Saturday, December 25, 2021

Merry Christmas 2021

Here at A Shroud of Thoughts, I realize that many people like some cheesecake on their Christmas Day. To this end I am providing you with some classic Christmas pinups, so without further ado, here they are:

Barbara Britton is mailing her Christmas cards!

A little over a week ago Vera-Ellen was reminding people to get their shopping done!

Loretta Young looking more like she belongs on the naughty list than the nice list...

Christmas Eve birthday girl Ava Gardner.

Shirley Jones is ready to place her presents under the tree.

And the lovely Ann Miller is ready to deliver presents around the world!

Merry Christmas to all!

Friday, December 24, 2021

Hallmark Hall of Fame and Christmas

Today the phrase "Hallmark movie" carries a negative connotation. It brings to mind poorly made romances aired on the Hallmark Channel, largely written according to a formula. This was not always the case. In fact, for much of its history Hallmark was known for the highest quality in television. Hallmark Hall of Fame is the longest running anthology series in the history of American television. Over the years it has won several awards, including Emmys, DGA Awards, Humanitas Awards, Peabodys, and WGA Awards. It was 70 years ago today that the very first Hallmark Hall of Fame episode (or "presentation," as Hallmark likes to call them) aired. It was the first of many Christmas presentations that would air on Hallmark Hall of Fame.

Hallmark Cards was hardly new to broadcasting when Hallmark Hall of Fame debuted. On radio Hallmark Cards had sponsored Radio Reader's Digest and later Hallmark Playhouse. It was with the radio show Hallmark Playhouse that Hallmark established their reputation for quality programming. It was in 1951 that NBC commissioned the first opera written specifically for television, Amahl and the Night Visitors. To sponsor the opera, NBC approached Hallmark Cards. Today it must seem incredulous that NBC would have approached the greeting card company about sponsoring Amahl and the Night Visitors. After all, it was set to air on Christmas Eve, after most people have bought their Christmas cards for the season. J. C. Hall, the head of Hallmark Cards, ultimately decided to go ahead with the special as a "thank you" for everyone who had bought Hallmark cards that Christmas season. Amahl and the Night Visitors aired to great acclaim. Even viewers were pleased with the opera, sending both letters and telegrams to Hallmark thanking them for it.

Amahl and the Night Visitors centred on Amahl, a young disabled boy known for telling tall tales. He encounters the Three Kings on their way to visit the baby Jesus, and his mother invites them into rest form their long journey. The success of Amahl and the Night Visitors would result in it being restaged several times over the years on Hallmark Hall of Fame. The December 19 1954 version of Amahl and the Night Visitors would be the first to air in colour.

Amahl and the Night Visitors was the first episode of what was then called Hallmark Television Playhouse. It was in 1953 that it was renamed "Hallmark Hall of Fame." Amahl and the Night Visitors was also the first many Hallmark Hall of Fame presentations with a Christmas theme. On December 21 1952, Hallmark Television Playhouse aired The Small One, a Christmas story narrated by Kate Smith about an unwanted donkey. On December 15 1957 Hallmark Hall of Fame aired a production of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night.

While Hallmark Hall of Fame aired several Christmas themed episodes in the Fifties (a good number of which were new versions of Amahl and the Night Visitors), Christmas themed presentations became rarer in the Sixties. Much of this may have been due to when the series aired. For much of its history, Hallmark Hall of Fame aired only a few times each year, so that there were times it did not air in December. The first Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation with a Christmas theme would be A Cry of Angels, which aired on December 15 1963. It was about the writing of Handel's The Messiah.

In the years following A Cry of Angels, Hallmark Hall of Fame once more aired Amahl and the Night Visitors. It was on December 6 1969 that one of the anthology show's best known productions was aired. The Littlest Angel was based on  Charles Tazewell's children's book of the same name. It centred on a young boy who dies and goes to Heaven, only to have difficulty adjusting to life there. It is when the birth of Jesus was announced that the angels prepare their best gifts for him, including the young boy. The Littlest Angel proved to be very popular, and it as repeated in 1970 and 1971.

