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My Classic Christmas Entertainment Alphabet

My Christmas tree is finally up! Which for me means one thing . .  I’m finally ready to start watching Christmas movies and television shows, one of my favorite things to do during the Christmas season!

To kick things off, I thought I’d do a quick and fun post to share just a few of my favorite things from the world of classic Christmas entertainment. Much like I did with my cinematic alphabet a few years ago, I chose one item for each letter of the alphabet, all of which in some way represent my favorite movies, television shows, and songs.

Following are just a few of my favorite things associated with classic Christmas entertainment:

A

Alfred Kralik – Jimmy Stewart’s character in The Shop Around the Corner (1940)

 

B

The Bishop’s Wife (1947) starring Cary Grant, Loretta Young and David Niven (I love all three of them!)

 

CChristmas in Connecticut (1945) and A Christmas Carol (1938) – I’m so excited that I get to see them on the big screen this Sunday! Check out the details here and see if they will be playing in your area.

 

D

Desk Set (1957) starring Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy – I wish my tree at home could look like this, but I think my cat would try to eat the tinsel. :-)

 

E

Elf (2003) – Not from the classic era, but I just love this movie, and it does contain a rendition of the classic song “Baby It’s Cold Outside” originally written in 1944.

 

F Fonzie – the main focus of one of my favorite Christmas television episodes, “Guess Who’s Coming to Christmas” from Season 2 of the show Happy Days

 

G George C. Scott’s performance in the 1984 version of A Christmas Carol, my absolute favorite version of that movie. I think Scott’s performance is brilliant and the movie is perfection!

 

HHappy Holidays with Bing and Frank – First airing in 1957, it is a must see episode from the tv series The Frank Sinatra Show, which you can read more about at Christmas TV History.

 

I

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) – I know, a somewhat unoriginal choice, but as someone who adores Jimmy Stewart I just can’t leave this classic off my list.

 

J

“Jingle Bells” as sung by Bing Crosby and The Andrews Sisters. They recorded the song together in 1943 and it sold over a million copies.

 

K

Kris Kringle – the character played by the delightful Edmund Gwenn in the equally delightful movie, Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

 

L

Linus sharing the true meaning of Christmas in A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965) – as a person of strong faith, I just love the sweet way he recites the story of the birth of Jesus.

 

M

“Mistletoe and Holly” – a song written and recorded in 1957 by one of my favorite entertainers of all time, Frank Sinatra

 

N

Natalie Wood’s wonderful performance in Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

 

O

“O Come All Ye Faithful”, “O Little Town of Bethlehem”, “O Holy Night” – three of my most favorite Christmas carols all just happen to start with the same letter.

 

PPolly Parrish – Ginger Rogers’ character in Bachelor Mother (1939) and Debbie Reynolds’ character in that movie’s remake Bundle of Joy (1956)

 

Q

I tried and tried and tried, but could not think of anything Christmas related that starts with or even contains the letter Q. If you know of anything, let me know! :-)

 

R

“Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” as sung by Gene Autry – my mom loved Gene Autry and his version of the song is one I’ve loved since I was a little girl.

 

S

“Silver Bells” when it was introduced in the movie The Lemon Drop Kid (1951) and sung by Bob Hope and Marilyn Maxwell

 

T

The Thin Man (1934) – not necessarily known as a Christmas movie, but it does contain some Christmas scenes and I couldn’t pass up the chance to include this awesome movie in my list.

 

U

“Up on the Housetop” as sung by Eddy Arnold – it’s not necessarily a favorite anymore as an adult, but it’s one of those songs that brings back good memories from childhood.

 

V

Virginia Dale who played Lila Dixon in one of my all time favorite classic holiday movies, Holiday Inn (1942) which I had the pleasure of seeing on the big screen last year.

 

W

White Christmas, both the 1954 movie starring Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye and the song made famous by Bing Crosby, which was featured in the movie Holiday Inn (1942)

 

X

Francis X. O’Leary – The defense attorney who defended Barbara Stanwyck’s character in the movie Remember the Night (1940) starring Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray

 

Y

You’ve Got Mail (1998) – a very good adaptation of one of my favorite classic Christmas movies, The Shop Around the Corner (1940)

 

Z

S.Z. Sakall who played the character of Felix in Christmas in Connecticut (1945)

 

What are some of your favorites? Choose as many letters as you would like and let me know in the comments below!

Wishing you all a happy holiday season! :-)

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Edgewater Beach Hotel Chicago: A Magnet for Hollywood Celebrities

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I have a fascination with hotels that started at a very young age. Growing up, we didn’t have the money to take expensive trips to places like Disneyland, but my sisters and I were perfectly happy going on smaller trips to places nearby. Often times we would just stay at a hotel to enjoy all its amenities, which for us kids meant mostly the swimming pool!

I grew to love staying in hotels during our trips, and my favorite hotel which we stayed at several times was the Leilani Hotel in Brookfield, Wisconsin.

Sadly it is no longer there and it’s hard to find information about it, but I did find an article that shows an illustrated picture of the hotel’s layout, which was quite unique. The article mentions that Frank Sinatra may have even entertained there at one time, which would have been cool to see.

Anyway, to this day I love staying in hotels, looking at pictures of hotels, and reading about hotels old and new. So when I read an article about the former Edgewater Beach Hotel in Chicago and found out it had strong ties to the classic film community, I was intrigued!

I immediately headed to eBay to see if I could find a postcard of the hotel, which I love to do on occasion when the inspiration strikes. I purchased the following postcard, which shows an actual picture of the hotel, but there were many illustrated postcards that I thought were really cool and would like to buy someday.

