Thursday, December 27, 2018

Godspeed Donald Moffat

Donald Moffat, who played Rem on the TV show Logan's Run and appeared in such films as The Thing (1982), The Right Stuff (1983), and The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1988), died on December 20 2018 at the age of 87. The cause was complications from a stroke.

Donald Moffat was born on December 26 1930 in Plymouth, Devon. He attended King Edward VI School there. His national service was in the Royal Artillery from 1949 to 1951. Afterwards he studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. He made his stage debut in London at the Old Vic in MacBeth in 1954. In 1955 he appeared in Richard II, Henry VI Part I, and Henry VI Part II. He made his movie debut in The Battle of the River Plate in 1956. In 1956 Donald Moffat migrated to the United States. He made his debut on Broadway in Under Milk Wood in 1957. In the Fifties he also appeared on Broadway in Much Ado About Nothing, The Tumbler, and Duel of Angels. Mr. Moffat made his television debut in an episode of Naked City in 1958. In the late Fifties he also guest starred on The DuPont Show of the Month, The United States Steel Hour, and CBS Repertoire Workshop.

In the Sixties Donald Moffat appeared on Broadway in A Passage to India, The Affair, You Can't Take It With You, The School for Scandal, Right You Are If You Think You Are, The Wild Duck, You Can't Take It With You, War and Peace, The Cherry Orchard, Cock-A-Doodle Dandy, and Hamlet. He guest starred on television in the shows Look Up and Live, The Defenders, Coronet Blue, One Life to Live, Here Come the Brides, Room 222, Lancer, The High Chaparral, Hawaii Five-O, and The Young Rebels. He  appeared in the films Rachel, Rachel (1968) and R.P.M. (1970).

In the Seventies Mr. Moffat played the android Rem on the short-lived science fiction TV series Logan's Run. He had a major role in the mini-series The Word. He guest starred on such shows as Mission: Impossible, Bonanza, Night Gallery, Mannix, The Snoop Sisters, Gunsmoke, Ironside, The New Land, The Six Million Dollar Man, The Waltons, Little House on the Prairie, Family, and The Chisholms. He appeared in the films The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid (1972), The Trial of the Catonsville Nine (1972), Showdown (1973), The Terminal Man (1974), Earthquake (1974), Land of No Return (1978), Promises in the Dark (1979), On the Nickel (1980), HealtH (1980), and Popeye (1980). He appeared on Broadway in Father's Day.

In the Eighties he guest starred on the TV shows Dallas; The Mississippi; Murder, She Wrote; The Twilight Zone; Buck James; Tattingers, L. A. Law; and China Beach. He appeared in the films The White Lions (1981), The Thing (1982), The Right Stuff (1983), Alamo Bay (1985), The Best of Times (1986), Monster in the Closet (1986), The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1988), Far North (1988), Music Box (1989), and The Bonfire of the Vanities (1990). He appeared on Broadway in Play Memories and The Iceman Cometh.

In the Nineties Donald Moffat appeared in the films Class Action (1991), Regarding Henry (1991), HouseSitter (1992), Love, Cheat & Steal (1993), Clear and Present Danger (1994), Trapped in Paradise (1994), The Evening Star (1996), A Smile Like Yours (1997), The Sleep Room (1998), and Cookies Fortune (1999). On television he appeared in the mini-series Tales of the City. He had a regular role on the 2000 TV series Bull. He guest starred on Columbo and Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. He appeared on Broadway in The Heiress. In the Naughts he guest starred on the TV shows The West Wing and Law & Order: Trial by Jury.

Donald Moffat was an immensely talented actor. Over the years he played a wide array of different parts. Over the years he played diverse historical figures, including Lyndon B. Johnson in The Right Stuff, poet Walt Whitman on the TV show Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, and Ulysses S. Grant in the off-Broadway play A Few Stout Individuals. He played a wide variety of different sorts of characters, a station commander overwhelmed by an alien in The Thing to the corrupt president in Clear and Present Danger to the intellectual lawyer Jack Palmer in Cookie's Fortune. Mr. Moffat could play a wide variety of roles and, what is more, he always gave a good performance.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

The Week After Christmas Day

In many Christian denominations (the Roman Catholic church, the Anglican church, Methodism, and so on) Christmastide begins on Christmas Eve and ends on Epiphany (January 6). Quite simply, Christmastide is the 12 Days of Christmas well known from the song. Despite this, the secular celebration of Christmas in the United States doesn't quite match up to the traditional celebration of Christmastide The American holiday season roughly runs from about Thanksgiving to New Year's Day, with the celebration of Christmas unfolding from Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving) to Christmas Day. For me the end result is that the week following Christmas Day up to and including New Year's Day seems like some sort of limbo in which it is still technically Christmas, and yet at the same time it is not Christmas.

There was a time when this was much less pronounced than it is now. In the mid-20th Century most private individuals and most business kept their Christmas decorations up until New Year's Day. This can be seen in the movie Ocean's 11 (1960). The bulk of its plot takes place on New Year's Eve, yet the various casinos and other businesses in Las Vegas still have their Christmas decorations up. In fact, Ocean's 11 was filmed from January 26 to February 16 1960, so the filmmakers had to convince the casinos to keep their Christmas decorations up longer than normal so that it would look like, well, New Year's Eve! I remember growing up that my family never took down our Christmas decorations until New Year's Day or even January 2.

