Tuesday, December 22, 2015

A Christmas Cornucopia Part I: R. O. Blechman and Victorian Voices

As we close out our holiday week, I thought I would add some holiday cheer with smaller stories before posting a special Christmas message.  (Be sure to read it on the 25th!)  And so, with no further ado:
Vintage Holiday Greetings From R. O. Blechman
Jade Sphinx readers of a certain age surely remember a period before cable television when national networks created simple, heart-felt holiday messages at this time of year.  Though such a gesture would be unthinkable in these rather hard and uncharitable times, these spots brought home simple messages of charity, mercy, forbearance and benevolence. 
The CBS network excelled at these messages, and the most famous were created in 1966 by celebrated cartoonist and animator R. O. Blechman (born 1930).  Blechman is perhaps best remembered for his amusing, simply-drawn cartoons for The New Yorker, but is also a champion author of children’s books, including The Juggler of Our Lady (1953).
Robert Oscar Blechman was born in Brooklyn, New York, and attended the High School of Music and Art.  He worked for animation studio Terrytoons (home of Mighty Mouse), winning a BAFTA for his animated version of The Juggler of Our Lady, narrated by Boris Karloff (1887-1969).
In 1977, Blechman produced a holiday special animating his drawings, along with segments by Maurice Sendak (1928-2012) and Seymour Chwast (born 1931), and it was narrated by Colleen Dewhurst (1924-1991). 
These moving stories are simply too good to be missed, and here are links.
Simple Gifts can be seen here (the first of seven parts): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x2tbVaDqHXA.
One of his CBS holiday greetings can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CFixiBGmskI
Your Correspondent’s favorite holiday message can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MUWMjUjit_U
That last piece has haunted me for years, so thank heavens for Youtube!

Victorian Voices at Christmas and All The Year Round
For many (myself included), Christmas means A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.  But for writer, archivist and cat-lover Moira Allen, the Victorian world is an endless feast of articles, stories and dispatches, all lovingly culled from the hundreds of periodicals printed during the era. 
Allen has created an indispensable resource for neo-Victorians, an entire Website devoted to reproductions of Victorian-era magazine articles.  Each and every month the indefatigable Allen sends out a collection, and the December number is filled with treats.  You can find the current issue (and hundreds of archived pieces) here: http://www.victorianvoices.net/index.shtml.
Better, still, Allen also has a deluxe paperback collection called A Victorian Christmas Treasury, also available on her site.  We got this book last year and have been paging through it this season with great satisfaction.
Serious historians, lovers of the Victorian ethos, designers, Christmas buffs – there is something here for everyone who is keenly aware of the past.  Be sure to check out Moira Allen’s site, and be remember to say that The Jade Sphinx sent you!

More Christmas dispatches tomorrow!

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