile to promote the company. He would be one of the first to drive the Wienermobile, the original having been designed in 1936.

It was in 1938 that he found out MGM was hiring little people for a film. Meinhardt Raabe took a leave from his job and went to Hollywood. MGM was impressed with Mr. Raabe, and cast him in the role of the coroner in The Wizard of Oz. Like the other actors who played Munchkins in the film, it is believed his lines were later dubbed. Despite this, Mr. Raabe always remained a fan of the film. It would be his only feature film role. For the rest of his life he would appear before schools and clubs to talk about his experiences in making the film.  He was frequently seen at fan conventions dedicated to the film.

During World War II he served in the Civil Air Patrol. It is believed he was the smallest pilot in uniform. Mr. Raabe later worked as a horticulturist and a teacher.

Meinhardt Raabe had only one role in a feature film, and it was a role that lasted only a few seconds. Despite this, he made an impression that actors who work for years in their profession would not. For years later he would continue to promote The Wizard of Oz, becoming one of its best loved supporters. He also worked for years in public relations for Oscar Mayer, many of them as "Little Oscar." In this position he again made a memorable impression on many. It was perhaps a photograph autographed by Judy Garland, which Mr. Raabe kept his whole life, that may have best summed up the man, "For Meinhardt, A perfect coroner, and person, too."

Eddie Carroll

Eddie Carroll, only one of two men to voice Disney's Jiminy Cricket (the other was the legendary Cliff Edwards), passed on April 6 at the age of 76. The cause was a brain tumour.

Eddie Carroll was born Edward Eniak in Edmonton, Alberta on September 5, 1933. In high school he acted alongside another student who would one day be famous, Robert Goulet. It was in the Fifties that he moved to the United States as part of a NBC talent programme. He served in the United States Army, where he wrote and produced shows for Armed Forces Radio and Television. It was his mother who suggested he choose a simpler name for use in show business. He chose Carroll for a favourite aunt.

Eddie Carroll made his debut on television in a guest appearance on The Lieutenant in 1963. He also guest starred on Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C., Mission: Impossible, and The Andy Griffith Show. He appeared in the film The Last of the Secret Agents in 1966. In 1970 he was a regular on The Don Knotts Show. It was in 1971 that Mr. Carroll would receive the role for which he was best known. Following the death of Cliff Edwards, Disney needed to find a new voice for Jiminy Cricket. Prior to the audition, Mr. Carroll studied Mr. Edwards' rendition of "When You Wish Upon a Star." He also realised that he would have to adopt a Missouri to get the part. In the end, Eddie Carroll was cast as the new voice of  Jiminy Cricket. He first voiced the character in the animated short "Bongo" in 1971. In the end, Mr. Carroll would be the voice of Jiminy Cricket nearly until his death. He would become the man to voice a Disney character the longest.

In 1983 Eddie Carroll performed in a one man show, A Small Eternity with Jack Benny, in which he impersonated the legendary comedian. He continued to appear in the role of the comedian until last year. To play the role, Mr. Carroll had to teach himself violin.

Eddie Carroll did an admirable job as Jiminy Cricket, to the point that is difficult to notice any differences between his voice and that of Cliff Edwards. Indeed, he mastered Mr. Edwards' Hannibal, Missouri accent, no mean feat. He also did an admirable job impersonating Jack Benny. He was one of the few men who could capture the great comedian's character and personality nearly perfectly. Mr. Carroll's success as both Jiminy Cricket and as a Jack Benny impersonator was largely due to his ability to engulf himself in a character. It was an ability which he put to good use throughout his career.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Malcom McLaren R.I.P.

Macolm McLaren, who promoted both The New York Dolls and managed The Sex Pistols, passed on Thursday at the age of 64. The cause was cancer.

Malcolm McLaren was born on 22 January, 1946 in London. He attended art school, but never graduated. He became an admirer of Situationist International, the revolutionary political group of the Fifties and Sixties, and their tactics and slogans would later shape McLaren's approach to music promotion. In 1971 he opened the boutique Let It Rock with then girlfriend Vivienne Westwood. McLaren and Westwood also designed costumes for various theatrical productions. It was a designer that he met The New York Dolls. It was in 1975, when the groups was in decline, that The New York Dolls let McLaren assist them. He created extravagant stunts to promote the band, including dressing the group in red with a Soviet flag in the background. Unfortunately, McLaren's efforts to promote the band would ultimately backfire on the band.

