Monday, December 20, 2010

You're A Mean One, Mr. Grinch -- But We Love You

From it's debut on television in 1966 to the present day, How the Grinch Stole Christmas has become a staple as a special Christmas movie for many of us.  It has everything -- the great Boris Karloff lending his smooth, deep voice to the narration as well as the voice of the Grinch; the great Chuck Jones as producer and director (Jones created Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote, Pepe le Pew, and his unforgettable cartoons What's Opera, Doc, Duck Amuck and One Froggy Evening were accepted by the U.S. National Film Registry); and of course the great Dr. Seuss (Ted Geisel), whose books reflect the genius and incredible creativity of this one-of-a-kind writer.  How could you go wrong?

Dr. Seuss was not enthusiastic about his book being animated and made into a television story, but he and Chuck Jones had been friends for years, and, fortunately for us, Jones convinced Seuss to agree. Dr. Seuss worried that the voice of Boris Karloff would be too scary for children, but again was reassured by Jones.  Actress June Foray provided the voice of Cindy Lou Who, and singer Thurl Ravenscroft sang the the famous title song "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch."  Ravenscroft was not given credit for his work in the original showing, but Jones went to great lengths to correct that omission.  Ravenscroft is also known as the voice of Tony the Tiger in commercials for Frosted Flakes cereal.

The story of the Grinch is well known.  He is a bitter and hateful creature who lives in a cave high up on a mountain above Whoville.  The Whos are a peace-loving happy people who look forward to Christmas.  The Grinch hates Christmas.  Actually, he hates everything.  He conceives a dastardly plot to ruin Christmas for the Whos.  He creates a travesty of a Santa Claus suit and decides to go down the mountain as Santa.  He takes with him his dog, Max, the character that for me just about stole the show.  Max is a happy little dog who accepts his bad treatment at the hands of the Grinch and hopes for better things.  When the Grinch decides to make Max look like a reindeer, he puts antlers on his head which are too heavy for the little dog.  The Grinch removes antlers one by one until finally Max is able to stand, with only one antler left tied to the top of his head.  

The Grinch and Max make their way down the mountain in a sleigh with large sacks -- the Grinch intends to steal all of the decorations, trees, everything that the Whos have put up to celebrate Christmas.  He even steals their food, including roast beast (I always loved that one).  Little Cindy Lou Who interrupts the Grinch as he stuffs her Christmas tree up the chimney.  With his usual slick slyness, the Grinch convinces Cindy Lou that he is taking the tree to fix it.  The little girl believes what Santa Claus says, and goes back to bed.  The Grinch smiles his evil smile and finishes clearing Cindy Lou's house of all the decorations.  He and Max make their way up the mountain, poor Max trying his best to pull the heavy sleigh and not having much luck with it.  The scenes of Max and the sleigh are some of the best in the show.  But just as the Grinch positions the loaded sleigh over the peak of a cliff to destroy the Christmas trinkets, he hears the Whos singing their Christmas song, full of joy.  The Grinch marvels that even without their decorations and toys, the Whos still know the meaning of Christmas and give thanks for the day.  The Grinch finds himself changed as well.  

How the Grinch Stole Christmas must be seen to be truly enjoyed and appreciated.  It is a wonderful story of Christmas and the real meaning behind it.  It is also just hilarious.  For me, no Christmas would be complete without watching the Grinch.


  1. Great write-up, Becky! I think this TV classic turned out the way Dr. Seuss had hoped. There's nothing scary about the mean ol' Grinch, and Boris Karloff's narration is terrific. Jim Carrey as the live action Grinch, on the other hand, was just creepy. Thanks for a splendid read, which makes me look forward to watching this Christmas gem again.

  2. Becky, wonderful review. The Chrismas story is so heart warming, cute and funny. Boris Karloff's voice was perfect for this film. I'm glad that Dr. Seuss agreed with his friend Jones.

    Thank you for the Christmas smile.

  3. How I love little Max and sweet Cindy-Lou Who
    Christmas came without gifts or a hullaballoo
    Grinch's heart grew three sizes and,
    Oh what the heck!
    What a perfect review from our own
    Precious Beck!

  4. Becky, I can't top Toto's witty comment, but I confess to being a Grinch fan and thoroughly enjoyed your fact-filled, joyous review of a holiday TV favorite. Karloff was indeed a perfect choice as the narrator, capturing the Seuss prose with all its unique rhythm and rhyme. It's not easy to adapt a Seuss book, as proven by lame big-screen adaptations such as Ron Howard's GRINCH and the even-worse CAT IN THE HAT with Mike Myers (on the other hand, DR. T was a lot of fun). Wonderful job, Becks!

  5. Great write-up, Becky! I haven't seen "The Grinch" since back in the day, but you revived fond memories of a great adaptation. Liked Dr. T, too.

  6. Thanks so much everybody. I agree that Jim Carrey's Grinch was just plain creepy, and too much Jim Carrey. I just love the Grinch with Karloff. It just can't be beat. And Toto, you are a sweetheart. What a lovely compliment -- you gave me a little tear and a big smile.