In 1972 Hallmark Hall of Fame aired a production of The Man Who Came to Dinner. In 1977 Hallmark Hall of Fame aired Have I Got a Christmas for You. The movie centred on a Jewish community who take the place of Christians at their jobs so the Christians can enjoy Christmas. The following year Hallmark Hall of Fame's Christmas presentation was Stubby Pringle's Christmas. Set in the Old West, Stubby Pringle's Christmas centred on a lonely cowboy who spends Christmas with a homesteader, her ailing husband, and their children.

The Eighties saw Hallmark Hall of Fame air no presentations with a Christmas theme. Much of this was probably do with the fact that by the Eighties Hallmark Hall of Fame could have as few as two episodes per season to as many as four. There were times when it did not air in the month of December. It would not be until December 4 1994 that Hallmark Hall of Fame aired an episode that even touched upon Christmas. That night Hallmark's adaption of The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy aired. Like the novel, the Hallmark adaptation of The Return of the Native takes place over a year and a day. Part of its plot then deals with the Christmas season.

It was the following season, on December 10 1995, that Hallmark Hall of Fame aired its first presentation with a Christmas theme in years. Season of Hope centred on a family who experiences a crisis at the holiday season after their lemon grove has become diseased. Hallmark Hall of Fame would not have another Christmas themed episode until A Season of Miracles aired on December 12 1999. A Season of Miracles centred on a woman who has to take custody of her niece and nephew after their mother overdoses on drugs and the state threatens to put them in a foster home. She arrives in the small town of Bethlehem, Rhode Island at Christmas.

It would be three years before Hallmark Hall of Fame aired its next Christmas themed presentation. Fallen Angel centred on a successful lawyer who returns to Maine at Christmastime to settle his father' estate. First airing on November 26 2003, it was repeated on December 19 2004. In 2006 Hallmark Hall of Fame aired Silver Bells, which centred on a family that raises Christmas trees. When they go to New York City to sell them, the son runs away to pursue his passion in life, photography.

It would be another three years before Hallmark Hall of Fame's next Christmas presentation, A Dog Named Christmas. The film centred on a young boy with a learning disability who bonds with a dog in the two weeks before Christmas. November Christmas, which aired in 2010, dealt with a young girl with a terminal disease whose family celebrates holidays early so she can experience them one last time.

Hallmark Hall of Fame spent its first few decades on NBC. The series would then move to CBS and then briefly to PBS before airing on ABC. It was in 2014 that it was announced that Hallmark Hall of Fame would air exclusively on the Hallmark Channel. Regardless in the Teens Hallmark Hall of Fame continued to air Christmas themed episodes, including Christmas with Holly (2012), Christmas in Conway (2013), One Christmas Eve (2014), Just in Time for Christmas (2015), A Heavenly Christmas (2016), The Christmas Train (2017), Christmas Everlasting (2018), and A Christmas Love Story (2019). Sadly, many of these movies differed very little from the Hallmark Channel's movies, so that there was very little to set them apart as Hallmark Hall of Fame presentations.

Fortunately, many of Hallmark Hall of Fame's older Christmas presentations are available on DVD, and some even air on the Hallmark Channel some holiday seasons. Both A Season of Miracles and A Dog Named Christmas have popped upon the channel from time to time. And while the episodes of Hallmark Hall of Fame would eventually deteriorate, for decades it was known for the high quality of its presentations. While Hallmark may be best known for poorly made Christmas romance movies today, there was a time it was known for Amahl and the Night Visitors, The Littlest Angel, and The Return of the Native.

Thursday, December 23, 2021

The 70th Anniversary of Scrooge or A Christmas Carol (1951)

Scrooge
(1951), also known as A Christmas Carol (1951), is often regarded as one of the best adaptations  Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol. In fact, over the years it has become the favourite version of A Christmas Carol of many. As hard as it may be to believe today, this was not always the case. Scrooge (1951) premiered just a little over 70 years ago, on October 31 1951 in the United Kingdom.

