All Things Writing

My favorite holiday stories and why I love them!

December 05, 2020 Bryan the Writer Season 1 Episode 35
All Things Writing
My favorite holiday stories and why I love them!
Chapters
All Things Writing
My favorite holiday stories and why I love them!
Dec 05, 2020 Season 1 Episode 35
Bryan the Writer

What would be the holidays without our favorite holiday movies? These movies hold a special place in my heart, and they still pretty much make up a cornerstone of my Christmas traditions, and some of the traditions that I’ve imparted to my children.

It’s a Wonderful Life came on television seemingly on every station at least once a day. At any given moment, you could easily find a station that was running that movie. To me it still represents one of the great holiday movies of all time.

This idea that your life, no matter how small you think it is, represents an integral part interlocked with all the lives around you is a tale as old as time. And it’s a central theme that I’ve used in writing before. No matter how insignificant you think you are, you leave a fingerprint on everyone you talk to, email, or associate with in any way. You are a piece of them, and they are a piece of you. Either of those ingredients suddenly go missing from the equation, the result isn’t right.

Miracle on 34th Street 

Most people don’t know this, but the version with Natalie Wood and Maureen O’Hara was not the original version. But it is perhaps the most famous. 

For me one of the things that stands out is the central character of Santa Claus, played by Edmund Gwenn, and this willing suspension of reality that Santa Claus truly was there with them. He is very much what I believe Santa Claus would be like in the real world. I especially like the fact that when he runs into his troubles at the department store, after striking Mr. Sawyer on the head, he displays a certain type of despair over the situation. He feels like the world doesn’t need him anymore, or perhaps it’s more likely that the world has just simply discarded him. A feeling I think we’re all too familiar with sometimes in our lives today. He needed to be reminded, just like we have to sometimes, that we are valuable and loved.

A Christmas Carol

I have seen about 100 different versions of the story. Anywhere from stage productions, some of them better than others, to television adaptations to include Bill Murray’s, Scrooged. The two stage performances that stand out for me are the ones which involve my family.

But as a child the version which I saw on TV most often, and what I would come to understand as one of the more true to the original work when seen on television is A Christmas Carol starring George C. Scott. He is, at least for me, the quintessential Scrooge. The portrayal is cold, mean, and unforgiving. A man whose heart is so hardened and so chilling that the only thing that could change him is the visit of four specters.

I think the most poignant part of A Christmas Carol is this idea that the spirit of Christmas is something that shouldn’t exist in us just one day a year. The idea of charity, humanity, love, and an open heart are ideas we should have all year long. But the movie also reminds us that being able to open our hearts in such a way is a hard thing to do.

A Christmas Story 

Yes, you’ll shoot your eye out. 

Any of you have seen videos of my renovated office know that behind me, on the wall, is an official Daisy red Ryder BB gun, 80th anniversary edition. And yes, it’s one of my favorite presents ever.

The movie is set in Hammond Indiana, which is about 20 minutes away from where I grew up. While the year in which the movie takes place is certainly earlier than when I was growing up, there’s a lot of symbology and references that are very specific to those of us that grew up in that Chicago metro area.

Thanks for spending time with some of my favorite memories. 

In case I haven’t said it, happy holidays to you and yours. 

-Bryan the writer

Support the show (http://paypal.me/BryanNowak)

Show Notes Transcript

What would be the holidays without our favorite holiday movies? These movies hold a special place in my heart, and they still pretty much make up a cornerstone of my Christmas traditions, and some of the traditions that I’ve imparted to my children.

It’s a Wonderful Life came on television seemingly on every station at least once a day. At any given moment, you could easily find a station that was running that movie. To me it still represents one of the great holiday movies of all time.

This idea that your life, no matter how small you think it is, represents an integral part interlocked with all the lives around you is a tale as old as time. And it’s a central theme that I’ve used in writing before. No matter how insignificant you think you are, you leave a fingerprint on everyone you talk to, email, or associate with in any way. You are a piece of them, and they are a piece of you. Either of those ingredients suddenly go missing from the equation, the result isn’t right.

Miracle on 34th Street 

Most people don’t know this, but the version with Natalie Wood and Maureen O’Hara was not the original version. But it is perhaps the most famous. 

For me one of the things that stands out is the central character of Santa Claus, played by Edmund Gwenn, and this willing suspension of reality that Santa Claus truly was there with them. He is very much what I believe Santa Claus would be like in the real world. I especially like the fact that when he runs into his troubles at the department store, after striking Mr. Sawyer on the head, he displays a certain type of despair over the situation. He feels like the world doesn’t need him anymore, or perhaps it’s more likely that the world has just simply discarded him. A feeling I think we’re all too familiar with sometimes in our lives today. He needed to be reminded, just like we have to sometimes, that we are valuable and loved.

A Christmas Carol

I have seen about 100 different versions of the story. Anywhere from stage productions, some of them better than others, to television adaptations to include Bill Murray’s, Scrooged. The two stage performances that stand out for me are the ones which involve my family.

