Sunday, December 11, 2011

A Christmas present from the past

Back in the late 1950s there was a Christmas television special that my brother, David, and I could hardly wait to see.

Folks in North Carolina probably never saw it. It was sponsored by Bell Telephone and was aired primarily in the Philadelphia area of southeastern Pennsylvania, and always on Christmas Eve. It was Clement Moore's "The Night Before Christmas," and what made it special was that the story was performed by the Beaton Marionettes.

And I was mesmerized.

First of all, I loved the story. I mean, how can you not be endeared by the Santa Claus image? A right jolly old elf, after all. 

Secondly, the use of marionettes gave the visual narrative some mystery. Who was pulling those strings anyway? And how did they get those reindeer to fly? It was cool stuff.

Watch for yourself:

As you can see, this presentation is in color, but I remember seeing it only in black and white. Probably because we had a black and white television set. That was endearing, too. Having said that, I don't think this video has ever been colorized. I'm willing to bet it was originally filmed in color, which actually might have put it ahead of its time. Special effects without CGI. Wow.

Occasionally I have used this blog as a platform to bemoan modern technology, but not now. Not for this. By 1959, our family had moved to New Hampshire, and the annual televised marionette tradition was no longer offered to us.

We did move back to Pennsylvania in the early 1960s, and we might have seen one or two more presentations, if I recall. But after that, I think they stopped airing the program. Forever, I thought. I didn't see this presentation again until I found it a year or so ago on YouTube. Holy smokes. So once again, I was instantly transported to a simpler time. I like that kind of time traveling.

While doing just a little research for this blog, I also found out there is some controversy about whether or not Moore actually wrote "T'was the Night Before Christmas," which is also known as "A Visit from St. Nicholas." There is some evidence that it might actually have been written years earlier by Henry Livingston, a man of letters. You can read about it here.

At any rate, gentle reader, it's almost Christmas, and this video is my gift to you.

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