Scrooge was produced and directed by Brian Desmond Hurst, who had previously directed such films as The Tenth Man (1936) and Hungry Hill (1947). The screenplay was written by Noel Langley, who was one of the screenwriters who contributed to the classic The Wizard of Oz (1939). He also worked on such films as Babes in Arms (1939), Northwest Passage (1940), and Her Favourite Husband (1950). The title role was played by Alastair Sim. While he would later become known for the St. Trinian's films, Alastair Sim had played Inspector Cockrill in Green for Danger (1946), Felix H. Wilkinson in Hue and Cry (1947), and Commodore Gill in Hitchcock's Stage Fright (1950).

In sharp contrast to MGM's lavish 1938 version of A Christmas Carol, the tone of Scrooge was closer to that of the novel. Quite simply, it was a very dark film. Regardless, it did well at the box office in Britain. Unfortunately, the fact that Scrooge was a very dark movie would work against it in the United States. It was slated for a run at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, but the theatre's management decided the film was too depressing. Retitled A Christmas Carol in the United States, it premiered in New York City on November 28 1951. The movie ultimately failed at the box office in America. It probably did not help that MGM's A Christmas Carol (1938) was still very popular in the United States and still the choice of many people with regards to their favourite adaptation of A Christmas Carol.

What saved Scrooge in the United States was the relatively young medium of television. Under the title A Christmas Carol, Scrooge made its television debut on WOR-TV in New York City in 1954. Throughout the Fifties and Sixties, Scrooge would pop up on various local television stations throughout the United States. In the Seventies, many PBS stations began showing Scrooge. Over time, more and more Americans were exposed to Scrooge, and it became regarded as a holiday classic in the United States. Eventually, it would become regarded by many as the quintessential version of A Christmas Carol.

That is not to say that Scrooge does not depart from the novel a good deal. The biggest difference between the two may be that a good deal of material is added in Scrooge dealing with his rise as a young businessman. An entirely new character, Mr. Jorkin (Jack Warner) was added to the film as the mentor to both young Scrooge (George Cole) and young Jacob Marley (Patrick Macnee, later of The Avengers). A more minor change is that Scrooge's fiancée, Belle, is renamed Alice in the movie. She portrayed in the present as working with the sick and homeless, whereas in the book she is married with children. Scrooge also expanded the role of Scrooge's charwoman, who had such a minor role in the novel that she is not given a name. In Scrooge she is named Mrs. Dilber (the name of the laundress in the novel) and she is given much more to do.

While Scrooge does depart a great deal from the original source material, it is loyal to the tone of the novel in a way that many adaptations of A Christmas Carol are not. Quite simply, Scrooge is a ghost story, and it can at times be a bit frightening. It also does not shy away from the realities of Victorian London as portrayed in the novel. Charles Dickens largely wrote A Christmas Carol as a protest against the poverty that existed in 1840s London, particularly poverty where children were concerned. This theme is not lost in the movie Scrooge.

Of course, much of what makes Scrooge such a good adaptation of A Christmas Carol is its cast. While Mr. Jorkin may have been a character who was original to the movie, he was wonderfully realized by Jack Warner, perhaps then best known for playing Joe Huggett in the Huggetts series of movies. Mr. Jorkin was about as far removed from Joe Huggett as one could get. Interestingly enough, Kathleen Harrison, who played the charwoman Mrs. Dilber, was also a veteran of the Huggetts movies, having played Ethel, Joe Huggett's wife. She does a wonderfully comic turn as Mrs. Dilber in Scrooge. Mervyn Johns may well have been the best Bob Cratchit to ever appear on screen. He even looks like the Bob Cratchit from the illustrations of Charles Dickens's novel in the Victorian Era.

As great as the cast of Scrooge is, there can be no doubt that the star of the film is Alastair Sim as Ebeneezer Scrooge. Ebeneezer Scrooge's transformation from a curmudgeonly old skinflint to a generous man who loves Christmas comes slowly, and Alastair Sim does a wonderful job of playing out that transformation. Suitably bad tempered and cheap at the start of the film, Alastair Sim is positively giddy once he has shown the error of his ways. For many, Alsatair Sim remains their favourite Scrooge.