Before McLaren's activities with The New York Dolls, he had met a young group called The Strand through the boutique, a group later renamed The Sex Pistols.  After having renamed Too Fast to Live Too Young to Die in 1972, McLaren and Westwood renamed the boutique SEX in 1975. Having been exposed to the developing punk scene in New York City while working with the New York Dolls, McLaren began taking a greater interest in The Strand. It was not much later that the band was renamed QT Jones and The Sex Pistols. McLaren then set about finding a lead vocalist for the group (their original lead singer, Wally Nightingale having been kicked out).  It was in late 1975 that Johnny Lydon joined the band as its lead vocalist, Lydon becoming famous under the name Johnny Rotten. Having gone through a number of names since QT Jones and The Sex Pistols, the band settled on the name "The Sex Pistols."

It was in 1976 that McLaren and Westwood began promoting The Sex Pistols with publicity tactics largely borrowed from the Situationists. It was in October 1976 that EMI signed The Sex Pistols to a two year contract. The first single, "Anarchy in the UK" was released that November. After various controversial incidents, EMI released The Sex Pistols from their contract. Not long after, bassist Glen Matlock left the band to be replaced by Sid Vicious. It was on 10 March, 1977 that The Sex Pistols were signed to A&M Records, only to have the record company to release them six days later. It was in May 1977 that the band was signed to Virgin Records. Their first single on Virgin, "God Save the Queen," proved to be a source of great controversy in the United Kingdom. Released to coincide with Queen Elizabeth II's Silver Jubilee, Malcolm McLaren chartered a boat on which The Sex Pistols would perform the song while sailing on the River Thames, a path which would take them past both Parliament and the Westminster Pier. The publicity stunt resulted in arrests for nearly everyone involved.

It was in January 1978 that The Sex Pistols toured the United States. McLaren deliberately booked redneck bars in hopes that incidents would occur. It was towards the end of the tumultuous American tour that The Sex Pistols broke up. McClaren would go onto manage Adam Ant, Bow Wow Wow (formed from former members of Adam and the Ants and lead singer Annabella Lwin), and Jimmy the Hoover. In 1983 he launched his own music career. His first album, Duck Rock, was influenced by African music and American rap music. In all, he would release fifteen albums, the last being in 2009.

It was in the Eighties that Malcolm McLaren tried to produce a movie entitled Fashion Beast, using a script by Alan Moore. The film was never made. McLaren would direct and write the television movie The Ghosts of Oxford Street, a musical history of Oxford Street in London. He was a producer on the documentary Fast Food Nation.

Malcolm McLaren's music was never my cup of tea and I cannot say that I have ever seen much of his fashion, but I do not think it can be denied that as a manager he got his bands attention. Certainly he turned The Sex Pistols into a sensation, one that was short lived primarily only due to the volatility of the group. Although lesser known, he would actually have more success with Adam Ant and Bow Wow Wow. At any rate, he does have to be given credit for one of the most outrageous publicity stunts in rock history. Having The Sex Pistols perform "God Save the Queen" aboard a boat in the Thames during Queen Elizabeth II's Silver Jubilee may have been in very poor taste (not to mention very unpatriotic), but it certainly did draw attention.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Songs of Tommy Boyce & Bobby Hart

If the names "Boyce and Hart" sound familiar, it is with good reason. Not did Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart write many of The Monkees' greatest hits, but they also shaped what we think of today as The Monkees' sound. Together they also wrote songs for Paul Revere and The Raiders, The Leaves, Jay and the Americans, Chubby Checker, The Astronauts, and many others. They would also have their own music career as artists, recording five albums (two with Micky Dolenz and Davy Jones) and producing three top forty singles.

