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The Most Famous Reindeer of All

I don’t ever remember a Christmas without Rudolph.  The 1964 stop-motion animation classic has always been a part of my life.

 

Me and my brothers and sister would wait for months for that one special night that Rudolph The Red

Christmas 1964 with my cousins and siblings. That's me on the far right.

Christmas 1964 with my cousins and siblings. That’s me on the far right.

Nosed Reindeer would air on our local network station.  We watched it in black and white, never realizing what we were missing, having never owned a color TV.  I was 11 before I saw it in color.

 

No matter how many times we saw the annual holiday treat, that Abominable Snowman still scarred me.

 

I remember watching it in college in my sorority with popcorn and girl friends.

 

I remember watching it as a newlywed with my husband as we decorated our first tree together.

 

When I became a parent, about the same time VHS became a household word, I remember watching both on the network and renting it at the video store.  Many years later we would own the DVD, and still do.

 

But despite the fact that the DVD is in the drawer in the room adjacent to the one I am sitting in as I write, I still am looking forward to watching this feel-good-family-classic when it airs this year on December 9th IMG_0859on CBS.

 

And something is very special about this year – it is the 50th Anniversary of the program and the broadcast will include some newly digitized color and expanded classic songs.  So there is something new in the old to look forward to.

 

Speaking of old, the TV special may be Fabulous 50 but Montgomery Ward created the story itself in 1939 as part of a holiday promotion.  So this holiday the original Rudolph story celebrates its 75th birthday!

 

Montgomery Ward department store chain had given away holiday coloring books during the first part of the 20th century annually, but in 1939 during the depths of the depression they appointed a company employee to create the book instead of using an outside company.

 

Robert L. May created the story; focused on a misfit reindeer.   That first Christmas 2.4 million copies of the coloring book were distributed.  The original story varies from the story we see in the television version.  The popular story remained the property of Montgomery Ward until 1947 when May convinced them to turn the rights over to him.  A book was released later that year and soon after May convinced his brother-in-law Johnny Marks to create a song. The popularity soared, especially when Gene Autrey recorded the tale in 1949.  Two million copies were sold that year and it has since become one of the best-selling songs of all time.  Marks would later be responsible for the numerous songs in the television version, all of which went on to become classics; Holly Jolly Christmas, Silver and Gold, We are Santa’s Elves, Jingle Jingle Jingle, There’s Always Tomorrow and The Most Wonderful Day of the Year.

 

And I guess you know the rest of the story; they all went down in history!

 

Watch the 50th Anniversary Broadcast of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer on CBS, Tuesday December 9th at 8pm.

 

 

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