Scrooge would not be the last time that Alastair Sim played Scrooge and Mervyn Jones played Bob Cratchit. Australian animation studio Air Programs International produced an animated version of A Christmas Carol in 1969 as the first in their series Family Classic Tales. This version of A Christmas Carol, like Scrooge, was similarly dark. It would make its American television debut on CBS on December 13 1970 and aired annually on CBS for well over a decade.

Upon its premiere in the United States it must have seemed unlikely to many that Scrooge would ever become a Christmas classic. After all, no less than Radio City Music Hall had rejected the film as too depressing. Through the miracle of television it eventually found its audience and eventually became regarded by many as the best version of A Christmas Carol. Today it is hard to conceive of a time when it wasn't regarded as a beloved holiday classic. 

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

TCM Remembers 2021

I think I can speak for most Turner Classic Movies fans when I saw we simultaneously look forward to and dread TCM Remembers each year. We look forward to it because it is the best In Memoriam of beloved stars that any TV channel, network, or organization does. We dread it because we know that when we watch it there will be loads of tears.

This year I imagine TCM fans cried a good deal, as an inordinately large number of beloved stars died this year. When I first saw TCM Remembers 2021 this past Saturday I managed to maintain my composure, only tearing up at such beloved stars as Pat Hitchcock, Betty Lynn, Willie Garson, Jessica Walter, Ed Asner, Dean Stockwell, and Norman Lloyd. I did not break down until they got to Michael Nesmith. If there is one thing I love as much as classic film, it is The Monkees. My tears only grew more when they got to Jane Powell, one of my all time favourite actresses. In fact, if I had done this year's TCM Remembers, it would have been either Jane Powell or Ed Asner who have gotten the end spot. I love Christopher Plummer, but Jane Powell and Ed Asner are, well, Jane Powell and Ed Asner.

I do have to say I loved this year's choice of song. If it sounds familiar, it is because it is a cover of R.E.M.'s "Shiny Happy People" by Reuben and the Dark X AG.

Anyway, for those of you who haven't seen it yet, get out the tissues, because here it is.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

The 53rd Birthday of My Dearest Vanessa Marquez

Today my dearest Vanessa Marquez would have turned 53. She was born on December 21 1968 in Los Angeles County. Many will be familiar with Vanessa from her role as Ana Delgado in the classic film Stand and Deliver (1988) and Nurse Wendy Goldman on the TV series ER. She also appeared in such movies as Twenty Bucks (1993) and Father Hood (1993). She was a regular on the TV show Culture Clash and she guest starred on shows from Seinfeld to Nurses. She also appeared many times on stage, in such productions as Demon Wine, August 29, and Street of the Sun.

While for many Vanessa was a talented and well-known actress, for me she was  both my dearest friend and a woman I adored. Like many I had first seen her in Stand and Deliver. I later remember watching the Nurses episode "The One After the Earthquake" and thinking the young guest star on the episode was remarkably pretty, only to learn later she had played Ana Delgado in one of my favourite movies, Stand and Deliver. Of course, that fall I began seeing Vanessa regularly as Wendy on ER. Wendy was (and still is) my favourite character on ER, and I even had a crush on her at the time. When Vanessa and I met as two of the original members of #TCMParty (the group of Turner Classic Movies fans who live tweet to movies on that channel), I knew exactly who she was, even if I was a bit doubtful at first that it was really her (I'd encountered people impersonating celebrities on Twitter before). I soon learned that not only was Vanessa very talented, but she was also entirely wonderful. She was sweet, thoughtful, warm, down-to-earth, intelligent, and funny. I also learned we had a good deal in common. Vanessa and I became friends, and we even grew close. Eventually we would be in touch nearly every single day, through social media, through texts, and through phone calls. Vanessa was my dearest friend and I loved her very, very much. If today is a bit bittersweet for me, that is the reason.

