Saturday, December 21, 2013

Moving Pictures: Fred Astaire in "Santa Claus is Comin' to Town"

One of the aspects of the Rankin Bass specials that I have always appreciated is the wonderful caricatures they employ for their famous narrators. For an old movie fan, it's gratify to recognize "faces" like that. My favorite instance, and indeed, the most famous one, has to be the Fred Astaire caricature in "Santa Claus is Comin' to Town" (1970).
In "Santa Claus is Comin' to Town," Fred Astaire served as the celebrity narrator for the story. He "plays" S.D. Kluger, the North Pole mailman who delivers the children's letters to Santa. He is, by far, the nicest expert on Santa in the world, besides being the most musically talented one. As a quick aside, Astaire was in his 70s when he lent his voice to Rankin-Bass and it sounds brilliant. Of course, I love Fred's abilities as a hoofer, but I also admire his singing voice. Fred famously introduced many of the most iconic songs of the Great American Songbook in his films with Ginger. In "Santa Claus," Fred's iconic voice is not dimmed at all by age. In fact, his rendition of the titular song, "Santa Claus is Comin' to Town" is one of my all-time favorite Christmas songs.

I've said it before, Fred is certainly an easy subject for a caricature. With his brilliant eyes, and his long face and chin, he makes an easy cartoon figure, albeit it, an adorably charming one. Rankin-Bass certainly did not have much work to do to bring Fred to life. But I am so glad that they did bring him to life like that. It's a beautiful character, a fun caricature, and certainly, a moving portrait of sorts.
I hope this little, semi-random post, helps you appreciate the Rankin-Bass specials a little more, if you don't already love them. Merry Christmas!

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