The Songs of Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart was a compilation album compiled by Cary E. Mansfield of Varese Saraband Records and Bobby Hart  and released in 1995. While most greatest hits albums are compiled of songs from a single artist, The Songs of Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart compiled songs which written by Boyce and Hart, either together or with other people. For Boyce and Hart fans, then, this album is a real treat. It features their biggest hits as recording artists ("I Wonder What She's Doing Tonight, "Alice Long (You're Still My Favourite Girlfriend", and "Out and About") and songs they wrote for other artists (The Monkees'  "Last Train to Clarksville" and the original version of "Vallieri," Paul Revere and the Raiders' "(I'm Not) Your Steppin' Stone," The Astronauts' "Tomorrow's Gonna Be Another Day," and so on.).

 What really makes The Songs of Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart a very special album is that it features some truly rare songs. Even though Boyce and Hart performed "I'll Blow You a Kiss in the Wind" on Bewitched, the song did not hit the top forty and has been hard to find ever since. Similarly, the Boyce and Hart singles "We're All Going to the Same Place" and "Goodbye, Baby (I Don't Want to See You Cry)" have also been difficult to find. It also contains the rare single by Dolenz, Jones, Boyce, & Hart, "I Remember the Feeling," released in 1975. In fact, if I have one complaint about this album, it that it should have had more songs by Boyce and Hart as musical artists. "Where Angels Go, Trouble Follows (the theme song to the movie of the same name) is conspicuously absent, as are "Sometimes She's a Little Girl," "Maybe Someday Heard," and "L.U.V. (Let Us Vote)." While the songs written by either Tommy Boyce or Bobby Hart with others (such as "Hurt So Bad" for Little Anthony and The Imperials, "Pretty Little Angel Eyes" for Curtis Lee, and "Action" by Freddie Cannon are all good songs, I would rather have had more songs by Boyce and Hart together as performers.

Of course, that one complaint is a minor one. This album has most of the songs Boyce and Hart fans love, and I can't see too many being disappointed in the album. Indeed, it is good to hear "I'll Blow You a Kiss in the Wind" on something other than a Bewitched rerun!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Christopher Cazenove R.I.P.

British actor Christopher Cazenove died today at the age of 64. The cause was septisema.

Christopher Cazenove was born in Winchester, Hampshire on 17 December, 1945. He was raised in Somerset and attended Eton. His father, who had been a brigadier in the Coldstream Guards, wanted him to enter the military, but Christopher Cazenove wanted to go into acting. After graduating from Eton, he worked as a nanny, a chauffeur, and a handyman. He broke into acting through the Bristol Old Vic Theatre, where he learned his craft and made his debut in Man and Superman in 1967. He played Hamlet at the Pitlochry Festival Theatre. He made his London debut in The Lionel Touch at the Lyric Theatre in 1970.

It was in 1970 that he made his movie debut in an uncredited role in Julius Caesar. That same year he appeared in an uncredited role in There's a Girl in My Soup. In 1971 he made his television debut in a guest shot on The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes. From 1972 to 1973 he played Lieutenant Richard Grant on the TV series The Regiment. He guest starred on the shows Affairs of the Heart, Jennie: Lady Randolph Churchill, Hammer House of Horror, and the British series Thriller. From 1976 to 1977 he appeared in the TV series The Duchess of Duke Street. He appeared in the films Royal Flash, East of Elephant Rock, and Zulu Dawn. In 1979 he appeared on the West End in Joking Apart and  in 1980 on Broadway in Goodbye Fidel.

In the Eighties he guest starred on the shows Lady Killers, Lou Grant, and Hammer House of Mystery and Suspense. Christopher Cazenove was a regular on the series Dynasty and appeared in five episodes of  A Fine Romance. He appeared in the films Eye of the Needle, From a Far Country, Mata Hari. The Fantasist, Blinf Justice, Souvenir, and Three Men and a Little Lady. From the Nineties into the Naughts he guest starred on Tales From the Crypt, Daziel and Pascoe, Charmed,  and Hotel Babylon. He was a semi-regular on Judge John Deed.  He appeared in the films Shadow Run, Contaminated Man, A Knight's Tale, Beginner's Luck, Young Alexander the Great, and Bloodline.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Actor Corin Redgrave Passes On

Actor Corin Redgrave passed today at the age of 70.He had fallen ill on Sunday.

