Hey, happy holidays! Did you know that as you sit down to watch your favorite holiday movies this year, cuddled next to your family, you will be gazing upon the faces of people long dead from this Earth?
Yes, the people in your favorite holiday movies are almost all dead.
In addition to being a wonderful, Eeyore-esque drag on your upcoming festivities, it's actually fascinating to consider the permanence of these films, artifacts that tell a beloved story but also capture the overlap of dozens of lives, now immortalized in as real a sense as modern technology can offer
Consider "The Wizard of Oz." When you are watching the movie, you are watching people born in the 1800s interacting with a long-dead dog and a tragic figure in Hollywood history at the very beginning of her career.
By the mid-1990s, all of the major characters had died. Every year -- or even more frequently, since the movie isn't holiday specific -- we watch them all as they existed in the 1930s.
Perhaps the most maudlin of holiday films, "It's a Wonderful Life," is much the same. Jimmy Stewart (perhaps Hollywood's greatest actor, speaking completely objectively) lived until the 1990s, but he, too, is gone.
Stewart was 38 when the film was released. Henry Travers, who played the elderly angel that serves as Stewart's muse in the film, was in his 70s -- and was born in 1874. Think about that. You're watching a movie starring a man born nine years after the end of the Civil War.
"A Miracle on 34th Street" is interesting because it has a similar overlap of young and old. The man who plays Santa was only slightly younger than Clarence, and died a little over a decade after it was released. (We're talking about the 1940s version of the movie here, obviously; the others are not canon.) Young Susan Walker was Natalie Wood, who herself led a storied and tragic life.
Just to be a giant drag, even newer movies star people who are no longer with us. The father in "A Christmas Story" died several years ago.
And then there's John Candy, who stars in two modern holiday classics.
If you're looking for it, a point of hope: even in the oldest movies, some characters still survive. One of the Munchkins from "The Wizard of Oz" is still alive. The voice of Hermey from 1964's animated "Rudolph" film is as well. (The voice of Yukon Cornelius died earlier this year.)
So there you go. Something to cling to as the early winter nights surround your house. I'll be watching "White Christmas," singing along to a song about sisters who were not sisters and who have been dead and buried for years. It's a magical season.