Who would have thought that Jerry Herman’s 1966 score, We Need a Little Christmas, from the Broadway musical Mame would hold such relevance in the Christmas 2012 season?
The flamboyant flapper, Auntie Mame – tasked with rearing her orphaned nephew during the dark days of the Great Depression – wondered if things could get any worse. First performed by Angela Lansbury, Auntie Mame demonstrated a vibrant wit and characteristic style. She determines that the situation required a measure of jollity that could only come from Christmas. Although the calendar revealed that it was a week before Thanksgiving – not Halloween as we see today – she overcame this challenge by moving up the celebration – decking the halls with holly, putting up the tree in the parlor, hanging the stockings and asking Santa to come early.
The lyrics speak of a spirit of hope, though certainly based on the trappings of the season rather that which could provide a true solution. Nevertheless, if you think about it in a symbolic sense, you can gain a measure of substance beyond that which makes you merely feel good.
Auntie Mame demonstrated her positive perspective that the present circumstances were limited and that things would get better. Although her focus was on a symbol rather than the Person from whom all blessings come, she dispelled the negativity of the tragic circumstances that surrounded her by changing her perspective.
I’m not sure what your situation is today, but if the 6 o’clock news holds any validity, heartache and tragedy abound. The economy is not better. Many people are without meaningful work. Doctor’s offices are crammed. It could get you down if you did not look to the babe in the manger – the true “Little Christmas.”
Click here to listen to a more mature Angela Lansbury perform this song.
If you grew up during the mid 1950’s – we’re talking baby boomers again – you probably enjoyed watching Our Gang aka The Little Rascals. Although originally created for the silent pictures, they evolved into the talkies, and MGM later syndicated the 220 segments for television. The popularity of Spanky, Alfalfa, Buckwheat, Darla and the rest of the gang continued through another generation. We made telephones from string and tin cans and became part of the gang.
Interestingly, producer Hal Roach created quite a stir in several contexts with these films. When he chose his cast of characters, he included boys and girls, blacks and whites and treated them all as equals many years before diversity became the accepted mode. He encouraged his cast to improvise and act like real children unlike child actors today. Some of this occurred as a result of the cast being too young to read the scripts. The director’s practice was to explain the scene and encourage improvisation. It worked.
What I remember best was the way they created Rube Goldberg-type inventions from scrounged resources either from things discarded or those left unattended. They embodied the spirit of the depression – use what you have to create a new solution. They reinvented the wheel in many of their episodes. Who knows? Perhaps their inventions provided the inspiration for some of the technology we currently enjoy.
The plots were simple – after all they only had 20 minutes – and even their squabbles encompassed the slapstick comedy tradition. Some things may have been broken, but they were never destroyed. As popular as the movies and TV shows were then, today’s producers could not evoke the same feelings with remakes. Something – perhaps the spontaneity or genuine approach to life the original cast brought to their characters – was missing from the newer versions. Maybe it’s time to bring the originals to life again but then, today’s kids might not even find them interesting.