Corin Redgrave was born in Marylebone, London on 16 July, 1939, the son of actors Sir Michael Redgrave and Rachel Kempson. Acing was literally in his blood. His grandfather was silent actor Roy Redgrave. His sisters were Lynn and Venssa Redgrave.

Mr. Redgrave attended the Westminster School at King's College and the University of Cambridge. He made his acting debut in 1961 at the Royal Court, playing Lysander in A Midsummer Night's Dream. He made his television debut with a guest appearance in The Avengers episode "Lobster Quadrille (the last episode in which Honor Blackman appeared as Cathy Gale). He appeared in minor roles in the films Crooks in Cloisters (1964) and A Study in Terror (1965). He was a regular on the TV series The Big Spender. Throughout the Sixties he appeared in roles in such films as The Deadly Affair (1966), A Man For All Seasons (1966), The Magus (1968), and The Charge of the Light Brigade (1968). He appeared in such TV shows as Mystery and Imagination (as Jonathan Harker in that series' adaptation of Dracula), The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Canterbury Tales, and Callan. He made his Broadway debut in 1963 in Chips with Everything.

The Seventies saw Corin Redgrave appear in such films as When Eight Bells Toll (1971), Von Richthofen and Brown (1971), and  Between Wars (1974). In the Eighties Mr. Redgrave appeared in the movies Excalibur ( 1981, as Cornwall), Eureka (1983), and The Fool (1990). In the Nineties he was in the films In the Name of the Father (1993), Four Wedding and a Funeral (1994), England, My England (1995), Persuasion (1995), and Honest (2000). On television he appeared on Performance (that show's adaptations of Measure for Measure and Henry IV). Dangerfield, Ultraviolet, and The Vice. In 1999 he returned to Broadway in Not About Nightingales.

The Naughts saw Mr. Redgrave appear in such films as Gypsy Woman (2001), Doctor Sleep (2002), To Kill a King (2003), and Enduring Love (2004). On television he appeared in the mini-series The Forsythe Saga, the shows  Waking the Dead, Trial & Retribution, Shameless, and Spooks (known as MI-5 in the Untied States), and in the television films Shackleton, Bertie and Elizabeth, and The Turn of the Screw (his last appearance on the screen).

Corin Redgrave appeared on the stage throughout his career. He appeared often at the Old Vic Theatre, as well as with other acting troupes in England. He won the Olivier award for his role in Tennessee Williams' Not About Nightingales in England and was nominated for a Tony when he repeated his performance on Broadway. He played opposite his sister Vanessa in a revival of A Song at Twilight. He also wrote and performed his own one man plays including Michael Redgrave, My Father. He played in such Shakespeare plays as King Lear, Much Ado About Nothing, Henry IV, Part 1, and The Tempest.

Corin Redgrave was a political activist with very left wing views. As a result he often found work difficult to obtain for much of his career, and even stated that the BBC had blackballed him for his political views. This was a shame as Mr. Redgrave was a very talented actor. He more often than not played strong, slightly sinister characters, such as Jolyon Forsyte in The Forsythe Saga and Dr. Kidson in The Woman in White, and adaptation of Wilkie Collins' novel of the same name. He was capable of playing other roles, such as the hapless Cornwall in Excalibur and straight arrow pilot Lanoe Hawker in Von Richthofen and Brown. In nearly everything he appeared Corin Redgrave gave impressive performances. It is a shame that many prevented him from practising his craft more often.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Happy Birthday, Bette Davis!

Bette Davis is one of my favourite actresses of all time. I even wrote an epic post about Miss Davis for her 100th birthday. And while she remains one of my favourite actresses of all time, I have to admit she was never a looker. But what  Miss Davis may have lacked in conventional beauty she more than made up for, as she had personality, charm, and a wit so razor sharp that her archrival Joan Crawford could not begin to compete with her. She also had a lot of raw talent. Bette Davis could do it all--comedies, dramas, romances, even horror movies. And she did it all well. In the pantheon of classic stars, Bette Davis shines among the brightest.

