55 years ago today, A Charlie Brown Christmas premiered on American television. The first animated special based on the Peanuts comic strip by Charles Schulz, it was produced on a small budget in six months with all child actors.
The program’s lack of a laugh track (a staple in TV animation, until that day), in addition to its tone, pacing, and unorthodox jazz soundtrack by pianist Vince Guaraldi, led both the producers and the network to predict the project would be a disaster. But the holiday special won an Emmy and a Peabody and became a beloved annual family broadcast tradition. The jazzy soundtrack LP of Christmas carols and skating ditties, with its theme song Linus and lucy, sold more than four million copies in the US alone. WATCH the theme and iconic dance number… (1965)
In the 22 minute animation, Charlie Brown finds himself depressed despite the holiday season. Lucy he direct a neighborhood Christmas play and pick out a tree for the event, but his best efforts are ignored and mocked by his peers. After Linus tells Charlie Brown about the true meaning of Christmas, it turns things around, and the Peanuts gang decorates the lowly tree, which unites them all in friendship.
MORE Good News on this Date:
- Peru secured its independence by defeating Spanish colonialists (1824)
- UK Poet Laureate Alfred Lord Tennyson‘s iconic poem, The Charge of the Light Brigade, describing a terrible loss during a Crimean War battle, was published in The Examiner (1854)
- The first traffic lights were installed outside the British Parliament building in London by JP Knight, a railway signaling engineer, who used the same waving semaphore arms as for trains, illuminated at night by red and green gas lamps (1868)
- In Louisiana, PBS Pinchback (born Pinckney Benton Stewart) became the first African-American to serve as the governor of a US state (1872)
- Illinois-born actor, director, producer and fashion designer John malkovich who has appeared in more than 70 films was born 65 years ago today (1953)
- 60s teen idol Donny osmond, with hits Go Away Little Girl and Puppy love, and a 2002 Christmas CD, who also won the ninth season of Dancing with the Stars, was born (1957)
- Tanzania gained Independence from Britain (1961)
- Eradication of the smallpox virus was achieved, making smallpox the first, and to date only, human disease driven to extinction (1979)
- Lech Wałęsa became the first directly elected president of Poland winning in a landslide (1990)
- Canada‘s Supreme Court ruled that gay marriage was constitutional (2004)
And, Happy Birthday to Dame Judi Dench, one of the greatest actresses of our time who turns 86 today. A Hollywood and theater legend, the British actress is a seven-time Academy Award nominee who has won a Tony, two Screen Actors Guild Awards, two Golden Globes, and seven Olivier Awards for her tremendous skill on the stage. Her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth in Shakespeare in Love won her an Oscar, and she’s become beloved for playing M in two decades of James Bond films.
Her other Oscar-nominated roles were in Mrs Brown, Chocolat, Iris, Mrs Henderson Presents, Notes on a Scandal, and Philomena. See a wider list of roles here.
Last year, she thrilled English brewmasters who named a beer after her — Dame Judi Quench — by throwing back a cold can of the hoppy craft beer created in her home city of York by the people at Brew York. (1934)
And, on this day 104 years ago, Kirk Douglas, was born in New York to poor immigrant parents. The actor earned three Oscar nominations for his roles in Champion; Bad & the Beautiful; and his 1956 portrayal of Vincent van Gogh (with uncanny resemblance), in Lust For Life.
Acting runs through Douglas’s family – in his son Michael and grandson Cameron – and through his generous heart, with donations of $ 40 million going to help aging entertainers in need of support. As an author, he wrote ten novels and a memoir. His proudest accomplishment was to help break the Hollywood Blacklist by giving onscreen credit to an accused writer on his 1960 film Spartacus. In his last decades, he had donated $ 40 million to the Alzheimer’s facility caring for retired actors run by the Motion Picture & Television Fund.
Married 65 years to his wife, Anne Buydens Douglas, he wrote his 12th book with her, entitled Kirk and Anne: Letters of Love, Laughter, and a Lifetime in Hollywood. The book features comments on the couple’s secrets to marital longevity and stories of their famous contemporaries like Sinatra, Peck, Wayne, Lancaster, Bacall, and others. (1916-2020)
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