Snow, partial power outage lead to Christmas movie marathon

J. H. Osborne • Dec 24, 2018 at 10:00 PM

I’ll have to admit I’ve been watching more than a few Hallmark Channel movies this Christmas season. And I’ve enjoyed having that option. Two of my favorites were “Mingle All the Way” and “Christmas at Graceland” (next air date, 5 p.m. Christmas Day). Both have entertaining plots, lots of pretty scenery, and are set in the present day. A big part of what kept me glued to “Christmas at Graceland” was that much of the movie was filmed on location at Graceland in Memphis. Not just exterior shots, but relatively extensive scenes inside Elvis’ famous home — decked out in all its holiday splendor. At first the characters are seen just viewing interior rooms from any standard tourist’s point of view, looking over velvet ropes. Eventually, they move behind the ropes and even play Elvis’ piano. According to Hallmark Channel publicity, this is the first movie ever filmed at Graceland.

The Hallmark Channel (actually, we apparently get two different ones on our Spectrum cable lineup) is Mom’s favorite — year-round. So when the big snow hit two weeks ago, and we lost most of the power in the house, I was especially glad Mom’s room kept power. At least she was warm and could watch Hallmark movies, even though the best I could do cooking-wise was plug the Crock-Pot into an outlet working in the hallway outside Mom’s room and make Santa Fe Stew one afternoon and chicken pot pie the next.

We couldn’t do much but watch television in her room, the only warm one in the house. So that’s what we did. And as we looked out the windows at the beautiful snow from a mostly dark house, we dragged out some of our all-time favorite Christmas movies. Two were made-for-television movies from my childhood and set in the time period of Mom’s own country upbringing: the Great Depression. They are the 1966 version of Truman Capote’s “A Christmas Memory” (run time, 51 minutes), starring Geraldine Page, and 1971’s “The Homecoming: A Christmas Story,” which spawned “The Waltons” television series. “The Homecoming” stars Patricia Neal — Kentucky born, Knoxville-raised, and an apprentice in her teens at the Barter Theatre in Abingdon.

Both films are set in the 1930s. Capote’s somewhat-autobiographical tale takes place in the deep South. It’s about a young boy living with three elderly female relatives — one of whom is child-like and his best friend — in a rural area. Their Christmas season is marked by making each other homemade gifts and gathering the ingredients to make 30 fruitcakes, which they mail to people who’ve caught their fancy. Mom and I traditionally make fruitcakes for Christmas, but only two. And we don’t soak them in bootleg whiskey like Buddy and his elderly friend. I’ve always loved this movie. It was adapted for television by Capote, who also narrates the film. I think his involvement is what gives the film what I see as authenticity. The scenery is sparse. It is at times downright gritty. Mom noted that in one scene, Page’s character is in bed under a quilt. The bed is a common iron bed of the era, much like those we still have from Mom and Dad’s Lee County homeplaces. The quilt is simple cloth tacked together, not an intricate hand-pieced pattern with quilted stitch work. A tacked quilt is for utility, not show. I can’t help but think if the film were made today everything would glisten — it’d be a curly-cue brass headboard and she’d be under a colorful, classic-pattern, carefully stitched quilt. 

“The Homecoming” takes place in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. It’s Christmas Eve and there’s a big snowstorm just as John Walton is due home from working in a city many miles away. Neal plays his wife, Olivia, who is worried sick on the inside but keeping a brave face for the sake of the children. She ultimately sends the eldest, John-Boy, to look for his daddy. He encounters many entertaining (to us) situations and winds up being dropped off back at home by “two old lady bootleggers.” He’s carrying a lidded jug, which Olivia assumes to be moonshine. Her response has become one of my all-time favorite holiday movie quotes, which I sometimes use year-round. I think only my sister Pamela understands the reference.

“You take that out yonder and pour it on the ground!” Neal booms at her screen son, before he meekly responds it’s eggnog the elderly Baldwin sisters have sent as a gift — not their papa’s “recipe.”

Our snow days came to an end. But I still have a whole list of Christmas must-watch movies left for the next couple of days. And one of them is “Die Hard.”

I’ll just leave that right there.

J.H. Osborne covers Sullivan County government for the Times News. Email him at [email protected] 


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