Having already written a post on her career, I'll simply leave you with a scene from one of my favourite movies in which she starred. Here is Bette Davis as Baby Jane, getting ready for her comeback, in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Easter Hare or Easter Bunny

The Easter Hare or Easter Bunny is as much a part of the celebration of Easter in Europe, parts of North America, Australia, New Zealand, and other parts of the world, as Father Christmas, Santa Claus, and similar figures are to Christmas. There can be no doubt that many children look forward to the leporid (variously identified as a hare or rabbit) bringing baskets of brightly coloured eggs, candy, and even toys the night before Easter. The leoprid has even been immortalised in song ("Here Comes Peter Cottontail"). Of course, the belief in the Easter hare or Easter bunny brings up the question, "How did leoprids become associated with Easter anyway and how did the Easter hare or Easter bunny develop?"

To begin with, it seems that hares and rabbits have been associated with spring, at least in Europe, for some time. The phrase "as mad as a March hare" dates at least back to around 1500. It first appears in the poem, "Blowbol's Test" written about that time, which contains the line, "Thanne they begyn to swere and to stare, And be as braynles as a Marshe hare." Other early uses of the phrase are in Edward Hall's Chronicle from 1548 and Sir Thomas More's The supplycacyon of soulys. Whether the phrase pre-dates the 16th century, it is hard to say, but it does show that Englishmen associated the hare with the month of March. The phrase perhaps originates from the behaviour of hares during the mating season (which actually lasts a bit longer than simply March), when they will box, jump unexpectedly, and the males fight over females.

While hares behave unexpectedly in the spring, they were also hunted around the time of Easter. According to anthropologist Arnold Van Gennep, in Poitou in France there was the custom of hunting hares on Maundy Thursday. The tradition of the spring hare hunt also existed in England. At least from the 18th century, in Coleshill, Warwickshire there existed a custom observed on Easter Monday of sending young men out to catch a hare. A similar custom was also observed in Leicester. On Easter Monday there would be a highly ritualised custom in which the mayor and aldermen would go out on horseback in their robes of office to hunt hares. The spoils of the hunt would then be distributed among the mayor and the aldermen's friends. The custom took place as early as 1668 and lasted at least until the end of the 18th century. A survival of this custom may have been the hare pie scramble observed in Leicestershire.

Between the phrase "mad as a March hare" and the custom of hare hunting performed around Easter, it would seem that hares were associated with spring in the minds of many Englishmen and Europeans. This is perhaps natural, given that hares are unusually active this time of year, as it is the start of their mating season. Of course, hare hunting is a very different thing from hunting for the eggs that the Easter hare brings. How did people around the world go from hunting hares to hunting for eggs left by one? It would seem that it all began in Germany. The earliest possible reference to the Easter Hare is in a German book from 1572, in which it is stated, "Do not worry if the Hare escapes you; should you miss his eggs, then we shall cook the nest." The first reference to the Easter Hare by name (Oster haas in the original German) is in De ovis paschalibus ("Of the Easter egg) by Georg Franck von Franckenau, a Heidelberg professor of medicine. von Franckenau told of a custom in Alsace (now part of France, but then part of the Holy Roman Empire) in which it was believed that the Easter Hare brought eggs on the holiday. He condemned the tale, claiming only simple minded people and children believed such things, and further told of cases of people eating too many eggs. From the 17th century onwards there are an increasing number of references to the Easter Hare among the Germans and Swiss.

It would be German settlers in Pennsylvania who would introduce the Easter Hare to what would become the United States in the 18th century. By  1890 the Easter Hare would be a well established custom in the Untied States. The May 1890 issue of Atlantic Weekly refers to confectioners making full use of Easter Hare imagery in their displays for the holiday. It was by the 1890's that the Easter Hare gave way to the Easter Rabbit in America. By the 1900's it became more common to call the Easter Rabbit "the Easter Bunny.". The reason for this may be that in the United States rabbits are much more common than hares (jackrabbits, the best known American hares, only live in the western part of the country). Since rabbits were more common here, they became the bringer of Easter eggs. The Easter Hare would also spread to other countries than the United States. The custom made its way to England by the early 20th Century, although the Easter Hare soon became the Easter Bunny under American influence. It was also around the early 20th Century that the Easter Hare first arrived in Denmark, Sweden, and Norway.