I will freely admit that I thought (and still think) Vanessa was the most beautiful woman to ever live. I am sure that even now Vanessa would disagree. She once took this survey on Facebook, "What Kind of Attractive Are You?" and got the result, "Adorable." She complained that she was tired of being cute. She wanted to be beautiful, gorgeous, glamorous, sexy, or hot. I told her that she was beautiful, gorgeous, glamorous, sexy, and hot. Vanessa still maintained she was only cute at best, but she accepted it when I told her that to me she was beautiful, gorgeous, glamorous, sexy, and hot. Over the past year I have bought slides of pictures of Vanessa taken at various events. I submit these as proof that Vanessa was far more than cute. She was absolutely gorgeous. I have to apologize for the quality of some of the pictures. I lack a proper slide scanner and so I had to use my smartphone and a lightbox.

This first photo is one of my favourites of the ones I got this year. It is from the NBC All-Star Reception at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Pasadena on  January 9,1995.

This is another photo from the NBC All-Star Reception at the Ritz Carlton in Pasadena on January 9 1995.

This may well be my absolute favourite of the slides I got, as I think Vanessa absolutely radiates Old Hollywood glamour. This is from the 27th NAACP Image Awards held at the Pasadena Civic Centre on April 6 1996. ER had been nominated for several awards.

This picture is from the Memory Walk to benefit Alzheimer's disease at the Los Angeles Zoo on October 7 1995. That's fellow ER cast member Lily Mariye in the background.

This photo is from An Evening at the Net at the UCLA Tennis Center on July 31 1995. An Evening at the Net that year was a benefit for the California State Summer School for the Arts.

This is a picture from the Red Cross Spirit Awards held at Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel on March 30 1996.

This photo is from the premiere of the movie Desperado (1995) at Manns National Theatre in Westwood, California.

For those of you who wanted to see all of Vanessa's outfit from the Desperado premiere, I found it on Getty Images, where for some odd reason they didn't note that it was Vanessa Marquez.

Of course, here I have to stress that Vanessa's beauty was not merely skin deep. She wasn't just physically beautiful, but she was an entirely wonderful person. As our mutual friend Paula Guthat said of Vanessa, "She's lovely through and through." Whenever one of her friends was sick or feeling down, Vanessa was always the first to comfort them. She had this remarkable ability to remember little things about people, down to the smallest detail. She was always the first to take up for one of her friends whenever one of them was attacked. Even when she was feeling poorly (which, given her health, could be often), she always maintained a cheery disposition. Vanessa had a great sense of humour and she was very intelligent. She was much, much more than a pretty face.

If I was in love with Vanessa, it was not because she was beautiful, but because she was an entirely wonderful person. She worried about me when I was sick. She had this incredible knack for cheering me up whenever I felt my worst. She was happy for me when something good happened to me and sad when something bad happened to me. If today is a bittersweet day for me, it is because it is a happy day because the one person I love more than any other was born, yet it is a sad day because she is no longer with us. I do hope that Vanessa has a happy birthday in the hereafter, and that she realizes just how very loved she is.

Monday, December 20, 2021

The British Tradition of the Christmas Number One

In the United Kingdom there is no more prestigious time to have a number one song than the week in which Christmas Day falls. During most years there is usually intense competition among music artists to have the number one single on Christmas Day, better known simply as the "Christmas number one."

The sometimes intense scrutiny paid to the contest for the Christmas number one may seem to have existed since the beginning of the UK singles chart, but that actually isn't the case. The official UK Singles Chart was started in 1952, when it was published in The New Music Express (NME). There were certainly number one singles in the week during Christmas from the earliest days, but it does not seem that any more attention was paid to them than any other time of year. In fact, if my research is correct, the phrase "Christmas number one" with reference to the race for the number one single on Christmas Day did not appear in print until 1973. That year is significant, as two popular bands each released Christmas themed singles. Slade released  "Merry Xmas Everybody," while Wizzard released  "I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday." A rather intense competition developed between the two singles as to which would be the number one single on Christmas Day. In the end, Slade won with "Merry Xmas Everybody" going to number one. It has since become a British Christmas standard. As to Wizzard's "I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday," it peaked at number four.