But as a child the version which I saw on TV most often, and what I would come to understand as one of the more true to the original work when seen on television is A Christmas Carol starring George C. Scott. He is, at least for me, the quintessential Scrooge. The portrayal is cold, mean, and unforgiving. A man whose heart is so hardened and so chilling that the only thing that could change him is the visit of four specters.

I think the most poignant part of A Christmas Carol is this idea that the spirit of Christmas is something that shouldn’t exist in us just one day a year. The idea of charity, humanity, love, and an open heart are ideas we should have all year long. But the movie also reminds us that being able to open our hearts in such a way is a hard thing to do.

A Christmas Story 

Yes, you’ll shoot your eye out. 

Any of you have seen videos of my renovated office know that behind me, on the wall, is an official Daisy red Ryder BB gun, 80th anniversary edition. And yes, it’s one of my favorite presents ever.

The movie is set in Hammond Indiana, which is about 20 minutes away from where I grew up. While the year in which the movie takes place is certainly earlier than when I was growing up, there’s a lot of symbology and references that are very specific to those of us that grew up in that Chicago metro area.

Thanks for spending time with some of my favorite memories. 

In case I haven’t said it, happy holidays to you and yours. 

-Bryan the writer

Support the show (http://paypal.me/BryanNowak)

Podcast 035

 Well the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful.

Welcome to the show everyone. As this is the holiday season, this is one of my holiday theme shows. So sit back, relax, and grab a cup of cocoa as I talk about why the holidays are so special to Bryan the Writer.

As I’ve said in previous podcasts, I am a Generation X member. That generation, sometimes called the forgotten generation, fit in a particularly interesting spot in American history. We were right in between the sometimes idealistic views of the baby boomers, and our children, the Millennials and Gen Z’s, who had a radically different view of how the world was supposed to be.

Again, there’s nothing wrong with either generation, that’s just the way it is. Kids who grew up in the 70s tended to look at the older generation, and their movies, with an almost somewhat whimsical lens. And that colored how we looked at the holidays.

I really do believe that I grew up at a time when the holidays carried a very unique flavor to them. One of my earliest, and likely my fondest, memories was at my aunt Denise’s house. We’d go there on Christmas Eve, or at least I think it was Christmas Eve, and we have this massive family dinner. I still remember what their basement looked like in Calumet city. It was lined with tables. They had a massive basement.

To my childhood mind there must’ve been 4 million people there, but I’m sure it was considerably less. The Christmas tree, the lights, the food, and my family were all there. It was this massive ball of Italian goodness. It was what I think of when I think of family. Still in many ways it is.

And did I mention the Christmas tree? The Christmas tree at my aunt and uncle’s house was enormous. Again, I’m looking at it through many years of life experience and who knows if I’m remembering correctly, but the tree seemed to be 12 feet tall in at least 8 feet wide. I know it wasn’t that tall or that wide, but that’s the way it seemed to my childhood memory. Grandma spoiled all of her grandkids. As a matter fact my grandma Lillian Nowak loved her grandkids above all else. It was the thing she lived for, the thing that kept her going. We were her greatest joy in life, and she didn’t let us forget that for a moment.

There seem to be 4 million presents under that tree. And today I can’t recall a single one of them over all the others. But I sure do remember one thing, I remember that I was loved. And maybe, that’s the most important part. I remembered that I was loved. I don’t mind saying that I miss my grandma and I miss those holiday gatherings. Today it is a lot harder to get together with family.

And then there were the movies. These movies hold a special place in my heart, and they still pretty much make up a cornerstone of my Christmas traditions, and some of the traditions that I’ve imparted to my children.

Every year, without fail, the movie It’s a Wonderful Life came on television seemingly on every station at least once a day. At any given moment, you could easily find a station that was running that movie. To me it still represents one of the great holiday movies of all time.

This idea that your life, no matter how small you think it is, represents an integral part interlocked with all the lives around you is a tale as old as time. And it’s a central theme that I’ve used in writing before. No matter how insignificant you think you are, you leave a fingerprint on everyone you talk to, email, or associate with in any way. You are a piece of them, and they are a piece of you. Either of those ingredients suddenly go missing from the equation, the result isn’t right.

I also very much love the association between Clarence and heaven. The relationship between the two is not only somewhat bureaucratic, but it’s a natural and sometimes funny communication. If you read my book The Dramatic Dead, you would understand that I very much see the afterlife in this way. And that movie is likely why I write it in such a manner.

Another classic Christmas film which I will remember fondly for the rest of my life is the black-and-white version of Miracle on 34th St. Most people don’t know this, but the version with Natalie Wood and Maureen O’Hara was not the original version. But it is perhaps the most famous.

