Some Thanksgiving Treats For You

Ok – I admit it: I am one of those people who started playing Christmas music last week. Yesterday the Christmas lights went up. I don’t normally rush this, but 2020 has been the pits and I am comfortable enough in my middle-aged fruitiness to freely quote Auntie Mame at you: We need a little Christmas. Now.

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Baron von Munchausen is ready.

One of my favorite holiday CDs of recent years is Tracey Thorn’s Tinsel & Lights – a smart collection of originals and non-traditional holiday-themed songs perfectly suited to the Everything But The Girl singer’s melancholy voice.

The lead track, Joy (written by Thorn) has been on repeat in my home every December since its 2012 release. But when I dug it out of the mothballs this year, the song feels like it was tailor-made for the current climate as we navigate a pandemic holiday season while anxiously looking forward to a brighter 2021.

The opening lyric:
When someone very dear / calls you with the words “Everything’s all clear.” / That’s what you want to hear / but you know it might be different in the new year. / That’s why / That’s why / We hang the lights so high: Joy.

Here are some other Thanksgiving-themed goodies I originally posted in 2018:

When it comes to holiday music, unfortunately Thanksgiving is lost in the long shadow of Christmas. There’s a severe lack of Thanksgiving songs, aren’t there? All we’ve got is Let’s Turkey Trot by Little Eva, and even then it is not really about Thanksgiving at all. The song’s title refers to the Turkey Trot, a dance step popular back in the early 1900’s.

Dimension DollsLet’s Turkey Trot was Eva Boyd’s third single, released in 1963 with the hopes of recapturing the #1 success of her debut platter, The Loco-Motion. Let’s Turkey Trot gave Little Eva a respectable showing on the charts, peaking at #20, although it should have been billed as Little Eva & The Cookies, as the backing group is as much a part of the success of the record as the lead. Group member Earl-Jean McCrea delivers solo lines echoing their own hits Chains & Don’t Say Nothing Bad About My Baby, which also featured Little Eva on background vocals.

Here’s an abbreviated performance by Little Eva on Shindig in 1965. Darlene Love and the Blossoms stand in for the Cookies in what must be one of the proudest moments of their career. Gobble Diddle It!

The Dollyrots also covered this track in 2014. Besides using footage of Little Eva’s Shindig performance throughout the video, they also namecheck “Little Eva back in ’63”:

Want some Mashed Potatoes with your Turkey Trot? Here’s Dee Dee Sharp with her own ode to a Thanksgiving staple / dance move:

Aaaaand some Gravy for your mashed potatoes:

On the darker side… one of the faux trailers from Quentin Tarantino’s Grindhouse is the hilariously spot-on Thanksgiving, directed by Eli Roth. It is entirely plausible that someone would have jumped on the bandwagon of grade-z holiday themed horror films that followed the success of Halloween. But this one is a fake. As of now. Who knows…. maybe Roth will film it one day.

During the Thanksgiving episode of SNL in 1997, Lilith Fair stand-up comic Cinder Calhoun (a recurring character played by Ana Gasteyer) & singer Sara McLachlan paid a visit to Norm MacDonald and the Weekend Update desk, singing the Thanksgiving classic Basted In Blood. It would not be nearly as funny if they didn’t sing it so well.

https://www.nbc.com/saturday-night-live/video/weekend-update-segment—cinder-and-sarah/n12937

Unfortunately this segment seems to have fallen off the annual SNL Thanksgiving Eve prime time special. The whole segment can be seen at the link above – here’s the song:

In 2019, Ana Gasteyer released a holiday album: Sugar & Booze. Highly recommended!

Happy Thanksgiving!

giphy

March of the Wooden Soldiers’ 85th Anniversary: 10 Things You May Not Know About The Classic Film

01 March-Of-The-Wooden-Soldiers-On-November-28th-Thanksgiving-Day-758x396
This year marks the 85th anniversary of the Laurel & Hardy classic March of the Wooden Soldiers. Originally released as Babes In Toyland on Nov. 30, 1934, the holiday perennial was based on Victor Herbert’s popular 1903 operetta. The film came out of Hal Roach studios and was co-directed by Gus Meins and Charles Rogers.