Of course, since the Sixties and Seventies times have changed. In fact, it almost seems as if New Year's Day has been severed from the holiday season in the minds of a good number of Americans. Many people today take their Christmas decorations down on December 26 (Boxing Day in many English-speaking countries). That even businesses regard Christmas Day as the last day of the  holiday season is borne out by the fact that many of them take down their Christmas decorations come December 26. In fact, I remember in the early Naughts there was a Walmart commercial that started airing on December 26 that began, "Now that the Holidays are over", this despite the fact that it wasn't even New Year's Day yet.

Indeed, the fact that many in the United States regard the day after Christmas no longer being, well, Christmas is reflected in the sort of TV commercials aired beginning on December 26. Starting on November 1 (or these days often before Halloween), one will see all sorts of commercials on American television featuring Christmas imagery, everything from Santa Claus to Christmas trees to even snow, despite the fact that snow is highly unlikely in most of the United States that time of year (2018 was obviously an exception). Come December 26 these commercials suddenly disappear to be replaced with commercials that could air any other time of year. In fact, not only do commercials featuring Yuletide imagery disappear, but so do commercials even recognising the existence of winter. One starts seeing commercials featuring green lawns and trees with leaves on them and nary a trace of snow, as if it was spring or summer. Now there are exceptions to this rule, but they are restricted to a few industries. Car commercials with Christmas imagery generally continue to air until New Year's Day. Commercials for cold and flu medications often feature winter imagery all the way into early March. Campbell's Soup has often used commercials featuring winter imagery well into February. That having been said, those would seem to be the exceptions to the rule. After December 26, if one sees a commercial, chances are it will look as if it was set in spring or summer.

Of course, there are also certain types of commercials that seem to air primarily in the week between Christmas Day and New Years Day. Obviously, commercials for Christmas clearance sales are an example of the sort of commercials that only air between December 26 and New Year's Day. Other sorts of commercials might air at other times of the year as well, but seem to be most prolific in the days between Christmas Day and New Year's Day. Examples of this are weight loss ads. I have no doubt that these ads are so common this time of year because the various weight loss companies hope to capitalise on individuals'  New Year's resolutions to lose weight (given I have always had trouble gaining weight, this has never been one of my resolutions). Such furniture companies as Ashley and Slumberland also seem to increase their advertising in the days following Christmas Day, although I am not sure why. I can only suppose they are trying to get rid of excess inventory from the past year. Similarly, despite the fact that they hold contests at other times of year, Publishers Clearinghouse also seems to increase their advertising during this time of year. I particularly noticed this when I was a child into my youth, when it seemed as if they aired every half hour. Many of these commercials, particularly the weight loss commercials and furniture commercials often use New Year's imagery, such as party hats, noise makers, party favours, and, of course, champagne.

If commercials did not seem to indicate that the week following Christmas Day is a time set apart from the American Christmas season, various retail businesses certainly do. As I mentioned earlier, many businesses now take their Christmas decorations down on December 26. Many stores will have St. Valentine's Day goods on their shelves come December 26 (and some had them out even earlier this year). Christmas decorations, Christmas albums, and so on will be removed from shelves and placed in the clearance sections of various stores.

Of course, the days following Christmas Day not only differ in that many Americans seem to regard the Christmas season as being over, but in other ways as well. Obviously the days following Christmas Day are also the last days of the year, so that one also sees retrospectives of the year in the days following Christmas Day. News outlets will often do retrospectives of the various news events that happened in the past year. Lists of the best selling books, record albums, movies, and so on will appear. Memorials for famous people who have died in the past year often appear before Christmas Day (Turner Classic Movies seems to debut TCM Remembers in mid-December), but they certainly increase in number following Christmas Day. Because it is the end of the year, the days following Christmas Day seem to be a time for looking back.

While the week following Christmas Day certainly seems like a different time from the weeks leading up to Christmas Day, at the same time there are vestiges of Christmas to be seen.  Many individuals keep their decorations up until New Year's Day, as do many towns and even a few businesses. Commercials for certain industries (such as the automotive industry) will continue using Christmas imagery up to New Year's Day. The various Hallmark channels will continue showing Christmas movies clear up to New Year's Day (of course, they also start showing them before Halloween now...*grumble*). The Radio City Christmas Spectacular usually ends on January 6, so that it is one of the few events to continue throughout the entire Christmastide proper. While there seem to be those who want to sever New Year's Day from the rest of the holiday season, there are others who still regard it as being part of the holiday season.

