Around this time of year we are all subjected to Christmas songs. At home, in our cars, at the dentist’s office, in the malls, in elevators.
Have you noticed that most of the old standards about the holiday are from the movies, and more interestingly from movies made during World War II.
Of course, there’s “White Christmas” from Holiday Inn, the Bing Crosby/Fred Astaire hit by Irving Berlin. And “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”, which Judy Garland sang to Margaret O’Brien in Meet Me in St. Louis.
Both films were made while millions of servicemen were away from home and longing to return to spend the holidays with their families.
Another of the season’s classics is “I’ll be Home for Christmas” with the lyric “you can plan on me” which appealed to tens of millions of families across the world during the early 40s. Although this song isn’t featured in any film, it was recorded by Crosby in 1943, and shot to the tip of the charts.
“I’ll be Home for Christmas, If Only In My Dreams,” although a great favorite among American soldiers, was banned in England for fear it would dampen morale.
Bing had scored with two Christmas classics so naturally Bob Hope wanted a crack at the market. Paramount came to his aid with “Silver Bells,” which he and Marilyn Maxwell (there she is, see above) sang in The Lemon Drop Kid.
But still Crosby recorded the song, and the record was released before the film. In fact the Crosby version was such a hit that Hope and Maxwell were called back to the studio to re-film and beef up the production number.
Of course, these songs and films are from a time that mass culture was far more homogeneous than today. In our fragmented pop culture, movies and music are now sliced and diced to various demographic segments, each with minimal contact with the other. And, there are the results of how political correctness has changed perceptions of the Christmas holiday.
Whatever, it’s good to know that those Christmas standards from the Hope-Crosby combine, and others in classic movies, have endured and will do so in the future.
SPECIAL NOTE: Today marks the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor. To remember the occasion, you could do a lot worse than a re-viewing of Fred Zinnemann’s 1953 classic, From Here To Eternity. It stars Burt Lancaster, Deborah Kerr, Frank Sinatra, Montgomery Clift and Donna Reed, along with a superb supporting cast. Enjoy.