Thursday, November 24, 2011

Listening is important.

Irene Dunne as Vinnie and William Powell as Clarence Day, Sr.
Life With Father

A scene in the Day household -

Clarence: I'll tell you one thing, I'll never be baptized as long as that hideous monstrosity (pug dog statue) is in this house.

Vinnie: Alright. Alright. Clarence (Jr.). That pug dog goes back this afternoon and he is christened first thing in the morning. You heard him didn't you, Clarence? You heard him say that he'd be baptized as soon as I got this pug dog out of the house.

A scene in the Nolan/Hall household -

He: Don't tell me you're listening to Christmas music! The Americans haven't even had their Thanksgiving yet.

Me: You heard him didn't you, kids? He said as soon as it was American Thanksgiving it was all Christmas music, all the time.

What many people (meaning husbands) don't understand is that Christmas music, like the Christmas movies and books, must be started early or the season will pass without seeing reading or listening to all your old favourites.

I have a box full of tapes and CDs, and a shelf lined with LPs that call out to me. These are a but a few of the many.

Vince Guaraldi's soundtrack to the 1965 television special combines a true sense of childhood innocence with a touch of adult nostalgia that is at the same time a part of and transcends the iconic Charles Schulz characters of Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus, Schroeder and Snoopy. For many youngsters it is their introduction to jazz. A happy introduction that will influence a lifetime of musical enjoyment.

Round and round the Christmas tree
Opening presents with the family
One for you and two for me
Oh, what a Christmas day!

Bing's classic Merry Christmas album with White Christmas, Silver Bells with Carol Richards, the fun tunes with the Andrews Sisters and the hymns gets a major workout this time of year, but I always start out with A Time to Be Jolly. It is a joyous album with a party feeling that I find irresistible.

Released in 1986 with Milt Hinton, Ralph Sutton, Gus Johnson, Jim Galloway going to town on traditional Christmas songs, The Sackville All Star Christmas Record became an immediate classic in our family. I was "adopted" into a family simply by virtue of reading Harpo Speaks. If you listen to the Sackville album, you automatically become one of us.

The album cover alone is comforting, but add Nat's voice and you are immediately enveloped in a sense of wonder and the best that Christmas has ever meant to you, or will ever mean.

Perry Como. Just thinking about him makes me smile. His heart seems to be in the Christmas music, both joyous and reverent. I must hear Perry recite The Night Before Christmas every year.

Another album I consider an instant classic is the eclectic Christmas album from the glorious Maureen McGovern. A contemporary take on traditional music that retains all of the old-fashioned heart.

It is one of the tragedies of my life that the Hi-Lo's never made a Christmas album. Gene Puerling, being kind of heart as well as genius of mind, made up for it when he took his Singers Unlimited, Don Shelton, Len Dresslar and Bonnie Herman into the studio for this must-have, must-listen-to album. It is what you point to when you want to scoff at those who claim perfection cannot be achieved.

Many of the wonderful tracks on the Singers Unlimited Christmas are the Christmas songs of Alfred Burt. Jazz trumpeter and composer Burt originally collaborated with his father Bates Burt, an Episcopal minster on Christmas songs presented as gifts to family and friends. After his father's death he continued the tradition with organist Willa Hutson.

Al Burt was a member of the Alvino Rey (married to Louise King) orchestra and through that association his carols were popularized by the King Family, first at their personal Christmas parties and on their television specials. His wonderful carols were recorded by Columbia records (company president James Conkling was married to Donna King) shortly before Al's untimely death from cancer.

Al Burt's lovely songs include Christmas Cometh Caroling, Jesu Parvule, Ah, Bleak and Chill the Wintry Wind, Bright, Bright, the Holly Berries, The Star Carol, Caroling Caroling, We'll Dress the House and Some Children See Him.

Al Burt's carols have come to mean Christmas to me more and more as the years go by. Along with the Singers Unlimited album they are front and centre on Bing's A Time to be Jolly and Maureen McGovern's Christmas.

