A Charlie Brown Christmas (Bill Melendez, 1965)
This short film has always been a favorite of mine while preparing for Christmas since my childhood. Not having cable TV until I was 25 years old forced me to watch shows on standard television. The Charlie Brown specials were some of my favorites. Fond memories of those little shorts of minimalism filled with Charles M. Schulz’s great characters will follow me all my life.
The original A Charlie Brown Christmas is by far my favorite. Directed by Bill Melendez, in fact he directed every Charlie Brown special, Charlie Brown is tired and depressed because Christmas has become over-commercialised and he lost the true spirit of the festivities. He goes to Lucy’s psychiatrist booth and she hires him to direct their Christmas play. With his new mission Charlie Brown hopes to get the true spirit. Helped by all his friends and his dog, Snoopy, he will find the real spirit of this holiday.
After rewatching this classic lately, I thought to myself how much sarcasm and cynicism there was in the message of its main character. Enough, for me to say that it related even more to me since I am an adult now and that I see more what has become the whole Christmas thing. Just like Frank Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life, it is not the most cheerful movie or short but its ending and the whole meaning behind it reminds us why we like to celebrate and get together. Even if, Charlie Brown stands on the fact that catholic beliefs are the main reason why we get together, it is also a Holiday where we try to all get along and take some free time to be with the people we love and care.
One cannot write about this and forget to mention its iconic soundtrack conducted by Vince Guaraldi with the Lucy and Linus song, O Tannenbum, and Hark! Ye Merry Gentlemen amongst other masterpieces of this soundtrack. It is a must have and if you don’t own a copy on CD or vinyl of this album you must buy it right away to get it in time for Christmas. It is jazzy and it captures Charlie Brown and Christmas at the same time. Without its soundtrack A Charlie Christmas wouldn’t have worked as well as a classic. This is why it is by far better than let’s say Frosty the Snowman. Now go to your local record store and buy. If they don’t have it order it!
With Charlie Brown, there’s always a feeling of bittersweet moral that takes even the most cynic and the brownest of us to joy and celebration. I have a great admiration for Schulz’s work and for me Charlie Brown might be the most iconic comics trip of all time. I just hope that the tradition of A Charlie Brown Christmas won’t end soon because it remembers us how timeless Christmas and more importantly how Charlie Brown is timeless.