Wednesday, November 17, 2010

i've got plenty to be thankful for...

It's only a little over a week away from one of my favorite holidays of all- Thanksgiving. We've done our level best here at The Shelf to defend and promote Thanksgiving over the years and we think it's a wonderful holiday where the focus should be on family and gratitude for the things we have. In fact, I think in a country where we have the freedom and the Constitution that we have, it's altogether fitting that we should have a day set aside for a national day of gratitude.

It's still a little too early to break out the Christmas music for me, and I've often wished there was some sort of compliation of "Thanksgiving" music to listen to over the weeks up to the big day. So, I've sort of made something of my own little playlist of Thanksgiving episodes of Classic Radio shows (Jack Benny has some particularly funny Thanksgiving episodes), Hymns that remind me of Thanksgiving and gratitude and some classic film songs and standards that hit the mood. So I thought that perhaps this year, in the week leading up to Thanksgiving, I would share with you some of the items on my Turkey day playlist in hopes that you will enjoy them and consider letting the Holiday and the spirit of gratitude take hold before the season of giving took over. Maybe there is something to learn there folks; in order to give from the heart, perhaps we need to really learn gratitude and what means to be grateful for things we couldn't possible make happen on our own. Maybe it's the grateful heart that truly gives. That's putting the horse before the cart, so to speak.

Allow me to give you the first item on my playlist; and these are two very underrated songs because they are overshadowed by being in a Christmas film. Both of these numbers are Bing Crosby tunes from two of his classic and most loved holiday films: Holiday Inn and White Christmas. Perhaps it's cheating a little, because I have the wonderful soundtrack that contains the songs from both of these films and technically it is Christmas music, but I've placed two particular numbers into my playlist. Here I am presenting clips of the numbers from the film, but the soundtrack, which I recommend highly, has the full songs.

First: Holiday Inn. Most of you know the story: Crooner Jim Hardy (der Bingle) is in love with fellow performer Lila Dixon (Virginia Dale) and has decided to propose, but dancer Ted Hanover has wooed her away with promises of stardom and an offer to be his partner. Lila follows Ted leaving Jim with a broken heart. Ted decides to get away from show business and move to a New England farm that eventually he turns into an Inn only open on the holidays. (So much for getting away from show business). It is there where Jim meets the talented ingenuine Linda Mason (played by the lovely Marjorie Reynolds) and falls for her. Linda and Jim have a great thing going, but Ted enters into the picture again. Despite his attempts to hide Linda from him, Ted tries to woo Linda away from Jim with offers of stardom and Hollywood. Linda, mad that Jim couldn't trust her to make up her own mind, goes to Hollywood- and Jim, with a defeated attitude, just gives in. It is at this point that Thanksgiving roles around and Jim is celebrating a lonely holiday with just his housekeeper, Mamie and her kids. Then the number comes in- in the form of Jim playing his latest composition: "I've Got Plenty to be Thankful for." The song is actually quite sincere (despite Jim's lousy attitude) and it takes Maime to tell him what he needs to hear to change his attitude and go after Linda.
Here's the clip (side note- the Thanksgiving holiday briefly went back and forth being declared on different weeks, to allow more Christmas shopping, until it was finally left alone on the last Thursday of the month- hence the little cartoon at the beginning) :

How many of us have actually "heard" the song- it sort of plays in the background during this scene, but it's words have a great message- "I may not be rich or famous, but I have so much to be thankful for." Here are the words to this great Irving Berlin song:

"I've got plenty to be thankful for
I haven't got a great big yacht
To sail from shore to shore
Still I've got plenty to be thankful for

I've got plenty to be thankful for
No private car, no caviar
No carpet on my floor
Still I've got plenty to be thankful for

I've got eyes to see with
Ears to hear with
Arms to hug with
Lips to kiss with
Someone to adore

How could anybody ask for more?
My needs are small,
I buy them all
At the five and ten cent store
Oh, I've got plenty to be thankful for"

It's a wonderful tune and is one of the first songs on my Thanksgiving playlist.

Next is a song that comes from that wonderful holiday film, White Christmas. Filled with great performances, culminating with the famous song "White Christmas" (which actually made it's debut in Holiday Inn), our next song is actually for me one of the more beautiful in the film. The soundtrack has the full song performed by Bing, but costar Rosemary Clooney also has a lovely version on one of her Christmas albums. This song has been included in Christmas music albums before, but it has all of the earmarks of a wonderful song for Thanksgiving. Don't believe me? Have you every really listened to it? Here are the words:

"When I'm worried and I can't sleep
I count my blessings instead of sheep
And I fall asleep counting my blessings
When my bankroll is getting small
I think of when I had none at all
And I fall asleep counting my blessings

I think about a nursery and I picture curly heads
And one by one I count them as they slumber in their beds
If you're worried and you can't sleep
Just count your blessings instead of sheep
And you'll fall asleep counting your blessings"

In fact, our very own Mrs. Baravelli wrote a special article on how much she loves this song- why not revist that post to see why the song evokes so much about being grateful for the blessings we do have? To quote Mrs. B herself: "Somehow, however, when I heard this song again, it dawned on me – everything, even the bad, is a blessing to me. I have so many to be grateful for that I should start counting them instead of falling asleep while checking off my to-do list for the next day."
Yes, it's a perfect song for both holidays, if you ask me- gratitude shouldn't start and stop on Thanksgiving- it should tary within us all year. Perhaps it is gratitude that ties Christmas and Thanksgiving so well together.

Here is the clip- Bing's rich bass really delivers the emotion in this wonderful song:

Well, we hope you've enjoyed today's post. Stick around- we'll have more to add to our Thanksgiving playlist. Stay tuned...

Oh, I know it's a penny here and a penny there, but look at me. I worked myself up from nothing to a state of extreme poverty.

You could melt her heart right down to butter, if you'd only turn on the heat!


Anonymous said...

Hey, JC,

Greetings from CA, America's Great Prosperity Anchor. Great picks. Those are two of my favorite holiday shows, and those are some great numbers from them.

Both of these shows are interesting as well because they bring up the minstrel show/black face performances. Those always make me a bit uncomfortable, but I've had enough historiography to buy the "understand historical values" theme.


J.C. Loophole said...

Hey Matt-
It's none other than our foreign correspondant in that great foreign land of CA- I am glad to hear from you! Hopefully we'll get a dispatch on the Shelf from you sometime soon- over the holidays perhaps! Hope all is well

RE:Minstrel Shows- yes, the blackface is a particularly uncomfortable thing for film audiences, and it's perhaps one reason why Holiday Inn doesn't get as much network TV airplay as White Christmas or It's a Wonderful Life. Fortunately, it does have a great DVD release and gets airplay on cable- it's one of the relics of the past that exist and we cannot ignore- and historically significant in other areas of the development of popular culture- the least of which is music itself.

Another film with a similar scene from about the same time frame (3 yrs before to be precise) was the Mickey Rooney/ Judy Garland "let's put on a show" flick, Babes in Arms. Although in that film the minstrel show is a much larger piece in the film. The Minstrel show was still a popular enough piece of nostalgia well into the 40s, and remembered in the 50s, but by then, fortunately, the blackface aspect was all but abandoned as evidenced by White Christmas (1954) when the Minstrel show number was included, without the blackface and stereotypical characters. In a way, the topic is sort of the "elephant in the room" when it exists in other films, but only really discussed when Jolson in The Jazz Singer is the topic. An old form of entertainment that has had a cultural impact, both good and bad.


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