Composer/arranger LeRoy Anderson's thrilling medleys of familiar carols are my traditional Christmas wrapping soundtrack. The album was saved from cutout limbo at the old Sam the Record Man on Yonge Street in Toronto.

Why, oh why isn't this fabulous TV special from 1979 available on DVD?!?

Yeah! Christmas on the Pondersa. Wanna make somethin' of it?!

Old-time opera recordings are my happy place. I think I am reincarnated from the gramaphone set. This compilation features songs mainly from radio broadcasts and cover years ranging from the 1920s to the 1970s. Every year I find a new favourite.

I love the Christmas compilations like this misnamed CD from Publisher's Clearing House. Not all of the tracks are from the 1940s, but I'm not going to quibble if they want to give me Mel Torme and Jack Jones from The Judy Garland Show along with Buddy Clark, Joe Williams and Benny Goodman.

There's also the Robert Shaw Chorale and the Chieftains and Doris Day and The Mills Brothers and Peggy Lee and Jim Reeves and Roger Williams and The Platters and ...

Happy Thanksgiving to my American friends, and thanks for the often mentioned, but seldom followed guideline to when it is appropriate to listen to all Christmas music, all the time.

Friday, November 18, 2011

What's that guy's name? Christian Rub.

Christian Rub
1886-1956

We were watching Jeopardy. The category was Things Related to Wood. Two of the "questions" were "What is Tales from the Vienna Woods?" and "Who is Pinocchio?". I turned to my husband and commented that this was a good night for Christian Rub (pronounced and sometimes spelled "Rube") fans because in 1938s The Great Waltz he played the carriage driver who helped Strauss and the soprano compose that song, and in Disney's 1940s Pinocchio Rub was the human model and voice for Geppetto. The breadth and depth of my knowledge stunned my beloved into silence. I'm sure he was in awe.

Sadly, even my cherished character actor books could provide no details on Mr. Rub's life personal life other than his birthplace in Bavaria and that his wife's name was Amy, but his movie career places him in a number of bona fide classics and personal classics.

Christian Rub, Cliff Edwards and Dickie Jones cut a rug
Pinocchio

Some actors become famous for playing butlers. In Christian Rub's case he played more than his fair share of janitors and groundskeepers. Check out Princess O'Rourke with Olivia de Havilland, Once Upon a Time with Cary Grant, Mary Stevens MD with Kay Francis, Murder on a Bridle Path with James Gleason, AllThis, and Heaven Too with Bette Davis, Henry Aldrich for President and Rhapsody in Blue among many others. The one valet credit I could find was the Warren William picture Outcast. I have yet to see it, but it looks like a dandy.

Miliza Korjus, Christian Rub, Fernand Gravet make music history
The Great Waltz

When not sweeping up, Christian Rub played a number of musicians and music lovers. He's a cellist in the Charles Laughton segment of Tales of Manhattan, a trombone player in Tovarich and is featured in two Deanna Durbin movies Mad About Music and One Hundred Men and a Girl. He's adorable as a sympathetic innkeeper in The Cat and the Fiddle with Jeanette MacDonald and Roman Navarro.



Above is my favourite performance of a title song of a movie, 1940s Rhythm on the River starring Bing Crosby. Christian Rub is the pawnbroker in the background who can't keep from grooving.

While searching for photos of Christian Rub online I found him misidentified on a couple of sites. He is not now nor never has been Ian Wolfe or Donald Meek. Such an infraction against all three gentlemen would be considered criminal in my family!

Look for Christian Rub the next time you watch You Can't Take It With You where he is one of the Vanderhoff's neighbours or Captains Courageous as one of the shipmates. Soon you'll compile your own list of personal classics.


Friday, November 11, 2011

Remembrance Day


In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.


John McCrae was born in Guelph, Ontario on November 30, 1878. His family background of Scottish immigrants was military with a strong sense of duty and Presbyterian with a strong sense of spirituality. McCrae joined the Guelph Militia while in High School and when attending the University of Toronto in 1892 joined the Queen's Own Rifles. He studied medicine on a scholarship and tutored to defray expenses. Two of his students became the first female doctors in Ontario. McCrae also studied medicine in England. In 1899 he fought as a Captain in South Africa, but resigned because of what he felt was poor treatment of the ill and injured.

