News of the Week: December, the Lemon Drop Kid, and a Gift for the Person Who Has Everything

In the news for the week ending December 4, 2020, are thin men, godfathers, heartbreaking trees, Dr Pepper, cookies, and much more.

Illustration of a city during a winter night
Catrin1309 / Shutterstock

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It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

“May and October the best-smelling months? I’ll make a case for December: evergreen, frost, wood smoke, cinnamon.” —Author Lisa Kleypas

I know, I know, in a year like 2020, “the most wonderful time of the year” isn’t just an opinion or a song title, it’s a provocative statement. How can it possibly be true with everything that’s happening right now?

I guess my theory is, with everything that’s going on, we have to make it true.

I’ve noticed there are some years when the Christmas spirit gets inside our hearts and heads automatically. Maybe it’s the chilly weather, maybe it’s the decorations, maybe it’s the endless holiday commercials that tell us that Macy’s is having a “one-day Christmas sale” (that for some reason always last for two days), but it just seems to happen to us naturally.

Other years I’ve noticed we have to force it. Maybe we’re not in the mood, maybe we’re not doing well financially, maybe the whole year has been a slog and Christmas just seems like added pressure. Those are the years we have to actually put ourselves in the Christmas spirit, for ourselves and our loved ones.

This may be one of those years.

This is the year you have to plan to bake more than you ever have, the year you send out Christmas cards or a Christmas newsletter like you used to, the year you actually talk to people on the phone. The year that Christmas music isn’t just in the background but is something that helps you cope.

If you squint, it’ll nearly be like a picture print by Currier & Ives.

Look at it this way: 2020 has been a slog, but at least it’s been a slog for all of us!

Three Christmas Movies You May Not Know About

Back in 2016 I mentioned three holiday movies you should watch, in addition to the great classics we all know and watch every year. Here are three more.

Cover Up (1949). You may not think that a film noir about an insurance investigator (Dennis O’Keefe) trying to figure out how a man died could get you in the Christmas spirit, but this film actually does it. It manages to be a solid mystery (with a unique twist I won’t spoil here) and a heartwarming, small-town holiday film at the same time. (Airs December 20 at 4 a.m. on TCM and then again on December 22 at 7:15 p.m. as part of their Christmas movie marathon.)

The Thin Man (1934). The first entry in the popular William Powell/Myrna Loy mystery series is set in New York City during Christmas, as the couple try to solve a murder and the disappearance of a friend. (Airs December 5 at 10 p.m. on TCM and then the network will have a marathon of all of the Thin Man movies on New Year’s Eve.)

The Lemon Drop Kid (1951). Bob Hope plays a gambler who escapes from Florida to New York City during Christmas when he owes money to a gangster. This was the first time “Silver Bells” was sung in the movies. It was written specifically for the film. Technically, the very first person to sing it was I Love Lucy’s William Frawley, playing a sidewalk Santa who changes the lyrics to the song. Hope and costar Marilyn Maxwell take over and sing the official real version. (I can’t seem to find it on this year’s holiday schedules but you can get it on iTunes, Amazon, and YouTube.)

Speaking of Movies …

The last installment of Martin Scorsese’s Godfather films, Part III, has always been seen as the worst film in the trilogy. Now the director aims to change that by releasing a re-edit of the 1990 movie titled The Godfather, Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone.

This is the Godfather movie I haven’t seen, so it sounds like a good time to change that. It will have a limited theatrical release starting today and then be available on digital platforms and on Blu-ray on December 8.

Why Does Nova Scotia Send a Tree to Boston Every Year?

Every year, Nova Scotia sends a Christmas tree to Boston, Massachusetts, which the city places in Boston Common. Why did they first do this in 1918 and then revive the practice in 1971, sending one — either a balsam fir, white spruce, or red spruce — every single year since? It’s a fascinating, sad story (click on the tweet below to read the whole thread).

It’s Just What I’ve Always Wanted!

Having trouble finding just the right thing for someone on your list? Get them this. It’s the bubble you take with you!

There are several pictures that show all of the great things you can do with it, but apparently going to a public restroom isn’t shown because that looks impossible.

RIP David Prowse, Diego Maradona, Ben Bova, Abby Dalton, Peg Murray, and Geoffrey Palmer

David Prowse was best known for being the man inside the Darth Vader suit in the first three Star Wars movies (James Earl Jones did the voice). He was also in TV shows like The Beverly Hillbillies, Space: 1999, The Saint, and Doctor Who. He also played Frankenstein’s Monster in three movies: Casino Royale (the 1967 version), The Horror of Frankenstein, and Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell. He died Saturday at the age of 85.