 

Here’s the trailer:

 

To celebrate this occasion, I present to you….

10 Things You May Not Know About March of The Wooden Soldiers

 

1) In addition to Babes In Toyland, the film was also re-released under several different titles, including Laurel and Hardy in Toyland and Revenge Is Sweet.

 

01 Babes In Toyland 19341 revenge1-spanish.jpg

 

2) Although the 1934 film includes many of the characters in the original operetta,  the plot is almost completely different. Six musical numbers from the original stage score are featured: “Toyland”, “Never Mind Bo-Peep”, “Castle in Spain”, “Go to Sleep (Slumber Deep)” and the instrumental “March of the Toys”. Additionally, an instrumental version of “I Can’t Do The Sum” is used to underscore many scenes.

 

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3 Kleinbach
3) The villainous Silas Barnaby was played by 22 year old Henry Kleinbach. He later changed his name to Henry Brandon and appeared in over 100 films throughout his 60 year career.

 

3 Follies 1938 Barnaby

Brandon played essentially the same character as an opera impresario who torments poor poor Alfalfa in Our Gang Follies of 1938.

3Acacious Page 1958

 

 

20 years later he was Acacious Page in Auntie Mame.

 

Another fun fact: Brandon’s partner for the last 25+ years of his life was Mark Herron, who was briefly married to Judy Garland.
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Bill Cassara and Richard S. Greene recently published a book about him.
You can also find out more about Henry Brandon here

 

 

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4) The Little Rascals (aka Our Gang) also filmed at Hal Roach studios. Several of the gang appear as schoolchildren in Toyland, although not dressed as they appear in this photo sitting atop Mother Peep’s Shoe-house.

 

4 Mamas Little Pirate
One of the most popular Our Gang / Little Rascals shorts, Mama’s Little Pirate was filmed the same year and has an extended sequence shot in the caves of Bogeyland. Gus Meins directed both films.

Another Our Gang connection: two graduates of the silent era, Johnny Downs and Jean Darling appear as Little Boy Blue and Curly Locks:

4 Johnny Downs Jean Darling2
Johnny Downs and Jean Darling as Little Boy Blue and Curly Locks

 

5) Felix Knight played romantic lead Tom Tom and fell in love with co-star Alice Moore, who played the Queen of Hearts. They were married the following year.
5 Behind the scenes
Behind the scenes, l-r: Alice Moore (Queen Of Hearts) Charley Rodgers (Simple Simon and the film’s co-director), Felix Knight (Tom Tom), Charlotte Henry (Bo-Peep) and Henry Brandon (Barnaby). Note the Three Little Pigs masks and padding hanging in the background.
Knight also appeared with Laurel and Hardy in their 1936 film – The Bohemian Girl:

6) Marie Wilson makes an early film appearance as Mary Quite Contrary. Her later work in film, radio and television (most notably My Friend Irma) garnered her three stars on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame.

6 Marie Wilson Mary Contrary
“NO I haven’t seen them!” Marie Wilson as Mary Quite Contrary
7) Who’s Afraid Of The Big Bad Wolf?  An instrumental version of this song is used to underscore scenes with the Three Little Pigs. However, the song is not from the original Babes In Toyland operetta – it was originally featured in the 1933 Disney short Three Little Pigs and (surprisingly) has been covered by everyone from Barbra Streisand to LL Cool J.

 

8 three pigs1
00Elmer

 

8) About those pigs….  Elmer, the kidnapped pig was played by a little person – 2′ 11″ Angelo Rossito.

The two other pigs were played by child actors: 

8 Payne B Johnson Jiggs

 

Payne B. Johnson played Jiggs. As of 2019, he is the last living major player from the film.

8 zebedy earle-edward

And THIS little piggy…. was a porn star! Willie was played by Edward Earle Marsh, later a Broadway performer known as Edward Earle. He then reinvented himself as Zebedy Colt, an out gay cabaret singer and porn star who appeared in both gay and straight movies through the 1970’s & 80’s.

Someone needs to write a book about this guy.