Of course, in the form of chocolate, the Easter Hare or Easter Bunny is often consumed by many this time of year. In Germany confections in the shape of the Easter Hare were first made with pastry and sugar. It was not long afterwards that the first chocolate Easter Hares were made. As the custom of the Easter Hare or Easter Bunny became more common in the United States, so too did chocolate Easter Bunnies.

While the Easter Bunny visits children in much of the English speaking world, this may not be so much longer in Australia. Hares and rabbits are not native to Australia. Not long after they were introduced to the continent in 1859, their fecundity proved to be a problem. Feral rabbits caused damage to both plant life and even possibly drove other species to extinction. To this day they are still considered a problem. Because of this, the idea of the Easter Bilby was introduced in the story "Billy the Aussie Easter Bilby" by children's writer Rose-Marie Dusting in March 1968. The Easter Bilby replaced the Easter Bunny the Hawthorn Junior Field Naturalists Club sometime between 1976 and 1983 club’s traditional Easter bush camps, having been introduced to the club by Malcolm Turner. Confectioner David Lea even makes chocolate Easter Bilbies. Here it must be pointed out that bilbies are not leoprids as hares and rabbits are. Instead they are marsupials, related to bandicoots (which they resemble except for long, hare-like ears).

While it is perhaps easy to understand why spring would be associated with hares, it is perhaps harder for us today to understand what hares or rabbits have to do with eggs. The belief that hares legged eggs may stem from the fact that, unlike rabbits (except for the cottontail), hares do not burrow underground. Instead they make nests from flattened grass. Since hares make nests, not unlike birds, they may have pictured them laying eggs too. It was from hares' nests that the modern day Easter baskets evolved. Originally Easter eggs were placed in nest. Over the years this evolved into the basket containing a bed of grass (or fake grass) in which the eggs rested. Of course, the egg may have been associated with the holiday of Easter before the first reference to the Easter Hare.

Although it is a custom to eat hard boiled eggs at Passover, it seems likely that the Easter egg developed independently from the Jewish holiday in Europe. Indeed, the custom of Easter eggs is so common in Europe that it is difficult to determine where it originated. It could well have been developed independently among many different European peoples over the years. The custom has been practised for centuries as far east as Russia and as far west as England. The custom of the Easter egg may well pre-date the arrival of Christianity among the Germanic peoples (the Germans, English, Danes, Norwegians, Swedes, et. al.). In a cemetery dating from 350 CE in Worms, Germany, painted clay eggs were found in the grave of a child. The custom of Easter eggs was common in medieval England. In 1290 it is recorded that eighteen pence was spent for four hundred and fifty eggs to be gold leafed to be given as gifts for Easter. Easter egg rolling, in which Easter eggs are rolled down a hill, is common in England, Germany, and other countries.This custom also dates as far back as the Middle Ages. The English custom of pace egging (the word pace perhaps stemming from Latin Pascha, "Easter") also dates back to medieval times. Pace egging is essentially the performance of a play, not unlike the Christmas pantomimes, in which a hero fights a villain, the hero is killed, and the hero is brought back to life by a doctor. Of course, the best known activity involving Easter eggs is the Easter egg hunt, popular in the United States and the United Kingdom. Curiously, it appears to have been a more recent invention, developed by the Germans in Pennsylvania sometime in the 18th or 19th centuries.

The link between hares and spring is easily seen as they are much more active this time of year. Similarly, given many birds lay eggs in spring, it is easy to see a link between eggs and the season as well. Among the Germanic peoples, however, the link between hares, eggs, and spring could  have its roots in pre-Christian religion. It is in Chapter 15 of De temporum ratione (from around 708 CE) that Bede wrote of a goddess named Éostreworshipped by the Angle and Saxon heathen. According to Bede, the month now translated Paschalis mensis was called by the Angle and Saxon heathen Éosturmonađ, named for their goddess Éostre. It was in her honour that feasts were held in that month. Indeed, our modern word Easter is ultimately derived from Old English Éostre.

