Sunday, December 18, 2011

Here's A Jimmy Stewart Holiday Movie (But not that one)

Why not finish writing out your Christmas cards (or start helping Santa wrap those presents and play this wonderful Lubitsch film - The Shop Around the Corner in the background -

To make sure his film was stripped of the glamor usually associated with him, Lubitsch went to such lengths as ordering that a dress Margaret Sullavan had purchased off the rack for $1.98 be left in the sun to bleach and altered to fit poorly.

December 18, 1957 -
David Lean's epic glimpse into the insanity of war, The Bridge on the River Kwai, premiered in the US on this date.

Howard Hawks was asked to direct, but declined. After the box-office failure of Land of the Pharaohs, he didn't want a second one in a row, and he thought the critics would love this movie but the public would stay away. One particular concern was the all-male lead roles.

December 18, 1966 -
Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas aired for the first time on CBS on this date.

Boris Karloff's voice changes when he speaks for the Grinch. Originally he spoke in his "Narrator" voice throughout. After recording was complete, the highs in his voice were mechanically removed for the Grinch, giving him the gravelly voice heard in the finished version.

Today in History:
December 18, 1626 -
Christina (Kristina), Queen of Sweden , later known as Maria Christina Alexandra, Minerva of the North, Protectress of the Jews at Rome and sometimes Count Dohna, was born on this date. Like most royalty and some presidents, Christina did not have to carry money, a passport or consistently spell her name the same way.

Kristina father, King Gustav II Adolf, wanted a boy and decreed she be given the best education possible. Christina's mother, Maria Eleonora of Brandenburg, an early proponent of Jewish guilt as a tool for childhood rearing, repeatedly told Kristina about the 'horrors' of sex and childbirth. These factors may have prejudiced Kristina against the prospect of having to produce an heir to the throne and convinced her to adopt the dress and manner of a man.

True story: in the winter of 1650 the magnificent Queen Kristina of Sweden summoned Rene Descartes to Stockholm to tutor her in philosophy. With his trademark optimism ("I think warm, therefore I am not cold"), he accepted the invitation and hurried up from Paris. Not long after his arrival, he died of pneumonia. But I digress ...

Queen Kristina, or the Girl King as she liked to be known, (as opposed to King Ludwig of Bavaria the Boy Queen, but that's another story) chose the rather shockingly ungodly motto (probably sarcastically) that "Wisdom is the Prop of the Realm." She abdicated in 1654 converted to Catholicism and dashed around Europe on a white horse, wearing men's clothing and studying philosophy and sleeping with men and women. She is one of the only few women buried within St. Peter's Basilica.

In the 1930's, she was portrayed by Greta Garbo in the film Queen Christina. Garbo basically modeled her later life on this character except for the converting thing.

December 18, 1892 -
Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker Suite publicly premiered in Saint Petersburg, Russia, at the Maryinsky Theater on this date.

The first performance of The Nutcracker was not deemed a success. The reaction to the dancers themselves was ambivalent. Reception was better for Tchaikovsky's score.

New Jersey was the third state admitted to the Union, on this date in 1787. It derives its name from the isle of Jersey, just off England's shore (and also near Britain).

The official state bird of New Jersey is the Eastern Goldfinch.

The state bug is the honey bee (apis mellifera).

The state tree is the red oak (Quercus borealis maxima). The state flower is the common meadow violet (Viola sororia). The state shell is the knobbed whelk, also known as the conch shell (Busycon carica gmelin). The state fish is the brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis), the state animal is the horse (Equus caballus),

and the state dinosaur is the Hadrosaurus (Hadrosaurus foulkii).

The eggplant is not the official vegetable of New Jersey because it's not a vegetable. It's a fruit

—a berry, actually—and New Jersey claims to produce two-thirds of all the eggplant in the world. (It's a bogus claim, and one that leaves me wondering not so much about the world eggplant situation, but the mindset of whoever thought it would enhance New Jersey's reputation if people thought it was the world's leading producer of eggplant. I mean, eggplant?)

There is no official berry of New Jersey, but if there were it would almost certainly be the eggplant, which would cause great confusion among persons accustomed to putting berries in their cereal.

New Jersey has a population of 8.48 million on 7,417 square miles of land. It's the fifth smallest state in the country. With 1,134 people per square mile, it's the densest state in the nation. The relative density of New Jersey should come as no surprise to anyone who's ever driven behind a car with Jersey plates.

And I didn't have to mention anything about Gov. Christie.

Quick pop quiz -
On December 18, 1940, Adolf Hitler issued his plans for…
a. The Volkswagen
b. An extremely white Christmas
c. The bombing of Britain
d. The invasion of Russia
e. The conquest of Cyprus
f. Recovery of the lost Ark of the Covenant

December 18, 1966 -
The Pink Panther cartoon series premiered with the episode titled The Pink Phink on this date

The Pink Panther character, created for the animated opening credits of The Pink Panther movie, was so popular that this short was produced as a starring vehicle for the character. This short marks the only time a studio has won an Oscar with its first cartoon release.

2 more shopping days until Hanukkah (get to the supermarket before they run out of potatoes,) 7 more shopping days until Christmas. (4 more shopping days until Festivus). If you haven't started shopping yet - think cash (the gift that shows you care.)

And so it goes

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