 

9 PIX
9) The film became a broadcast television staple on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day in the early 1960’s. I grew up watching the film on NYC’s WPIX Channel 11, which continues to air the film to this day. In 1990 they switched to the colorized version, and in 2018, due to viewer requests, they began airing both the restored black and white and colorized versions at different times during the day.

 

Some may remember a shorter version of the film airing on television years ago. A 73 minute version was broadcast for a few years in the 1980’s, with the opening “Toyland” song sequence trimmed and the “Go to Sleep (Slumber Deep)” number cut completely. Any restored prints or colorized versions of the film run at the original 79 minute length.
9 MarchWoodenSoldiersWPIXad
If it isn’t broadcast in your area, you can watch the full movie here:

10) Keeping in mind that the source material is the original operetta and not this film, there have been numerous other versions of Babes In Toyland:
Between 1950 and 1960, there were three television versions, all broadcast during the Christmas season, including one featuring Barbara Cook and Dennis Day in 1955.

Walt Disney’s Technicolor 1961 film version starred Annette Funicello and Ray Bolger.

A 1986 made for television version featured Drew Barrymore and Keanu Reeves, with only two songs from the Victor Herbert score, a new plot, and many new songs by Leslie Bricusse.

An 1997 animated film version, with a new plot and only one of the original songs, featured the voices of Christopher Plummer and Lacey Chabert.

These other versions come and go, but none feature Stannie Dum and Ollie Dee…. nightmare-inducing pig masks …. a monkey dressed as a Mickey Mouse knockoff…. or poorly costumed Bogeymen with visible zippers and padding.
00bogeymen
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Join me in wishing a Happy 85th Birthday to a Hollywood Holiday Classic!

00mickey offbrand

Some Thanksgiving Treats For You

Happy Thanksgiving! I have arrived at your holiday feast bearing a cornucopia of tasty Turkey day treats, both bitter and sweet. Enjoy!

When it comes to holiday music, unfortunately Thanksgiving is lost in the long shadow of Christmas. There’s a severe lack of Thanksgiving songs, aren’t there? All we’ve got is Let’s Turkey Trot by Little Eva, and even then it is not really about Thanksgiving at all. The song’s title refers to the Turkey Trot, a dance step popular back in the early 1900’s.

Dimension DollsLet’s Turkey Trot was Eva Boyd’s third single, released in 1963 with the hopes of recapturing the #1 success of her debut platter, The Loco-Motion. Let’s Turkey Trot gave Little Eva a respectable showing on the charts, peaking at #20, although it should have been billed as Little Eva & The Cookies, as the backing group is as much a part of the success of the record as the lead. Group member Earl-Jean McCrea delivers solo lines echoing their own hits Chains & Don’t Say Nothing Bad About My Baby, which also featured Little Eva on background vocals.

Here’s an abbreviated performance by Little Eva on Shindig in 1965. Darlene Love and the Blossoms stand in for the Cookies in what must be one of the proudest moments of their career. Gobble Diddle Dip!

The Dollyrots also covered this track in 2014. Besides using footage of Little Eva’s Shindig performance throughout the video, they also namecheck “Little Eva back in ’63”:

Want some Mashed Potatoes with your Turkey Trot? Here’s Dee Dee Sharp with her own ode to a Thanksgiving staple / dance move:

During the Thanksgiving episode of SNL in 1997, Lilith Fair stand-up comic Cinder Calhoun (a recurring character played by Ana Gasteyer) & singer Sara McLachlan paid a visit to Norm MacDonald and the Weekend Update desk, singing the Thanksgiving classic Basted In Blood. It would not be nearly as funny if they didn’t sing it so well.

https://www.nbc.com/saturday-night-live/video/weekend-update-segment—cinder-and-sarah/n12937

On the darker side… one of the faux trailers from Quentin Tarantino’s Grindhouse is the hilariously spot-on Thanksgiving, directed by Eli Roth. It is entirely plausible that someone would have jumped on the bandwagon of grade-z holiday themed horror films that followed the success of Halloween. But this one is a fake. As of now. Who knows…. maybe Roth will film it one day.

Happy Thanksgiving!

giphy