memories of the ’70s – Happy Xmas (War is Over)

John Lennon combined his anti-war stance and a holiday sentiment in the 1971 song Happy Xmas (War is Over), which has become a holiday classic.

After the success of his album Imagine, Lennon realized a gentle touch would get across his antiwar stance and he wrote this song while living with Yoko Ono at New York City’s St. Regis Hotel.

Recorded a few months later in their Greenwich Village home, Lennon asked Phil Spector to produce the song, and worked with his wife Yoko, the Plastic Ono Band and the Harlem Community Choir, made up of young singers from ages four to 12.

One of the unique moments of the song is when Lennon whispers Happy Christmas Julian – a small shout out to his son, while Yoko whispers Happy Christmas Kyoko, a small shout out to her daughter.

Released on Apple Records in December 1971 in the United States, the song was the first Christmas-related song released by a former Beatle. Its success was not immediate, due to the late release and lack of promotion.

Fans on the other side of the Atlantic had to wait a year before the song was released in the UK due to a copyright dispute, but when released in November 1972, the song hit number four on the UK charts and was immediately played every holiday season, especially after Lennon’s death in 1980.

Since Lennon’s death, many artists had covered this song including Andy Williams, Neil Diamond, Celine Dion, Diana Ross, Jimmy Buffet, Jessica Simpson, Darlene Love and the Moody Blues.


memories of the ’80s – Cocoon

Cocoonposter.jpgThree pals living at the Sunny Shores retirement community in Florida find the fountain of youth thanks to aliens is what brought many fans to the theatres in the mid-1980s for the film Cocoon.

Based on the book Cocoon by David Saperstein and adapted for the big screen by Tom Benedek, the film Cocoon centers around three friends played by Don Ameche, Wilford Brimley and Hume Cronyn.

The three renegades, looking for some adventure from the retirement home, sneak over to use the swimming pool next door at an abandoned house, as a place to hang out away from the prying eyes of their fellow neighbours. Their discovery of alien pods being stored in the pool brings them to the attention of Walter (Brian Dennehy), who is a leader from the planet Antarea.

He explains to the threesome that his people are peaceful and had established a colony on earth, and he’s come to take the pods back to their planet, storing them in the pool until they’re ready to leave with everyone.

The threesome keep the secret, but the lifeforce that is in the pool begins to affect them, making them healthier, stronger and more vital. They include their wives in the secret, but soon its no longer a secret and the threesome have to figure out a way to help the Antareans and not put them at jeopardy by themselves, their neighbours and the local police.

Directed by Ron Howard, the film’s comedic styles and yet sweet revelations of the life of senior citizens made for box office gold. With Maureen Stapleton, Jessica Tandy and Gwen Verdon as the wives/girlfriends and Steve Guttenberg as the ship captain who is helping Walter, the storyline was science fiction, and yet seemed plausible in modern day Florida.

Released in June 1985, and made for a budget of $17 million, the film grossed over $85 million and led Don Ameche to be nominated and win an Academy Award for Best Actor in  a Supporting Role ( as well as the film winning a Best Visual Effects Academy Award.)

For this young girl, it didn’t seem like it would be my kind of film, but its sweet storyline peppered with science fiction made me laugh and made me think its all possible.

memories of the ’70s – The Sunshine Boys

The reunion of two aging comedians makes for big screen laughs in the 1975 comedy The Sunshine Boys.

Based on the Neil Simon play (who adapted his words for the film), the film was supposed to star Red Skelton and Jack Benny, both who had been vaudeville stars in their past.

But Benny had to withdraw because of illness and recommended his pal George Burns, who also had been a vaudeville star.

Skelton quit because he realized he earned more as a comedian at the time than he would for his role in the movie. He was replaced by the younger Walter Matthau, who was making his name as a crusty character in his chosen roles.

So the story goes – the duo were Lewis (Burns) & Clark ( Matthau), a popular vaudeville act for over 40 years, who 11 years previously split up. But now, a tv show wants to reunite the duo, who haven’t spoken since their split, as Clark’s nephew Ben takes the task of getting these two cantankerous performers to consider their partnership again.

Directed by Herbert Ross, other cast members included Richard Benjamin as Ben, Lee Meredith, F. Murray Abraham, Steve Allen and Phylllis Diller.

Released in November 1975, the film became box office gold, with fans loving the crusty comments and snarky comments tossed about by Burns and Matthau.

George Burns, who hadn’t been in a film in several decades, was nominated and won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor and relaunched his career as a film actor with this role.

The film was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay and Matthau was nominated for Best Actor, as well as the movie being nominated for several BAFTA and Golden Globe Awards.

A simple premise and a focus on wit, character and aging, this comedy stands up as a testament to writing making the difference.