Sunday 21 December 2014

No Maxwell For Christmas

Just about everyone loves the festivities of the Yuletide season, and just about everyone loves a parade. So leave it to Hollywood to combine the two, and throw in big stars at the same time.

Here’s a United Press story about the 1940 Santa Claus parade in Hollywood. Jack Benny took part but without one of his favourite props. And I imagine if Santy didn’t come home that night, he was probably having a snort or ten with Jack Barrymore.

Typical Movie Parade Despite the Cold Wind.

Hollywood, Nov. 23 (U.P.) — Christmas came to Hollywood last night on the wings of a gale which nearly removed Santa Claus’ whiskers, gave the bathing beauties goose pimples, ruined Dorothy Lamour’s hair-do, and blew pieces of palm fronds into the eyes of 300,000 celebrators.
Heralding the great day a full mouth ahead of time were brass bands and a lady with a calliope, all tooting away at “Jingle Bells.” Bob Hope traveled down Hollywood boulevard in a driverless automobile! Jack Benny rode in a bogus Maxwell towed by a horse, and John Barrymore put his arms around Santa Claus atop a three-story float, which was said to have cost $25,000.
Down Hollywood Boulevard, whose every lamp post had been covered with a tin Christmas tree, marched the welcomers of Christmas in November. Moving with them were traveling searchlights, and in front of each light was a drum majorette and her band.
Edgar Bergen rode in a car wired for sound and made wisecracks via Charlie McCarthy, while Fibber McGee and Mollie lolled on the cushions of one of the most magnificent limousines in the west. Behind this masterpiece of motordom came the employes of the Wistful Vista Finance Company, with shotguns to keep an eye on their property.
The celebrated Leo Carrillo rode his horse. Smiley Burnett, the cow-opera comic, nearly fell off his. Andy Devine also had a horse, and so did Irene Rich. And about the only star in town who wasn’t on hand was Dick Powell, who had a cold.
Bob Burns drove a six-horse team of Percherons; Gracie Allen shivered under a blanket, and Rudy Vallee was the only citizen for miles around in a dinner jacket.
Benny’s Maxwell provided the only crisis of the evening. He promised to ride in one with his trusty Rochester at the wheel, but the nearest thing his agents could find was a one-cylinder Brush, manufactured in 1907. Rochester studied its manipulation during a quick lesson in a parking lot, but Benny’s bosses said, “No sirree, Christmas or no Christmas, we aren’t going to risk damaging a valuable piece of properly like him.” So they hitched a horse to the machine and Benny rode in safety.
Behind him came Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes, complete with meerschaum pipe, which he didn’t light because he said it was too strong. And then marched the angels with the pink noses and an unidentified platoon of gents in red suits and gold hats. And finally came Santa Claus himself, shouting greetings on a loudspeaker against the cold wind from the sea.
He rode upon a two-seater shay, attached by strings of electric lamps to four solid silver reindeer. The whole works was perched upon a mobile mountain of white gypsum. In the rear seat sat Santy and Barrymore in a Homburg hat; in front were Miss Lamour and Vallee. From above came imitation snow, puffed from a gold smokestack.
That ended the parade and started one of the most superb traffic jams ever devised by the hand of man. At an early hour today Mrs. Santa Claus said her husband still hadn’t come home, and anyone who thinks this sounds a little far-fetched has plenty of time to come see for himself; there’ll be more of the same every night until December 25.

Jack Benny had great Christmas shows on both radio and TV. Mel Blanc’s performance was usually the highlight. Here’s his final one from radio, broadcast December 5, 1954. The best part of this show is Bea Benaderet going crazy at the end; she never got to cut loose like this on “Petticoat Junction” or “The Flintstones.” Frank Nelson, Sheldon Leonard, Veola Vonn and Artie Auerbach made appearances as well.

No comments:

Post a Comment