Tuesday, December 18, 2018

It's a "fierce rock 'n' roll dance sequence," Charlie Brown

Clipping from The Gaffney Ledger (Gaffney, South Carolina) on November 26, 1965.
(Why does it look like Charlie Brown is holding a hand grenade?)

It was 53 years ago this month that "A Charlie Brown Christmas" made its television debut. Just for fun, I did some searching through Newspapers.com and sampled some of the coverage before and after that first broadcast. Here's the snapshot, for your holiday amusement...

Before the broadcast

  • "Charlie, Lucy, Linus, Snoopy and all the rest of the Charlie Brown gang now are being put onto film for an outing called 'A Charlie Brown Christmas.' ... The only advance word on the story of 'A Charlie Brown Christmas' is that it will tell how Charlie and friends learn there's much more to Christmas than a git list, as opposed to a give list. They get involved with a Christmas play, and that helps further their understanding." (Will Jones, (Minneapolis) Star Tribune, November 7, 1965)
  • "Here are some more details on that Dec. 9 'A Charlie Brown Christmas' session on CBS-TV, from a guy who has seen about 12 minutes of the show in rough-cut form: 'It will be the first half-hour special in TV history, totally animated except for a brief moment at the end of the show when Charlie Schulz himself appears on camera. ... [There is] a Christmas play directed by Charlie Brown in which Lucy is to be the Christmas queen; a fierce rock 'n' roll dance sequence; [and] a great deal of search on Charlie's part for an appropriate Christmas tree. ... It is, in effect, an animated documentary.'" (Will Jones, (Minneapolis) Star Tribune, November 14, 1965)
  • "If the Christmas special is successful, there will be more television efforts starring Charlie Brown, the little character who is destined to grow up and live on Coffee Lane or some similarly named street. But the transition from newsprint to television will not be an easy one. True, Charlie Brown and friends have appeared on television before, acting and talking in some very commercial commercials for a motor car company. Or is it automobile? ... In an entertainment, rather than a commercial world, Charlie Brown will have a chance to say 'aaugh.' But how would an entertaining Charlie Brown say 'aaugh?' 'GOOD GRIEF' is relatively easy, but 'aaugh' is something else again." (Bernie McGovern, The Tampa Tribune, November 19, 1965)

The day after the broadcast

  • "Worried Charlie Brown, aggressive Lucy, musical Schroeder, insecure Linus — all the inhabitants of the delightful, satiric comic strip by cartoonist Charles Schulz were participants in a Christmas special on CBS last night. And by some reverse magic, the moment the little penline characters were animated, moved off the printed page and acquired voices, they lost most of the special, piquant charm. Thus 'A Charlie Brown Christmas' became an explicit demonstration of the sad truth that some good things are better left alone — particularly in cases when about half their charm is in the eye and imagination of the beholder. ... Anyway, Charlie Brown and his friends fell on their little round faces as television stars last night, and maybe it is a pity. Maybe it's just for the best — we have enough TV stars now." (Cynthia Lowry, Associated Press, in The Miami News, December 10, 1965. Headline pictured above.)
  • "The comic strip known as 'Peanuts' stake [sic] out a claim to a major television future Thursday night on CBS-TV with a half-hour animated special about the commercialization of Christmas. ... In brief, Thursday night's offering tried, with humor and gentle world-weariness, to recall the real meaning of Christmas. ... Needless to say, Charlie Brown finally gets his message across. But, as might be expected, that crazy-silly-wonderful dog Snoopy was the scene-stealer every time he appeared — playing the guitar, mocking Lucy or dancing like a swinger. His doghouse, by the way, was wildly decorated with all those ugly lights and blinking designs that human beings also have been known to use on their homes at Christmas time. ... Finally, a few words should be said about jazz pianist Vince Guaraldi's lovely, gentle, mood-setting score, which — uniquely — helped give the half-hour an unexpected and attractive contemporary tone, mature in an almost eerie yet enticing way, weaving a spell half-way between that of a Chicago pub and an asylum playground." (Rick Du Brow, UPI, in the Leader-Times of Kittanning, Pennsylvania, December 10, 1965)
  • "There wasn't much rhyme or reason to the basic story of 'Charley Brown's Christmas' Thursday night, but I imagine children of all ages got a kick out of it. ... You see, Charlie is concerned because Christmas is too commercial (but you'll notice his program was sponsored) but finally finds involvement by becoming the director of a neighborhood pageant. ... And that's about it. The dialogue was clear and cute, but I notice that the voices have changed since they were selling Fords not so long ago." (Percy Shain, The Boston Globe, December 10, 1965)
  • "Most Christmas programs for children have all the rich, imaginative appeal of the message on a box top. Whether it's puppets, animated cartoons or one of those musical specials jazzing up a Grimm fairy tale we must perforce endure the angels with the four inch beaded lashes and the reindeer with the rolling glass eyes and avalances of sequinned snow. But there was none of that rubbish in 'A Charlie Brown Christmas.' As shown last night on CBS, this animated half hour in color featured all the regulars from the Charles Schulz cartoon strip. Schulz wrote the scenario, too, and the voices were those of real children. Sweet, simple, untutored voices, not character actresses of 50 giggling in wee, excited tones. If you missed Charlie Brown's first date on TV I am sorry for you. Write to CBS and say that all you want to Christmas is to see that Charlie Brown show — preferably next week. A repeat next Christmas is very likely, of course." (Harriet Van Horne, Scripps-Howard, in The Pittsburgh Press, December 10, 1965)

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Now let's skip ahead 53 years and check out the holiday headlines of 2018...

Or maybe let's don't.

1 comment:

  1. I've never seen the live piece with Charles Schulz the one reviewer mentioned. I'd like to see that.