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Archive for December 24th, 2013

christmas-kitten-1

by James Clark

 You might think that having the likes of Dylan Thomas (he of, “Do not go gentle into that good night”) drop by at Christmas would be tantamount to exclusively broaching Scrooge’s Christmas Eves prior to that special one. Just in case our unlikely courier of charm might, to some, fixedly and unwelcomely portend a variation of The Nightmare before Christmas, we also have in our sack the sure-fire James Herriot and his just-right reminiscence about The Christmas Day Kitten. I’ll keep my enthusing, about Thomas’ visit, to a minimum, whereupon there is the YouTube of the author’s 1952 reading; and, then, to some hints about Herriot’s doing so much more than damage control.

    As good a place as any to reach the nub of Thomas’ going back to the ways of Christmas celebration when he was a boy in Wales is the moment—somehow still compelling to him as an adult—when he and his friend, Jim, “…patient, cold and callous… waited to snowball the cats.” This glimpse of cold-weather crudity striving for gratifying sizzle sets the tempo of every incident recalled. A fire breaks out from an errant bid for hospitality, and a maiden aunt asks the firemen, “Would you like anything to read?” Young Dylan brags to younger children there, about the unique wild side of winters past, postmen past, Christmas presents past and the uncles past (“There are always uncles at Christmas. The same.”), galvanizing a domestic, even ascetic celebration like that into a spectacle of slightly eerie departures from a long-standing sedateness. After the luncheon feast (where the uncles shone at over-indulgence), the boy-adventurer would go out for a walk with a few chums. A wiser Thomas describes such a moment as that in which the callow, irrepressible little show-off would tarnish beyond fruitful recognition the unembellished magic of life around him and within. “The silent one-clouded heavens drifted on to the sea. Now we were snow-blind travelers lost on the north hills, and vast dewlapped dogs, with flasks around their necks, ambled and shambled up to us, baying, “Excelsior.” On the “poor streets,” the children “cat-called” after the stuffed revellers, their cries, “…fading away, as we trudged uphill, into the cries of the dock birds and the hooting of ships out in the whirling bay.” At tea, Auntie Hannah “laced hers with rum… and the ice cake loomed in the center of the table like a marble grave.” (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(USA 1940 94m) DVD1/2 (Italy only)

A bit of hypnoleptic catolepsy

p  Mitchell Leisen  d  Mitchell Leisen  w  Preston Sturges  ph  Ted Tetzlaff  ed  Doane Harrison  m  Frederick Hollander  art  Roland Anderson, Hans Dreier

Barbara Stanwyck (Lee Leander), Fred MacMurray (John Sargent), Beulah Bondi (Mrs Sargent), Elizabeth Patterson (Aunt Emma), Sterling Holloway (Willie Simms), Willard Robertson (Francis X.O’Leary), John Wray (Hank), Georgia Caine (Lee’s mother),

There’s a favourite anecdote, a quote from Herman J.Mankiewicz, where he describes Barbara Stanwyck as his ideal.  He pictures coming home to her at their cottage in Beverly Hills, finding an apple pie waiting and Barbara wearing no panties.  It’s a vision that conjures up two very different films in her career, The Purchase Price, an early Bill Wellman pre-coder where she effectively plays a mail order bride out in the sticks, and this later film.  At the time, Remember the Night didn’t seem anything out of the ordinary, but it’s one of those films that seem vital in retrospect, providing a definite crossroads in the careers of several important talents.

A young shoplifter is prevented from release by an assistant D.A.’s machinations to get her hearing held over the Christmas holidays.  Feeling bad, he gets her released for the festive period, and then ends up finding that she lived not far from his home town, so he gives her a lift on the way to visit his own folks.  Then her mother slams the door in her face…so we know where it’s going, eh?  But don’t jump to conclusions, for though this may be a holiday favourite, it’s a sobering one.  (more…)

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