Over the years there have been scholars who have doubted Bede's account, some going so far as to claim he manufactured the goddess. This seems highly unlikely. Bede had a nearly pathological hatred of paganism of any kind, the heathenism of the Angles and Saxons in particular. In his writings he consistently condemns Angle and Saxon heathenism and always touts the superiority of Christianity. Given this, it seems highly unlikely Bede would invent a pagan goddess out of whole cloth. Besides, the etymology of the name could be used as evidence that Éostre was actually worshipped by the Angles and Saxons. The name would appear to ultimately stem from the Proto-Indo-European root *aues- "to shine," making the name Éostre cognate to Indian Ushas, Greek Eos, and Latin Aurora--names for goddesses of the dawn. Éostre could originally have been a goddess of the dawn. She may have become associated with the spring because early Germanic people s viewed the spring as "the dawn of the year (winter being the night)."

Not only does etymology point to a goddess named Éostre actually having been worshipped by the pagan Angles and Saxons, but it also points to her being known toother Germanic peoples. The German name for the holiday,  Ostern, is obviously cognate to English Easter. In his work Teutonic Mythology, Jakob Grimm then postulates that a goddess called Ostara was worshipped by the Germans on the Continent. Strangely enough, there appears to be no equivalent to Éostre or Ostara among the Danes, Norwegians, or Swedes, being unattested in Norse mythology.

Given the modern day English and German names for the holiday may stem from a goddess of the dawn and the spring, it seems possible that hares were associated with her as well. It seems possible that hares were linked to her in the same way that ravens were linked to Óđinn (Old English Wóden) or goats were to Þórr (Old English Þúnor) in Norse mythology. Perhaps because hares were thought to lay eggs or because they would be a fitting symbol of the rebirth of spring, eggs were associated with her as well. It could then be possible that these modern customs of Easter have their origins in ancient Germanic paganism, much in the way many Christmas customs could also have their roots in the ancient Germanic pagan festival called in Old English Geól (modern English Yule). Of course, all of this is speculation. We have no definitive means of knowing if hares and eggs were associated with the goddess Éostre or not.

 Regardless of his origins, the Easter Bunny has played a large role in pop culture. As mentioned earlier, as early as the 1890's American confectioners were using his imagery in their displays. With the Christmas card being developed in the Victorian era, Easter cards were not far behind. The first Easter cards in the late 19th century, and even then many featured the Easter Hare. The Easter Bunny has appeared in songs. The best known many be the song "Peter Cottontail," first recorded by Gene Autry in 1950. The song was based on the character of "Peter Cottontail" in works by Thorton Burgess, in which Peter has little to do with the Easter Bunny beyond being a rabbit. Before Peter Cottontail, there was "The Easter Bunny" written by M. Josephine Todd in 1812.

As might be expected, over the years the Easter Bunny has figured in holiday specials. The best known may be the 1971 Rankin-Bass special Here Comes Peter Cottontail, which is based on The Easter Bunny That Overslept by Priscilla and Otto Friedrich and not Thorton Burgess' books about Peter Cottontail (who was not the Easter Bunny in his works). The Easter Bunny was also the central character in the 1977 Rankin-Bass special The Easter Bunny is Comin' to Town. He also figures in the 1992 special Claymation Easter. Curiously, the Easter Bunny  has not appeared in movies to the extent which Santa Claus has. He did appear in The Nightmare Before Christmas. When Jack Skellington first sends out citizens of Halloweentown to kidnap Santa, they initially come back with the Easter Bunny. The Easter Bunny also appeared in The Santa Clause 2 and The Santa Clause 3. While there are few feature films which include the Easter Bunny, he has appeared or been referenced in animated shorts. The 1934 Disney short "Funny Little Bunnies" features bunnies preparing for Easter by dying eggs, weaving baskets, et. al. In the 1947 Warner Brothers short "Easter Yeggs," Bugs Bunny delivers Easter Eggs for a lazy Easter Bunny, unfortunately crossing paths with Elmer Fudd along the way.

The Easter Hare and Easter Bunny has been a part of Easter for centuries. Every Easter children look forward to looking for the eggs left by him. While he is not as prevalent in pop culture as Santa Claus or Father Christmas, he still remains a very important part of the holiday. It is doubtful that this will ever change, not that children around the world, not to mention adults, would want it to.