For me one of the things that stands out is the central character of Santa Claus, played by Edmund Gwenn, and this willing suspension of reality that Santa Claus truly was there with them. He is very much what I believe Santa Claus would be like in the real world. I especially like the fact that when he runs into his troubles at the department store, after striking Mr. Sawyer on the head, he displays a certain type of despair over the situation. He feels like the world doesn’t need him anymore, or perhaps it’s more likely that the world has just simply discarded him. A feeling I think we’re all too familiar with sometimes in our lives today. He needed to be reminded, just like we have to sometimes, that we are valuable and loved.

I also like how the character Susan, played by Natalie Wood, goes from almost a militant disbelief in anything and everything to being the sole person who believes that this man is Santa Claus. This is a transformation that you can see in the character of Susan throughout the movie. Certainly the movie was helped along by an all-star cast, but the storyline in the writing of the movie is so impactful that the movie is over the top in terms of being one of the greatest of all times, in my humblest of opinions.

Now this next movie is based on one of the classics of literature which is stood the test of time since it was first published in 1843. For those of you follow the show you will remember when I talked about placing my hand on the very desk where this classic was written. Of course I’m talking about Charles Dickens, a Christmas Carol.

I have seen about 100 different versions of the story. Anywhere from stage productions, some of them better than others, to television adaptations to include Bill Murray’s, Scrooged. The two stage performances that stand out for me are the ones which involve my family.

The first stage performance took place when I was very young. It took place in downtown Minneapolis at the Guthrie theater. I can still remember the cocoa at intermission, the set design, the costumes, and the use of pyrotechnics which brought 1800s London to life.

A more recent example is the performance at Ford’s theater in Washington DC. Craig Wallace as Ebenezer Scrooge is so good, that I have trouble seeing Ebenezer Scrooge as anyone else ever again. At least in the stage performance.

But as a child the version which I saw on TV most often, and what I would come to understand as one of the more true to the original work when seen on television is A Christmas Carol starring George C. Scott. He is, at least for me, the quintessential Scrooge. The portrayal is cold, mean, and unforgiving. A man whose heart is so hardened and so chilling that the only thing that could change him is the visit of four specters.

I realize you’re saying to yourself right now but wait there were only three. But you are forgetting that Marley himself was also a ghost. Remember, “In life I was your partner Jacob Marley.”

I think the most poignant part of A Christmas Carol is this idea that the spirit of Christmas is something that shouldn’t exist in us just one day a year. The idea of charity, humanity, love, and an open heart are ideas we should have all year long. But the movie also reminds us that being able to open our hearts in such a way is a hard thing to do. Remember that the things that Scrooge went through, taken out of context, and taken singly, didn’t necessarily turn them into that hard-hearted financier that he became. It took all of them. I know Scrooge is played as the perennial bad guy, but I want you to take a moment to consider that in some ways he is to be pitied.

I was thinking about it this morning, my one issue with that movie adaptation is that there’s a part in the movie where he is being shown the people under the bridge. I think it would’ve been nice if they had showed Scrooge hiring the man who’d been looking for work. But again, that would have deviated from the book.

Those of you who have followed me for a while know that I grew up in the Chicago metro area. That’s important to the next movie that I’m going to bring up. You see, a movie that I have watch every year since first discovering it is the classic movie, “A Christmas Story”. Yes, you’ll shoot your eye out. Any of you have seen videos of my renovated office know that behind me, on the wall, is an official Daisy red Ryder BB gun, 80th anniversary edition. And yes, it’s one of my favorite presents ever.

The movie is set in Hammond Indiana, which is about 20 minutes away from where I grew up. While the year in which the movie takes place is certainly earlier than when I was growing up, there’s a lot of symbology and references that are very specific to those of us that grew up in that Chicago metro area.

The idea of standing there looking in the window of the department store is something that I associate with my own childhood since it was very common for us to go into the big city of Chicago and window shop during the Christmas season. Seeing the mechanized people in the windows was a big highlight of our winter field trip. At least for me it was.

Seeing the snow, the somewhat dilapidated neighborhoods of a post-World War II industrial area definitely resonate with me. And because of that, every time I watch the movie it gives me a warm spot in my heart. The people, the accents, everything about that movie strikes a chord with me. 

I would love to tell you that there’s a deeper meaning and some sort of lesson to be taught from the movie. I would love to show you a different way to look at the characters and look at the events of the movie and say ha ha, this is a lesson for life. But the beauty of movies, books, painting, music, and really any art form is that it doesn’t necessarily have to do that every time.

We can just enjoy the movie for what it was, a really great ride. A movie which puts a smile on your face, and wells up in us great childhood memories. We can appreciate that sometimes, that’s what we need.

Thanks for spending time with some of my favorite memories. I know that you have similar ones yourselves, and likely a few traditions out there that I had not even heard of. But remember, they all have the same end. We felt loved. Maybe that’s what those great holiday books, movies, and traditions are all about.

In case I haven’t said it, happy holidays to you and yours. This is Bryan the Writer, signing off.