Column: The Grinch turns 50!
I’ll bet you a can of Who Hash that you didn’t realize the classic holiday special “Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas” (based on the 1957 book) celebrates its 50th anniversary on Dec. 18.
Federal regulations require that I give the full, formal title of the program, so you don’t confuse it with “William Faulkner’s How The Grinch Stole Christmas” or “Aristotle’s How The Grinch Stole Christmas.”
According to Wikipedia, the holiday perennial almost didn’t get made. The author didn’t want ANY of his books animated. Legend has it that animator Chuck Jones convinced him by threatening to drop a giant Acme Corp. anvil on his head.
The first 14 or so times I watched the program, I saw it in black-and-white, so I did not get to see the Grinch’s eyes change from red to blue. This is because my father’s faced turned a Grinchy green color every time he looked at the price of color TVs.
We’re fortunate the storyline turned out as well as it did. It could have ended abruptly if the Grinch had spent 50 cents for some ear plugs to get rid of all the “Noise, noise, noise, noise.”(Or if Cindy Lou Who had used the “stand your ground” defense.)
And the Grinch decided to steal Christmas disguised as Santa Claus because his dog Max emerged from the snow with a snow beard??? Good thing the “king of sinful sots” didn’t observe any other canine activities, or he might have been inspired to steal Christmas disguised as a table leg.
When I was little, I didn’t really get the irony of the show – or realize how many injuries it caused. The boys on Madison Avenue got eye strain and slipped discs because of how often they winked at one another and slapped each other’s backs because the special with the anti-commercialism theme was being used to deliver COMMERCIALS for stuff we didn’t need! (“And of course the Whos down in Whoville wouldn’t want new linens and towels for Presidents Day, either. Oh, I’m busting a gut laughing!”)
Who can forget Boris Karloff’s narration or the “You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch” song performed by Thurl Ravenscroft? Even in his other job as the original voice of Kellogg’s Sugar Frosted Flakes huckster Tony The Tiger, Ravenscroft was teaching us the truly important things in life: “Drugs for type 2 diabetes – they’re grrrrreat!”
The show rather nonchalantly tosses out medical advice about hearts “growing three sizes that day.” They should have saved it for a story about the true meaning of after-Halloween candy markdowns, and all the people whose butts grew three sizes that day.
The timeless tale is practically ripped from today’s headlines. (“He thought up a lie and he thought it up quick. A little fake news, and he’ll get rich when they click.”)
The story has resonated down through the decades because it is a tale of redemption, without all the icky stuff about crucifixion. (“For God so loved the world that he gave everyone pantookas, dafflers and wuzzles!”)
Spoiler alert: By the end of the show, the Grinch, Max, and all the Whos are happy. The only one who might have complained was the Roast Beast carved up by the Grinch. (“So every last one of the Whos is a hippie-dippie, love and peace, non-materialistic progressive? Why couldn’t they also be VEGETARIAN???”)