Diego Maradona was one of the greatest soccer players of all time. He helped Argentina beat West Germany in the final match of the 1986 World Cup. He died last week at the age of 60.

Ben Bova was an acclaimed science fiction author and editor. He wrote more than 124 books, dozens of short stories, edited Analog and Omni magazines and several anthologies, and consulted on the TV series The Starlost. He was also a former president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. He died on Sunday at the age of 88.

Abby Dalton was a regular cast member on shows like The Joey Bishop Show, Hennessey, and Falcon Crest. She was also one of the original stars of Hollywood Squares and a mainstay on many other game shows. She died last month at the age of 88.

Peg Murray won a 1967 Best Supporting or Featured Actress Tony Award for Cabaret. She also had a memorable role for many years as Olga on All My Children and appeared in many other TV shows. She died Sunday at the age of 96.

Geoffrey Palmer played Judi Dench’s husband on the classic series As Time Goes By and appeared with her in the James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies. He also appeared on Doctor Who, The Avengers, Fawlty Towers, and many other British shows. He died last month at the age of 93.

This Week in History

Dr Pepper Debuts (December 1, 1885)

The soft drink was created by Charles Alderton, a pharmacist at Morrison’s Old Corner Drug Store in Waco. It originally had a period after the “Dr” but that was dropped in the 1950s (and now that I notice there isn’t a period, it’s going to drive me crazy).

You can even drink it hot in the winter.

The Observer First Published (December 4, 1791)

The British newspaper is the oldest Sunday paper in the world.

This Week in Saturday Evening Post History: Bob Hope (December 1, 1978)

Post cover with Bob Hope
Bob Hope
December 01, 1978

This issue not only has a profile with the Lemon Drop Kid (he used to walk his dog at 1 a.m.), it also reprints the “Yes Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus” letter and includes Joan Didion’s classic “The Big Rock Candy Figgy Pudding Pitfall.”

National Cookie Day

Today, December 4, is National Cookie Day. I know this is something I highlight almost every single year, but it’s a food day you can’t ignore, especially during the holiday season.

Everyone who makes cookies has a specific recipe that they love and will never waver from, so I thought I’d highlight some cookies you might not think of making yourself. Like these tree-shaped Spritz Cookies for your holiday table. And sticking with the Christmas theme, try these Melted Snowman Sugar Cookies from Betty Crocker, these White Chocolate Peppermint Christmas Wreath Cookies from FoodieCrush, or these Gingerbread Sandwich Cookies from Good Housekeeping.

And of course it would be ridiculous if we forgot these Lemon Drop Cookies from Taste of Home.

Next Week’s Holidays and Events

Repeal Day (December 5)

Raise a glass (or three) and celebrate the end of Prohibition.

Christmas Card Day (December 9)

This is my annual “Don’t just send a text or like a Facebook post, send a real card!” plea. It means more, they’ll appreciate it, and you can even help save the post office.

Featured image: Catrin1309 / Shutterstock

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  1. Yikes!!! It wasn’t Martin Scorsese who made The Godfather movies, it was Francis Ford Coppola, unless Scorsese masterminded a hit on Coppola’s credits.

  2. This year I’m just turned off and tuned out to Christmas mentally and psychologically. The best “gift” is the gift of health and staying well. Hopefully there will be some divine intervention with the government soon, particularly on January 5th in Georgia. If things go the way many of us want them to, THAT day will feel like Christmas for millions of Americans. I’ve been really good (and frugal) this year, so I’ve asked Santa for a red ’68 Camaro SS convertible. Just a 1:18 diecast, Bob. It’s the next best thing to the real thing!

    The protective bubble pod from Hammacher Schlemmer IS a great idea. It should sell very well. I wonder why Dr Pepper’s period stopped in the ’50s. Well, it’s not likely to ever come back. What a great vintage Post cover of Bob Hope. I’m sure he was thrilled at the time!

    I promise to have my Christmas cards out by the 9th. I had some great ideas for the envelopes ready, but that requires a spacious work desk I don’t have access to per the lockdown. It’s a bummer, but I’ll do them out next year. It’s still what’s inside that counts be it cards, people or our pets.


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