Okay, I can't go any longer into the holiday season without mention of my all-time fave animated holiday special, Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol. This was the very first animated holiday TV special, in fact, done initially in 1962 and aired annually for several years. Because the animated was fairly primitive, since that's how the Magoo cartoons were all done, it eventually lost favor with the national programmers, though has generally shown up on local stations or smaller cable outlets.
It's actually a very respectable, though deeply edited and hugely-adapted, version of Dickens' story. More to the point, it's aided by the best musical score in the history of animated holiday specials. Until convinced otherwise, I stand by that. (And if you don't believe me, then ask Shelly Goldstein. After all, if you can't believe Lady Shellington, who can you believe??!!) It has a score by two renowned Broadway composers, Jule Styne (who wrote such major hits as Gypsy, Bells are Ringing and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes) and Bob Merrill (who wrote the hits Carnival! and Take Me Along, among others) -- and further, while writing Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol, they were in the midst of collaborating on the Broadway musical Funny Girl.
(In fact, as the story goes, the Magoo produer was walking past their office and heard them working on a ballad that was so touching and beautiful about the need for others and human connection that he had to interrupt and say how much he absolutely loved the song. Styne and Merrill had to disappoint him to say that the song was actually for Funny Girl. It was a piece, they said, called, "People." And yes, it would have fit the Christmas Carol special.)
Here are a couple of the fun songs from the show, if you haven't seen it in a year -- or longer.
The first is "Ringle, Ringle," a great character song for Scrooge (performed by Jim Backus as Magoo playing the miser) and then with a wonderful counterpoint -- something I always love -- sung by Bob Cratchit (voiced by Broadway star and often Columbo villain Jack Cassidy)
And then we have the big "showstopper" number, "The Lord's Bright Blessing" as the Cratchit family gathers in present day to make the best of their meager trimmings for the holiday, but made full and rich with hope, joy and love.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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