I Hope I Didn’t Ruin It

In 1906, Englishman George Albert Smith invented the Kinemacolor contraption for producing films in color. Smith was building on the ideas of Edward Turner who had done something similar in 1902, but passed away shortly after. For a good six years, Smith took the world of cinema if not by storm, then at least by steady shower.

Other techniques came along and soon surpassed the abilities of the Kinemacolor, and the world of cinema moved on and kind of forgot George Albert Smith. But film historians are beginning now to resurrect his work and have rediscovered how truly innovative and influential he was, not just because of the Kinemacolor, but also because with a previous career in hypnotism, Smith’s work had a sense of whimsy and wonder that was unique to film at the time.

Among some of his advances is the first ever use of parallel action in a film, which he did in the 1898 Santa Claus. And this is where I think the story gets really interesting, because even though no actual film historians that I found have made this claim, I think this man Smith basically invented the Hallmark Christmas Movie.

decorating-christmas-tree-2999722__340
Every Hallmark Christmas movie also includes a whimsical scene in which a Christmas tree is decorated. At least one person ends up wrapped in garland. And I love every moment. What?

I’m sure you know what I’m talking about—those feel-good movies that you can’t help but turn on this time of year, even though you know exactly how they’re going to end. This is where I give you a “spoiler alert” warning, just in case you don’t know that the pretty career girl turns down the big promotion to pursue a relationship with the handsome, rustic single dad who reminds her of the true meaning of Christmas, works tirelessly to save the small town’s endangered holiday festival, and has a cute kid who wants her to celebrate with them. Did I ruin it? Sorry about that.

Obviously, George Albert Smith didn’t manage such an intricate plot in a film that lasts about one minute and sixteen seconds, but he did choose the right topic if he wanted to evoke a sense of wonder. The basic plot of his movie, in case you don’t have one minute and sixteen seconds to spare, is that a nanny tucks two children into bed, Santa comes down the chimney and leaves them presents, and they wake up to a great deal of Christmas joy.

It is likely that this is the first Christmas story ever shared in the medium of film, though the tradition certainly took off. From It’s a Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th Street to yet another version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, we love our Christmas movies.

scrooge
I bet even this guy likes to watch Hallmark Christmas movies. photo credit: H. Bos Dickens Festival 2015 via photopin (license)

It doesn’t really take much this time of year to conjure feelings of joy. No sophisticated plots or complicated emotional twists required. Even for those among us who find the holiday difficult or don’t celebrate it for one reason or another, it’s hard to shut out the warm fuzzies entirely. In those parts of the world where Christmas is widely observed, there is enough general holly jolly to penetrate nearly every heart. And if not, there are well over a hundred versions of A Christmas Carol to cheer your inner Scrooge.

But just to warn you, that one comes with a happy ending, too—Ebenezer Scrooge, the single-minded career man is reminded of the true meaning of Christmas and learns to open his heart to his family and friends, mostly because of a cute kid who loves Christmas and wants Scrooge to celebrate it with them. I hope I didn’t ruin it.

6 thoughts on “I Hope I Didn’t Ruin It

  1. I adore Christmas movies! (Big surprise, right?) Hallmark’s are fun pick-me-ups (you know you’re in the last 60 seconds of the film when the hero & heroine finally kiss). But the old classic films of Christmas I can watch any day of the year.

    And yes, I still cry like a baby when Clarence finally gets his wings.

    1. I definitely have my favorites, and specific times during the season when I like to watch them. I have mixed feelings about the Hallmarks actually. Initially I kind of hated them because they are so formulaic, but as the season has gone on, I find I kind of like having them on in the background. I never have to pay very close attention to know what’s going on.

  2. I love the history in film lesson! My daughter is majoring in TV/film. I’ll have to share this with her. As for Hallmark movies, I’m in! They are so predictable, so simple, and sometimes the acting is lacking, but I love the hopeful, happily-ever-after, Christmas spirit that fills the room when a movie is on. I can lounge on the couch with a cup of coffee and a fluffy throw and let my brain not think! The Christmas Card is my favorite, although it’s an older one.

    1. We’ve been having a lot of fun with them. I can never remember the titles because they are so similar, but I’m partial to the one where the woman is going to meet her future in-laws and accidentally winds up at the wrong house only to fall in love with the man she thinks will be her brother-in-law. Sounds a little more soap opera than sappy Christmas movie, but it’s pretty cute.

  3. You SO ruined it…. lol j/k 🙂 A great article on the origins of Christmas movies which are some of my favorites! Although I have to say I found the Santa in that movie to be a little on the creepy side

I love comments! Please keep them PG, though. I blush easily.

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