While it may be a bit anachronistic to speak of Christmas number ones before 1973, the first single to be number one on Christmas Day on the official UK singles chart was also the first single to be number one on the chart, "Here in My Heart" by Al Martino. It was at number one when the chart was started on November 14 1952. It was still at number one during the week of Christmas. As to what was the first actual Christmas song to be number one during the week of Christmas, that would be "Christmas Alphabet" by Dickie Valentine in 1955. As to the record for the most number one singles during the week of Christmas, that  belongs to The Beatles. They hit number one during the week of Christmas with four singles: "I Want to Hold Your Hand" in 1963, "I Feel Fine" in 1964, "Day Tripper"/"We Can Work It Out" (a double A-side) in 1965, and "Hello Goodbye" in 1967.

Although it might seem odd, the majority of Christmas number ones have not been songs about Christmas. After Christmas themed Christmas number ones in both 1973 ("Merry Xmas Everybody" by Slade) and 1974 ("Lonely This Christmas" by Mud), "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen was the Christmas number one for 1975. "Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)"  by Pink Floyd, "Don't You Want Me" by The Human League, "Reet Petite" by Jackie Wilson, and even "Killing in the Name" by Rage Against the Machine have all been Christmas number ones.

Given little attention was paid to what singles were number one during the week of Christmas prior to 1973, it should come as no surprise that it would be some time before the Christmas number one would be announced on Christmas Day. It was not until 1994 that the Christmas number one was actually announced on Christmas itself.

Since 1973 the annual attention paid to the race for the Christmas number one has been very much a part of British culture, so much so that the race for the Christmas number one formed one of the subplots of the movie Love Actually (2003). In the movie washed up rocker Billy Mack (Bill Nighy) records a Christmas themed cover of The Troggs' "Love is All Around" ("Christmas is All Around") in hopes of a comeback. As it turns out, "Christmas is All Around" is in competition with a single by the boy band Blue, their single being considered the odds-on favourite.

As to how having the number one single during Christmas became so significant in the United Kingdom, my guess it comes down to two things. The first is that Christmas remains the biggest holiday throughout the English speaking world, and this is no truer than anywhere than the United Kingdom. The second is that record sales in the United Kingdom increase to around 40%. The combination of the significance of Christmas and the increase in sales at Christmas both made having a number one single during the week of Christmas more prestigious than any other time of year.

After nearly fifty years of intense scrutiny being paid to the race for the Christmas number one, there appears to be no sign that the British public will stop paying attention to the Christmas number one. The favourite for this year's Christmas number one is "Sausage Rolls for Everyone" by LadBaby. If he wins the race for the Christmas number one, he will be tied with The Beatles for the most number one singles during the week of Christmas. We'll have to wait until Christmas 2022 to see if he breaks The Beatles' record.

Sunday, December 19, 2021

The 70th Anniversary of The Lemon Drop Kid (1951)

Despite the fact that it introduced the classic Christmas song "Silver Bells," like many classic Christmas movies The Lemon Drop Kid (1951) was not released at Christmastime. Instead it was released on April 2 1951. That having been said, it has since become a favourite of many to watch at Christmastime. Given how well it captures the spirit of the holiday, this should come as no surprise.

The Lemon Drop Kid (1951) was very loosely based on the short story "The Lemon Drop Kid" by Damon Runyon. The short story centred on the title character, a race track tout who cons a rich man out of $100 and then flees to settle down in a small town. It had been previously adapted as the movie The Lemon Drop Kid (1934), which was rather faithful to the short story. That having been said, about the only thing The Lemon Drop Kid (1951) has in common with the short story is that they are centred on a race track tout called the Lemon Drop Kid. In The Lemon Drop Kid (1951), Bob Hope plays the title character, who cons a woman into betting on a horse other than the odds-on favourite. As it turns out, the woman is the girl friend of gangster Moose Moran (Fred Clark), who demands the Lemon Drop Kid pay him the $10,000 his girlfriend lost on the bet. The Lemon Drop Kid then flees Florida for New York City in hopes of raising the money. It is December, so he concocts a scheme involving street corner Santas.

