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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This was an hour long television show of 1968, the year I entered high
school. I watched it because one of the stars was a favorite of mine:
James Mason. Ironically the narrator was Kirk Douglas, Mason's co-star
in the Walt Disney production of Jules Verne's 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE
Note that the cast given here only mention those two performers. There were far more. The story follows how Pastor Josef Mohr wrote the words of a little poem about the year 1810, and showed it to his friend Franz Gruber (Mason) who was the local church organist. Gruber succeeded in creating (apparently the only time in his career) a first rate piece of music for a setting for Mohr's words. Because this is the only work by the two men that we recall neither man has become a household name. Yet at the time it was created in Saltzburg, Austria, the tune was so well-liked that (as one of the characters says to Gruber) many thought it was composed by the late, great Josef Haydn (of the 109 symphonies, such as the "London" and "Surprise" Symphonies) - Haydn had just died in 1809. The film shows how gradually recognition for their joint contribution to the Christmas season came to Gruber and Mohr, although sadly enough Mohr had prematurely died soon after the finished composition was first played.
The show was well produced and acted (Mason pulled out his best style for it), but it has never (to my knowledge) been revived in the forty years since it was shown on Christmas Day in 1968. Perhaps it no longer exists. If it does, it could easily stand a revival.
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