Merry Christmas from Premium Hollywood, Part 1

I love “It’s a Wonderful Life” and really like “A Christmas Story” and numerous versions of “A Christmas Carol,” but this the “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” sequence from “Meet Me in St. Louis” is so simple and so beautiful I just get all verlept every time I watch it. Talk amongst yourselves.

  

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Don’t be afraid of this trailer.

It’s just a bit of filmed promotion. It can’t possibly hurt you. Besides director Troy Nixey and cowriter-producer Guillermo del Toro are, I’m sure, nice people who wish only to entertain you. They mean you no harm. Their remake of the 1973 TV movie “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” doesn’t even appear to have much gore in it. (It’s rated R for “violence and terror”). Yet…well, watch if you dare. (H/t Bloody Disgusting)

Good work, that. I literally had my eyes half-covered while I watched this thing, even as I was laughing at my own fright. The longer the black lasted, the most scared I got. Why does this work? I’ll let Kirk Douglas, with a little help from “The Bad and the Beautiful” screenwriter Charles Schnee, explain.

  

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RIP Lena Horne

The great singer, talented actress, and crucial civil-rights pioneer, Lena Horne, has passed on age 92. The Guardian has a very good obituary which summarizes her life and work.

Ms. Horne’s involvement in the movies was limited by racism — even the movies she appeared in tended to feature her in short musical segments that could be easily edited out for play in the South. Still, she made enough of an impression in two major all-African-American MGM musicals from 1943, “Stormy Weather” and Vincente Minelli’s debut, the musical religious fantasy, “Cabin in the Sky“,” that my favorite uncle always remarked that it was the first time he’d seen an alluring black woman on the screen. If it impacted my very not-black uncle that way, I probably can’t begin to imagine how it must have felt for countless African-American men and women.

Below, Horne shows she’s a natural on-screen with a humorous duet with an unlikely partner from “Cabin in the Sky” — easily my favorite scene from the movie. As the old joke goes, musically speaking it’s a case of “The Agony and the Ecstasy.”

That’s Eddie ‘Rochester’ Anderson, best known as Jack Benny’s greatest comic foil, providing a huge musical contrast while being tempted to the ways of Satan above.

Below, we have Ms. Horne singing the song which became her signature number, and my father’s favorite all-time recording, I believe — from the 1943 movie of the same name and her only lead role until 1969, “Stormy Weather.”

David Hudson of the Auteurs has accumulated the reaction and notes on her passing. From it, I want to particularly recommend Sheila O’Malley’s remembrance. It includes a clip of Ms. Horne taking a lead in a “Sesame Street” duet of “Being Green” with Kermit the Frog that I found incredibly moving. If you consider what the song is really about, I don’t think it’s a mystery why I was so moved.

  

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“Who could ask for anything more?”

Between word of an upcoming George Gershwin biopic and Bullz-Eye’s feature on fifteen (mostly) great movies set in Paris, it seems like an opportune time for a pair of clips from Vincente Minelli’s multi-Oscar winning 1951 musical, “An American in Paris.” First, a languid portion of the film’s gorgeous, sexy, and lengthy ballet sequence.

And a lesson in American without tears from Gene Kelly.

  

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“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”

Since it’s a nostalgic bittersweet, family-oriented musical comedy set in the turn of the century midwest starring Judy Garland, some of you might assume that “Meet Me in St. Louis” is kind of a drippy, saccharine movie. Trust me, it’s sweet but anything but drippy and established Vincente Minelli as one of the greatest of Hollywood directors. If your cable system has TCM, you can see for yourself; it’s showing at 10:00 pst/1:00 a.m. est tonight.

In the meantime, here’s big sister Judy Garland trying to console Margaret O’Brien with one of the loveliest pop Christmas songs ever written. This always gets to me.

  

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