Thursday, December 3, 2015

How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (The Cat in the Hat Productions/MGM Television, 1966)

by Mark Gabrish Conlan • Copyright © 2015 by Mark Gabrish Conlan • All rights reserved

After that NBC showed a rerun of How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (the exclamation point is in Dr. Seuss’s original title), originally made in 1966 and featuring Boris Karloff as both the overall narrator of the story and the voice of the Grinch — which enabled him to do his warm, lovable, comforting voice and his sinister villain’s voice alternately in the same project. I hadn’t seen this one start-to-finish in years but I enjoyed it — particularly for the spectacular sight gags created by animator and co-director Chuck Jones, the genius behind the Bugs Bunny and Road Runner cartoons (so he can be forgiven the misbegotten 1970 MGM feature The Phantom Tollbooth, which TCM showed on Thanksgiving Day and which Charles, our friend Peter and I watched about half of before getting bored and turning it off). Much of Grinch is un-narrated and carried mainly by Eugene Poddany’s musical score and Jones’ incredible sight gags, and it was also nice to look it up on and find that the voice of little Cindy Lou Who was June Foray — who was also the voice of Rocky the Flying Squirrel on the Rocky and Bullwinkle show and the villainous priestess from India in the 1953 film Sabaka (which also starred Boris Karloff, so this was a sort of reunion for them!). The songs by Albert Hague with lyrics by Ted “Dr. Seuss” Geisel (“Seuss” was his given middle name) are infectious — the Grinch’s theme song is especially fun (and though it’s sung by Thurl Ravenscroft one could readily imagine Karloff doing it himself) — and Jones, who co-directed with Ben Washam, deserves credit for combining his artistic style with the incredibly distinctive drawings of Geisel/“Seuss.” And of course there’s the famous anecdote that Karloff, upon winning the Grammy Award for the release of the film's soundtrack on record, looked at the award — a model of an old-time gramophone — and said, “It looks like a doorstop.”