The Lemon Drop Kid (1951) likely owed its existence to a previous Bob Hope movie inspired by a Damon Runyon short story. Sorrowful Jones (1949) was based on the Damon Runyon short story "Little Miss Marker," which had previously been adapted as the Shirley Temple movie Little Miss Marker (1934). Sorrowful Jones did brisk business at the box office, so another Bob Hope movie based on a Damon Runyon short story probably seemed like a sure thing. Indeed, the same director, Sidney Lanfield, directed both.

As to the casting of The Lemon Drop Kid (1951), Bob Hope insisted that Marilyn Maxwell be cast as his romantic interest, Brainey Baxter. At the time Marilyn Maxwell was far from being a household name. As might be expected, Paramount asked who she was. Bob Hope simply told the studio that he had worked with her in New York, and she was good. What Bob Hope did not tell Paramount is that he and Miss Maxwell were carrying on an affair. Of course, while Marilyn Maxwell might not have been particularly well known, The Lemon Drop Kid (1951) featured a slough of recognizable faces, including Fred Clark, Jane Darwell, Sid Melton, and Lloyd Nolan. Among these recognizable faces was the only actor who had appeared in 1934 version of The Lemon Drop Kid, William Frawley.

Of course, today The Lemon Drop Kid (1951) may be best known as the film that introduced the Christmas standard "Silver Bells." While Jay Livingston and Ray Evans had already written a number of hits, in 1950 their career was in such a lull that the two worried Paramount might release them from their contract. It was at this time that the studio asked the two to write a Christmas song. Jay Livingston and Ray Evan's stories about the inspiration behind "Silver Bells" differ. Jay Livingston said that the song was inspired by the bells used by Salvation Army Santas and others on New York City street corners during Christmastime. Ray Evans said it was inspired by a bell that sat on the desk he shared with Jay Livingston. Regardless, of its inspiration, the song started out as "Tinkle Bells." The song's title changed immediately after Ray Evans's wife informed him that "tinkle" was a slang term for urination.

Once The Lemon Drop Kid (1931) was completed, Bob Hope was not particularly happy with the finished product. Bob Hope asked gag writer Frank Tahslin (who had also been an animator at Warner Bros.) to rewrite a number of scenes. Frank Tashlin agreed provided he could direct the retakes. This did not sit well Sidney Lanfield, who would never work with Bob Hope again.

Among the retakes directed by Frank Tashlin was the sequence involving "Silver Bells." The original "Silver Bells" sequence as directed by Sidney Lanfield was simply the cast standing in an empty casino singing the song. Aside from Mr. Lanfield's reportedly uninspired staging of the song, Bob Hope may well have had another reason for wanting the "Silver Bells" sequence to stand out more. Bob Hope's friend and Road to... movie co-star Bing Crosby had recorded his own version of the song, that had been released in October 1950. Bob Hope and Bing Crosby had always had a friendly rivalry, so naturally Mr. Hope did not want to be shown up by Mr. Crosby. To this end Frank Tashlin moved the action of the "Silver Bells" sequence to a busy New York City street at the peak of Christmas shopping season. In the end it is not only the most impressive scene in the movie, but one of the most impressive scenes touching upon Christmas in any movie.

Despite being released in April, The Lemon Drop Kid (1951) did well at the box office. And while it may not be as highly regarded as such classics as Christmas in Connecticut (1945), It's a Wonderful Life (1946), Miracle on 34th Street (1947), or The Bishop's Wife (1947), The Lemon Drop Kid (1951) remains a holiday favourite of many classic movie fans. While it may be best known as the movie that introduced the Christmas standard "Silver Bells," many realize it has much more to offer.