John McCrae was a noted physician who filled his leisure time with poetry, sketching and a love of the sea. Many times he signed on as a seaman to travel between North America and England. In 1914, not unlike many of his generation, for a sense of duty and a sense of adventure McCrae reenlisted for King and Country, a field surgeon with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

McCrae's former student and friend Lt. Alexis Helmer was killed at the Second Battle of Ypres, also known as Flanders Fields. Amid the carnage and sadness John McCrae found an outlet by composing his most famous poem. In Flanders Fields was published in the magazine Punch in December of 1915 and immediately struck a chord with the grieving families and battle weary soldiers. The poppy was adopted as a symbol of remembrance throughout the Commonwealth.

John McCrae suffered from asthma most of his life and passed in the field on January 28, 1918 from complications from pneumonia. His life and work, including his poetry and medical text books, is honoured in museums and schools throughout Canada.


On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 Germany signed the armistice. It is on this date we pay tribute to the sacrifices made during the war to end all - and those which followed.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Where Are My Manners?


The bustle of day-to-day life is no excuse for not mentioning that Caftan Woman was invited to spend some time at the most comfortable spot on the net, the Classic Film and TV Cafe, where some movie memories are shared. Please join us.


Thursday, November 3, 2011

Caftan Woman vs. Garbage Truck

"Take That!" by Janet C. Hall

November got off to a flying start. My lingering cold had progressed from the "cuddled under a quilt on the couch with chicken soup watching Bend of the River" phase to the "need more moisture laden tissue and pizzazz in my life" phase. I can think of no better way to add pizzazz than to mix club soda with orange-tangerine juice (it's pizzazz on a budget). The grocery store is only two and a half blocks from home, but who knows what else I might pick up so I took my cart aka bundle buggy to pick up the necessaries.

Middle-aged women who take a cart to pick up two items at the store are notoriously cautious pedestrians. I had finished the first half block on the return home south on Royal York Road and stopped at Van Every noting the garbage truck stopped at the crosswalk and the worker loading garbage. The truck was stopped. I assumed the driver had seen me because isn't being aware of your surroundings part of the driver's job? I calmly started through the crosswalk. I was in front of the truck when I realized it had started and was moving!! Moving!! I shouted. I started to run in a loop out into the street. Middle-aged women who take a cart to pick up two items at the grocery store are not noted for their swiftness. I don't believe I have ever been more frightened. I think I heard people on the street shouting. I'm not certain what alerted the driver, but as the truck struck my back it stopped. I went flying and tried to dig a hole in Royal York Road with my face. I didn't lose consciousness. I was crying. I was bleeding. My cart was totaled. I hate to think that that would have been me if I hadn't brought the cart along, but I can't stop thinking about it.

Good Samaritans abounded. One fellow got napkins from the nearby (Gavin's favourite) pizza restaurant for the blood. My new friend Crystal turned her car to stop oncoming traffic and phoned my daughter Janet, two blocks away blithely working on her art. (Janet will be attending the art program at Sheridan College in January. Her goal is animation.)

The police arrived to take the accident report. The Emergency Medical Services arrived with the ambulance.

EMS guy: "So, how straight was your nose this morning?"
Me: "What the Hell?!"

The Emergency Room at St. Joseph's Hospital was very crowded. Nothing but patients in neck braces on boards as far as the eye could see.

Me: "Is it like this every garbage day?"

Our admitting nurse was competent and funny. Hubby thinks she's cute.

Janet: "You have Stephen Fry's nose."
Me: "What's he breathing with?"

CT scan. Full body x-ray. Only issues are slight fracture of the nose and abrasions on the forehead that did not need stitches after all. I had been looking forward to the Frankenstein look. I have a dressing on my forehead, two blackened and bruised eyes - and it's tough to have a cold when your nose has a slight fracture, even if you do have moisture laden tissue.

My friends, in the words of Sgt. Phil Esterhaus on Hill Street Blues: "Be careful out there".

