48 Hours of Christmas with Cladrite Radio

Regular listeners know we have, as we do every year at this time, been sprinkling in classic Christmas carols and other seasonal songs through the month of December to go along with our regular toe-tapping tunes of the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s. And for the third year in a row, beginning at midnight ET on December 23 and continuing through midnight ET on Christmas Day, we’re featuring nothing but holiday favorites for 48 hours straight, so be sure to tune us in!

We recommend you curl up in front of a fire with someone special and let the holiday spirit wash over you.

A 1940s couple cuddles in front of the radio, with a Christmas tree behind them

Remember to Watch ‘Remember the Night’

Remember the Night posterIf you think you’ve seen every classic Christmas picture (and most of them one too many times, at that), you’ll be pleasantly surprised, we hope, to learn of one that’s flown under the radar of many a classic movie buff.

Remember the Night (1940) was the last movie Preston Sturges wrote before moving into the director’s chair with The Great McGinty (1940). Mitchell Leisen directs here, and though Sturges was said to have been disappointed with Leisen’s efforts, it’s hard to imagine why. It’s a terrific picture, one that should be every bit the holiday favorite that pictures such as It’s a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street, The Shop Around the Corner, and others have become.

Remember the Night features Fred MacMurray as an ambitious assistant D.A. in NYC who finds himself with shoplifter Barbara Stanwyck on his hands because he has asked for a delay in her trial, so as to avoid the jury feeling any holiday-inspired sympathy for her.

It soon comes out that both the D.A. and the dame are Hoosiers, so she accompanies him on a road trip to visit their respective families. Stanwyck’s brief visit with her mother doesn’t go so well, though, so she sticks with MacMurray, whereupon romance and laughs ensue.

Remember the Night is plenty sentimental enough to qualify as a holiday classic, but like It’s a Wonderful Life, it’s got a dark side, too, delivered with gimlet-eyed bite.

It’s a favorite of ours, a picture that deserves much greater fame and acclaim that it has been afforded. Turner Classic Movies has teamed with Universal to offer it on DVD, but if you’d like to try before you buy, it’s airing on TCM tomorrow night (Dec. 22, 2015) at 8:00 p.m. ET. Set your DVR now and give it a look; you won’t regret it.

P.S. TCM follows Remember the Night at 10 p.m. with Christmas in Connecticut (1945), a delightful holiday comedy that also stars Barbara Stanwyck. Together, these two pictures make for an unbeatable holiday double-feature and you should definitely watch them both.

This post was first published in slightly different form on December 6, 2013.

The Twisting Path to a Merry Little Christmas

Our favorite Christmas song has long been Mel Tormé and Bob Wells’ The Christmas Song, made famous by Nat “King” Cole (and really, no one else need tackle the song—every other artist who’s taken a stab at it has fallen short, in our eyes), but coming in a close second is Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, credited to Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane (though Martin has since claimed he wrote it alone, with Blane’s encouragement) and introduced by Judy Garland in Vincent Minnelli‘s Meet Me in St. Louis (1944).

Judy Garland in 'Meet Me in St. Louis'

From its familiar opening lyrics—Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost nipping at your nose, yuletide carols being sung by a choir, and folks dressed up like EskimosThe Christmas Song celebrates an idyllic holiday season, but let’s face it, for many, the holidays carry with them a tinge of melancholy—especially in difficult times like these—and Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas openly acknowledges the bluer side of the yuletide.

In the lyrics as we know them, that melancholy is leavened by a certain “keep-your-chin-up sticktuitiveness,” but it wasn’t always so.

The first set of lyrics Martin delivered, which I found in this very informative 2007 Entertainment Weekly story by Chris Willman, were downright maudlin, intended to fit the mood of Garland’s character, who, at the point in the picture at which she sings the song, is upset that her father is moving the family from her beloved St. Louis to New York City.

The story has it that director Minnelli and Garland urged Martin to come up with something just a bit less gloomy, and he agreed, soon delivering a second set of lyrics, the ones Garland sings to young sister Margaret O’Brien in the movie.

Then, in 1957, Frank Sinatra, who was recording a Christmas album called A Jolly Christmas, asked Martin to kick the the Christmas cheer up yet another notch. He specifically asked the composer to revisit the line in the final verse about “muddling through,” and that’s how we came to have the line about hanging a shining star upon the highest bough in yet a third set of lyrics to the song.

