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Advice & More December 2015

Silver Screen, Golden Years

Sleigh Rides on Soundstages in August

By Jacqueline T. Lynch

Interestingly, most of our favorite yuletide classic films, though shown in an avalanche on TV every December, were not released during the Christmas season. Apparently, this made no difference in their popularity.

At the end of White Christmas (1954), the first few flakes of long awaited and hoped for snow finally fell. No sooner have Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye spied the snowflakes floating down like a benediction on this Vermont soundstage, er, landscape, that a sleigh slides by. Bing and Danny cheerily wave and shout to the driver, but neither wonders how a sleigh can move on what must have been only an eighth of an inch of snow. Yet, we hear no scraping of the metal runners on the road, no clawing of clumps of dirt in the drive. This is because it is snowing, and when it snows in New England, New Englanders ride in sleighs. Ayuh.

In Holiday Inn (1942), Bing's other New England country hotel outing, Marjorie Reynolds arrives at Holiday Inn in a sleigh. This is because it is winter, and Holiday Inn is in Connecticut. This sleigh happens to be a taxi. In wintry New England, taxis are sleighs. How do I know? The movies tell me so.

In Christmas in Connecticut (1945), Barbara Stanwyck arrives at her fiance's Connecticut home by sleigh – again a taxi. Again, there is only about an eighth of an inch of snow on the ground. In a little while, Dennis Morgan arrives by sleigh, and a little while after that, Sydney Greenstreet arrives, also by sleigh. Later on when Miss Stanwyck and Mr. Morgan, who have taken a liking to each other, sneak away from a party at the local town hall to be alone, they naturally go for a sleigh ride. This is New England. There is one conveniently parked by all the automobiles. They ignore the cars and steal the sleigh. They get arrested for sleigh-napping, which is a serious offense in these parts.

Being a New Englander myself, I can vouch for the veracity of this sentimental Hollywood version of New England. If I had a nickel for every sleigh I see driving around in the winter on city streets, I'd be a millionaire. Not just city traffic, mind, but the interstate highways are veritably clogged with them. Driving those horses like gosh all hemlock, not signaling when they change lanes. Sweet Betsy from Pike, it's maddening.

You think summertime traffic coming off Cape Cod at the end of a weekend is rough? Try coasting over the Bourne Bridge in a sleigh in the wintertime, only to find yourself behind a line of sleighs ahead of you as far as the eye can see. You think Route 1 from Connecticut to Maine is bumper to bumper in the summer? Try it in December, my friend. You'll be huddling under your buffalo robe in your sleigh, moodily sipping wassail from your flask and becoming more foul-mouthed by the minute as you hit those reds lights. But the movies never show that ugly part, do they? No, they go for pure fantasy.

Interestingly, most of our favorite yuletide classic films, though shown in an avalanche on TV every December, were not released during the Christmas season. Apparently, this made no difference in their popularity.

A Christmas Carol (1938) with Reginald Owen was released in time for Christmas, in mid-December 1938. A great deal of effort and planning by the studio was involved for this to happen. It's a Wonderful Life (1946), where James Stewart's alternate life flashes before his eyes one chaotic Christmas Eve, however, was released in January 1947, the month after Christmas.

Christmas in Connecticut (1945), where Barbara Stanwyck takes in a Navy officer as a guest for Christmas as a patriotic gesture, came out in August 1945 as the war was ending, and not reindeer in sight.

White Christmas (1954) came out in October when the leaves were changing.

Holiday Inn (1942) was released in August. Admittedly, this was a festival of many holidays featuring the hits of Irvin Berlin but there are no American holidays in August.

Miracle on 34th Street (1947), which begins at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and ends on Christmas Day, came out not in time for either Thanksgiving or Christmas, but in the merry month of May.

Makes all those "Christmas in July" sales seem not so stupid, doesn't it? That these films have become Christmas classics is due more to television, which bundles them all together at this time of year, than to the film industry that made them.

Happy Holidays to all – I'm off to wax my sleigh runners.


Jacqueline T. Lynch is the author of Ann Blyth: Actress. Singer. Star. and Movies in Our Time: Hollywood Mirrors and Mimics the Twentieth Century, available online at Amazon, CreateSpace, and the author. Website:

Meet Jacqueline