Caftan Woman aka The Luckiest Gal in the World




Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Caftan Woman's Choice - One for November on TCM

The hemming and hawing has been done offstage and the honourable mentions clamouring for attention are being ignored as the self-imposed challenge to recommend one film from TCMs monthly line-up continues. The November choice is the film version of John Patrick's play The Hasty Heart directed by Vincent Sherman in 1949.

The Hasty Heart is set at a convalescent hospital in the jungles of Burma at the end of WW2. The few remaining men are awaiting the unraveling of red tape or the healing of injuries before they are to be sent home. Young Scot Corporal Lachlan, known as "Lachey" won't be going home. The doctors prognosis is "no hope" and they ask nurse or, as the Brits say, "Sister" Margaret Parker played by Patricia Neal and the men in her ward to keep the tragic news from the young man and make his last days happy. Most of the men are uncomfortable being placed in this spot, but agree. The most vocal opponent is Sister Margaret's sweetheart "Yank" played by Ronald Reagan. He is quite eloquent when describing his feelings about the Scots in general and his hidebound grandfather in particular. Lachey does nothing to dispel Yank's doubts. The young corporal is an embittered loner who trusts no one. It is at Sister Margaret's urging that the pretense is kept up. Very slowly and very painfully Lachey opens up to the people around him. He even falls in love with Sister Margaret which complicates things for everyone. Eventually, the feelings of friendship among the group deepen and, ironically, at a time when lies might make things easier they become harder to tell because genuine feelings require honesty. Honesty is also a military order when the Colonel must tell Lachey of his fate and send him home. A heart can break very quickly, but can it heal as easily, especially when precious time is almost gone? The Hasty Heart is an emotional movie, and a worthy one.

Author John Patrick (1905-1995) was born in Kentucky. He began working for radio in the 1920s writing over 1000 comedy scripts and Streamlined Shakespeare for NBC. His early work in Hollywood was a mix of crime dramas such as Fifteen Maiden Lane and 36 Hours to Kill in 1936, 1938s Mr. Moto Takes a Chance and comedies like the prison send-up Up the River, also from 1938.

In 1942 John Patrick began volunteer service for the American Field Service providing medical support for the British Army serving in Egypt and the India/Burma campaigns. His experiences formed the idea for his play The Hasty Heart which had over 200 performances in the 1945 season.

Back in Hollywood he would contribute screenplays and/or stories for, among others, such familiar titles as 1946s The Strange Love of Martha Ivers, 1947s Framed, 1948s Enchantment, 1954s Three Coins in a Fountain, 1955s Love is a Many-Splendored Thing, 1956s High Society and the adaption of his Pulitzer Prize Winning Teahouse of the August Moon, 1957s Les Girls, 1958s Some Came Running, 1960s The World of Suzie Wong and 1962s Gigot.

Richard Basehart (He Walked by Night, Moby Dick) was the original lead in the Broadway production and his replacement was young British actor Richard Todd (1919-2009) who would be cast in the movie version. Todd's burgeoning theatrical career had been interrupted by duties as a paratrooper in WW2. In that way that the movies have of intersecting with real life in 1962s The Longest Day Todd portrayed his commander Major Howard in a scene with his own character. In a career which included stage and over 100 combined movie and television roles, Richard Todd favourites of mine include 1950s Stage Fright for Hitchcock, 1952s The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men for Disney, 1955s A Man Called Peter and The Dam Busters. For his War Service Todd was made an Officer in the Order of the British Empire in 1993.

Ranald MacDougall's adapted screenplay was nominated by the Writer's Guild of America for Best Written American Drama. The other nominees were winner All the King's Men, Battleground, Champion, Intruder in the Dust, The Heiress and The Window.

Richard Todd was nominated for Best Actor for his portrayal of Lachey. The other nominees were winner Broderick Crawford - All the King's Men, Kirk Douglas - Champion, Gregory Peck - Twelve O'Clock High and John Wayne - Sands of Iwo Jima.

Set your recorders because TCM is showing The Hasty Heart on Friday November 18th at 12:15 am.