Edgewater Beach Hotel Chicago

In researching the history of the hotel, I discovered that it was once an extremely popular destination for classic movie stars, which I never would have guessed about a hotel in Chicago, far from the bright lights of Hollywood. The more I read about it, the more I wish I were alive when it was in its heydey, just like I do when I hear about the Copa Room in the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas. Well, it did still exist for a few decades after I was born, but the exciting days of the Rat Pack performing there were over.

Here are few facts about the history of The Edgewater Beach Hotel in Chicago:

  • Built in 1916 and designed by famed architects Benjamin H. Marshall and Charles E. Fox, the hotel was built in the form of a Maltese Cross so that as many rooms as possible would have a view of Lake Michigan.
  • The hotel boasted a 1,200 foot private beach where guests could sunbathe during the day and dance at night. It also had its own barbershop, beauty parlor, drugstore, liquor store, photographer’s studio, and gift shop along with many other amenities. Continue reading »
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Concert

Earlier this year ISaxophone3 mentioned that I play the saxophone in a community band and had a great time at our spring concert playing the tune “But Not for Me,” which was composed by George Gershwin. Yesterday during our fall concert, we played two more pieces by Gershwin so I thought why not do what I did then and discover what, if any ties they had to classic movies.

I hope you won’t mind though if I share a little story with you first. As I was getting ready for the concert, I was feeling way more nervous than usual (I could barely eat my lunch!) and was not feeling at all confident in my playing abilities.

But a funny thing happened as soon as we walked onto the stage, sat down, and started playing our first piece. All my nervousness seemed to vanish in an instant, and I realized that I love to perform on stage in front of an audience!

Now that might not sound like a big deal, especially to those of you who have any kind of stage experience, but as a once extremely shy introvert who has struggled my whole life with social awkwardness, unhealthy perfectionism, and a fear of doing pretty much anything in front of large groups, I never would have expected to find myself in that situation, especially since I don’t exactly possess a ton of musical talent. I’m not quite sure why I never felt that way at previous concerts, but it was quite an exhilarating revelation and now I can’t wait for our next one!

As for the two Gershwin pieces we played, the first was actually a medley of the songs “Someone to Watch Over Me” and “Bidin’ My Time” and the other one was “Strike Up the Band.” They weren’t quite as fun to play as “But Not for Me” but it is always satisfying to play tunes that I am familiar with, so I really enjoyed performing them. Continue reading »

Book Review – Behind the Screen Door: Tales from the Hollywood Hills

I was recently offered the chance to take a peak “Behind the Screen Door” and read about the life of Richard Gregson, a Hollywood agent and producer and former husband of Natalie Wood. Even though I had admittedly never heard of him before, I accepted the offer because the book sounded like it would provide an interesting glimpse into life in 1960’s Hollywood.

The 1960’s are not necessarily my favorite decade for movies, but I do enjoy hearing about the social scene from that time period, like for instance, stories about Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack. Just looking at this cool picture of the group standing in front of The Sands Hotel in Las Vegas makes me wish I could take a trip back in time and be a part of that scene.

As Richard Gregson discussed some of his encounters with Frank Sinatra and his relationship with Natalie Wood, the book did at times bring me back to where I could imagine myself being there with him as he socialized with some of Hollywood’s elite. However, that is not the main thing I took away from reading this book. Besides learning a lot about the ins and outs of working as one of Hollywood’s top agents, I also took away a couple of lessons that I think anyone can learn from and apply to their life. Continue reading »

A Visit to the Ava Gardner Museum: One More for My Wish List

Was anyone else a big fan of Rachael Ray’s tv show “$40 a Day?” If you’re not familiar with it, it was a show on the Food Network where for each episode Rachael would spend 24 hours in a certain city with only $40 per day to spend on meals and snacks. The cameras would follow her around each city, and she would give tips on what local attractions to see, how to find bargains, and how to eat on a budget. That brief description doesn’t really do the show justice, but I’ll just say that I absolutely loved watching it, and it inspired me to want to travel more and take short trips to various cities throughout the United States.

My Classic Movie Trip Wish List

I’ve only taken one such trip so far – a  three day visit to Boston a few years ago, but I plan on going on many more in the years to come.  One thing I dream about doing on those trips is visiting as many classic movie related attractions and events as possible. It may be a while before I can fully realize that dream, but in the meantime I’m assembling a wish list that seems to be growing bigger every week. Some examples of the places I would like to visit and the events I would like to attend include the Jimmy Stewart Museum in Pennsylvania, the Warner Brothers Museum in California, the Clark Gable Museum and Bed & Breakfast in Cadiz, Ohio, and the annual Noir City Film Festival in San Francisco. Continue reading »

Top 10 Favorite Oscar Winning Songs from the Golden Age

The 83rd annual Academy Awards ceremony is just around the corner, and although I haven’t paid much attention to the Oscars for probably the last decade or so, I recently started looking into their early history, especially the Best Original Song category.

The Academy Award for Best Original Song, which was first given out in the seventh year of the Academy’s history, is given to the songwriter and composer of the winning song. The original performers are only included if they also had a hand in writing the music or the lyrics. The song must be written specifically for the movie in which it is featured, a rule that was established after the 1941 awards.

My Top 10 Favorite Best Original Song Winners

I thought it would be fun to listen to each of the winners from 1934-1960 and compile a list of my top 10 favorite Oscar winning songs from the Golden Age of Hollywood. Following are the first five on that list with the remaining five to come on Oscar Sunday:

10. The Continental (1934) – Featured in the movie The Gay Divorcee, music by Con Conrad, lyrics by Herb Magidson. Originally performed in the movie by Ginger Rogers, this was the first song to win the Academy Award for Best Original Song.

This is a charming song that Ginger Rogers sings to Fred Astaire as part of a lengthy but wonderful dance number. It won’t be the last of this pairing you’ll find on my list. Continue reading »