Most folks are familiar with versions two and three—Linda Ronstadt melds the two sets of lyrics in her recording of the song—if not with the original gloomy lyrics.

But did you know Martin wrote a fourth set of lyrics? In 2001, the composer, then 86 years old, wrote an overtly religious set of lyrics to the song, entitled Have Yourself a Blessed Little Christmas.

Listen: Judy Garland—Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

Listen: Frank Sinatra—Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

This post originally appeared in slightly different form on December 10, 2010.

Past Paper: Merry Christmas—Stop—Happy New Year—Stop

We don’t view the Cladrite Era as the good ol’ days in the sense that we’re convinced life was better then than now. Different, sure, and it’s those differences that fascinate us. But better? In some ways, yes, but worse in others. We figure things tend to balance out over time. Every era has its highlights and low points.

But we do mourn the passing of certain practices and traditions, and high on that list is the telegram.

Truth be told, we’d give our eye teeth to be able to observe special occasions by sending telegrams. Sure, sure, email’s great, and Facebook, texting and Tweeting all have their place, but none possess the charm or carry the weight of a telegram. And while Christmas cards are a delight to send and receive, imagine sending Christmas telegrams!

We, alas, have never received a telegram, and we’ve sent only one, in 1984 (it never arrived, and to this day, we have no idea whether we were charged for it). But we perk right up any time we see a telegraph office or a telegram delivery depicted in an old movie. The practice and process of sending telegrams continues to fascinate us.

So we were very pleased to come across this promotional pamphlet for Postal Telegraph, Commercial Cables, and All-America Cables (were they all owned by the same concern? We assume so, but we don’t really know. If there are any telegraph experts reading this, by all means, please clue us in).


Hi-res view

Hi-res view

Hi-res view

We like that telegrams are pitched in the pamphlet’s copy as the “modern way” to send holiday greetings, as the “convenient and timely way of sending good wishes.”

And we love the list of suggested messages on the back. We’d heard that one could order a pre-written telegram by the number, like an item on a menu at a Chinese restaurant, but we’d never seen a list of pre-composed messages and their accompanying numbers. Clearly one would hope to receive a telegram bearing one of the messages numbered from 134-141, since they were all intended to accompanied by wired money. Happy holidays, indeed!

This post was originally published in slightly different form on 12/15/2011.

The B. C. Clark Jingle: A Christmas Tradition Continues, Year 10

It’s that time of year again, folks, when we share the B. C. Clark holiday jingle with you.

B. C. Clark Jingle: A holiday advertisementLongtime Cladrite Radio readers and listeners will recall that the sharing of the B. C. Clark jingle is something of a Christmas tradition here. 2018 marks the 10th year we’ve spread the holiday spirit in this fashion.

Anyone who grew (or is currently growing) up in the Oklahoma City area knows that it’s just not the Christmas season until you’ve heard the B. C. Clark jingle on television or the radio at least once.

Below are two versions of the jingle—the original, which is admittedly of lower audio quality, and a later version—the one currently heard on radio and TV in the Oklahoma City area—which arguably sounds a bit better, but drops one line late in the song (“The Christmas wish of B. C. Clark is to keep on pleasing you…”), because 30-second commercials had become the norm on local television.

B. C. Clark, for the non-Okies among you, is a jewelry retailer that’s been in operation in the Sooner State since 1892, and since 1956 (a bit outside Cladrite Radio’s typical time frame, but we’re stretching a point for the holidays), they’ve been running the aforementioned jingle advertising their annual sale, which takes place not after Christmas, like most stores (or so the jingle’s lyrics insist), but just before.

So for 63 years, denizens of central Oklahoma have been humming along to this catchy ditty, and it’s our pleasure to share this holiday highlight with folks from other parts of the country (and around the world).

And here’s a fun fact: the good folks at B. C. Clark paid just $300 for the jingle back in the day—that’s $2,830.80 in 2018 dollars, a pretty sweet bargain for a jingle that’s been a favorite of Oklahomans everywhere for more than six decades.

But be forewarned—listen more than two or three times, and you’ll be hooked, no matter how far away you live from the nearest B.C. Clark location. And soon, as with the millions of Okies who have come to associate this venerable jingle with the Christmas season, you’ll come to feel that it just isn’t the holidays until you’ve heard the jingle once or twice (or a dozen times).