All of this has always made me think of the week between Christmas Day and New Year's Day as a rather odd time. It is not as if American society has quite returned to business as usual, but at the same time it seems clear that the celebration of Christmas has ended for many. Ever since childhood this has made me a bit sad. Indeed, Christmastide as celebrated by various Christian denominations obviously fits the imagery of the holiday better than the American Christmas shopping season. After all, the imagery of Christmas as celebrated in the United States evokes winter, from Santa Claus's sleigh to snow. Christmastide takes place entirely during early winter. The bulk of the Christmas shopping season, on the other hand, takes place during autumn. I have to think most people would enjoy the holidays more if a concerted effort was made to return to the traditional 12 Days of Christmas. They wouldn't be shopping and making preparations for one big day, at the very least. It would even benefit retailers more. After all, instead of one big day for which they could sell presents, they would have twelve whole days! Regardless, unless somehow we return to the traditional celebration of Christmastide, the week after Christmas Day will always seem like an odd time to me.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Merry Christmas 2018

Every year for Christmas I post a collection of vintage pinups for Christmas. This year is no different, so without further ado, here are this year's pinups.

First up is Ann Rutherford, looking out her window!

Next up is Shirley Anne Field, reminding people to get their cards and packages out early!

Next up is Marguerite Chapman, with several packages!

Next is Dolores Dom making deliveries on a sled!

And here is Virginia Grey getting ready to open her presents. 

And here is Santa's helper, Catherine Bach!

And it wouldn't be Christmas without Ann Miller!

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 24, 2018

"Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" by Darlene Love

This holiday season has not been particularly easy for me. I lost the dearest person in my life in August. To make matters worse, what would have been her 50th birthday falls on the winter solstice, December 21, just days before Christmas Day. Vanessa loved Christmas and enjoyed the fact that her birthday fell so close to the holiday. Among her favourite Christmas songs was "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" by Darlene Love. I remember we talked a good deal about Miss Love's annual appearances on Late Night with Dave Letterman and how much we enjoyed them.

"Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" was written by Ellie Greenwich, Jeff Barry, and Phil Spector. It was included on the album A Christmas Gift for You from Philles Records. "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" was initially meant to be sung by Ronnie Spector, but she was not able to give the song the power it needed. The song then went to Darlene Love. It was released as a single from the album in 1963, but did not chart, perhaps because in the wake of John F. Kennedy's assassination people were not in the mood for celebrating the holidays. It was re-released in 1964, but once more it did not chart. Since then it has become one of the most popular Christmas rock songs. It has been covered by such artists as U2, Joey Ramone, Death Cab for Cutie, and many others.

Here then is "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)".

Sunday, December 23, 2018

My List of 30 Christmas Movies

Unless you have been in a cave the past month, chances are that if you are a classic movie fan you have heard about the new book from Turner Classic Movies, Christmas in the Movies by Jeremy Arnold. I am really looking forward to reading this book, as I am a big fan of both Jeremy Arnold and Christmas movies. That having been said, I have seen the list of movies included in the book and, while it is a very good list, my personal list would be somewhat different. I thought then I would go ahead and make my own list of 30 Christmas movies.

Now I am going to admit that my list has a lot in common with Mr. Arnold's list. I am also going to admit that I based what I included in my list on my own criteria for what is and isn't a Christmas movie. I did a blog post on this many years ago, but in case you don't want to read that post, here are my criteria. 1. Most of the movie must be set during the holiday season. 2. Christmas must have a significant impact on the plot of the film. 3. The film must have strong themes related to the holidays. Now a movie does not have meet all of these criteria to be a Christmas movie for me. If a movie meets one of these criteria, that is fine by me. That having been said, they must meet at least one of them. I adore Meet Me in St. Louis (1944) and it is one of my all time favourite movies, but I do not consider it to be a Christmas movie any more than I think of it as a Halloween movie.

I also have to say that a degree of subjectivity played a role in compiling this list. I did not include any films that I do not like. While many people love National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989) and Elf (2003), I don't like either movie. I will admit I do not love all of these movies (I enjoy Home Alone, but it is not one of my absolute favourites), but I at least had to like them to include them! For those who are wondering what are my favourite holiday films, here are the top five: 1. The Apartment (1960); 2. It's a Wonderful Life (1947); 3. Christmas in Connecticut (1944); 4. The Thin Man (1934); and 5. Miracle on 34th Street (1947). I probably like The Thin Man better than Christmas in Connecticut, but I think Christmas in Connecticut is much more of a Christmas movie!

Anyway, here is my list of 30 Christmas movies:

The Thin Man (1934)
A Christmas Carol (1938)
Remember the Night (1940)
The Shop Around the Corner (1940)
Beyond Tomorrow (1940)
Meet John Doe (1941)
The Man Who Came to Dinner (1942)
Holiday Inn (1942)
I'll Be Seeing You (1944)
Christmas in Connecticut (1944)
It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
It Happened on Fifth Avenue (1947)
3 Godfathers (1948)
Holiday Affair (1949)
The Lemon Drop Kid (1951)
A Christmas Carol (also known as Scrooge 1951)
The Holly and the Ivy (1952)
Susan Slept Here (1954)
We're No Angels (1955)
Bell, Book and Candle (1958)
The Apartment (1960)
The Lion in Winter (1968)
Scrooge (1970)
A Christmas Story (1983)
Gremlins (1984)
Die Hard (1988)
Home Alone (1990)
The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Love Actually (2003)