The House Without a Christmas Tree- 12-3-72
Back in the early 1970's, there weren't a lot of Christmas specials that I can think of, but whenever there was a special, it was something that everyone tended to watch. And now, fifty years later, this is still a special that draws everyone back to those innocent days.
Not having seen it in years, I was taken aback as to how dark this special was.
It's 1946 and the town of Clear River, Nebraska is getting ready for Christmas and excitement is in the air. Except in the Mills household.
As Jamie Mills (Jason Robards) is heading off to work, his daughter Addie (Lisa Lucas) asks for an additional fifty cents. A quarter is going toward the class gift for their teacher, Miss Thompson (Kathryn Walker) and the other twenty-five cents for a trip to the theater for a matinee.
Jamie tells her that she'll be getting her allowance in a few days and won't budge on giving her the coinage. He does give her a quarter and Addie starts to bet him for the other quarter, but he leaves for work.
Just as he leaves, Addie's best friend Carla Mae (Alexa Kenin) comes over to work on a project for Miss Thompson and then head off to school. Carla Mae tells Addie about their Christmas tree and Addie tries to brush off why they don't have a tree.
Before they leave for school, Addie asks her grandmother (Mildred Natwick) to pick up some glue for her when she goes to town to shop.
The girls run across the street to school and while the kids are having a snowball fight, some of Addie's classmates make fun of her grandmother as she heads off to go shopping while pulling a wagon.
Inside, the teasing continues and Addie starts a fight.
Once Miss Thompson breaks up the fight, they have a discussion about people and how you shouldn't judge someone by how they look or act.
As the days go by, Addie begs Jamie for a tree but he refuses to get one for her. She keeps telling him that she's never had one and he tells her that she can enjoy her uncle's once they get to his house for Christmas dinner.
On the last day of school, Miss Thompson asks who in the class doesn't have a Christmas tree and Gloria Cott (Gail Dunsome) raises her hand as does a reluctant Addie. After choosing numbers, Addie wins the tree and she and Carla Mae drag it over to Addie's house.
Just as Jamie comes home from work, Carla Mae leaves and at first he doesn't see the tree, but when he does, he orders it out of the house immediately and later that night while everyone is asleep, Addie gets dressed and drags the tree to the Cott's house leaving it on the porch.
The next morning Mrs. Mills has Jamie drop off some cookies at the Cott's house and when he steps inside, he sees the tree in their living room.
When he comes home from work, he's loaded with Christmas cheer and gives Addie what she wants. A Christmas tree.
One of the reasons why I said this was a dark special is the fact that Jamie has been grieving the loss of his wife, Helen, since Addie was a newborn. He has been blaming Addie for her death and at one point wished that she had died rather than Helen.
His mother tells him that he can't put his life on hold and that he has to learn to let go of the past. She also reminds him that it wasn't Addie's fault that she died and he shouldn't be blaming her for her death.
If there's one thing that I truly remember from watching this when it was first shown, it was the first year that we didn't have my grandma for Christmas (and a week later, my grandpa died) so it was a sad Christmas from what I remember.
The Thanksgiving Treasure- 11-18-73
Following the success of The House Without a Christmas Tree the second installment in the Addie Mills series came out with another holiday themed special.
As this story starts, James (Jason Robards) is angry over having to run everyone's errands and Addie (Lisa Lucas) asks if she can go with him since her bike has a flat. Begrudgingly he takes her with him and once at the gas station, Addie drops off the bike and he's mad that he has to put in a dollar worth of gas.
Just as he backs up from the pump, he runs into Walter Renquist's truck (Barnard Huges) and the two almost come to blows blaming the other for the fender bender. While there was no damage done to either vehicle, Walter tells him that he's going to sue him, which James encourages since he'll countersue for the remaining balance on a pond that Renquist still hasn't paid on.
With her bike fixed, Addie and her best friend, Cora Sue (Frannie Michel) go bike riding in search of dead cattails for a project that Addie's working on.
While on their mission, Addie decides that they should go further and ride up to Renquist's farm. She sees a horse and runs over to it, but Renquist sees her and starts yelling at her and goes to his truck to get his shotgun.
The girls quickly hop on their bikes and head back home.
At school, Miss Thompson (Kathryn Walker) asks what the students are thankful for this holiday season and Addie has the idea of inviting Renquist to the house for Thanksgiving dinner, something James turns down immediately.
Addie tells Cora Sue of her plans and she has her steal food, since she tells her that the two are going to deliver dinner to Renquist on Thanksgiving. Cora Sue tells her that she won't be at home, but somehow Addie manages to coerce her into making it back in time before it gets dark.
During the Mills' dinner, Addie's cousin Henry (David Stambaugh) catches her stealing food from the table. With every piece of food that Addie puts into her napkin, she gives him "the look" that if he says something, she's going to deck him.
Once dinner is over, Addie enthusiastically says that she'll clear the table and Henry helps her. He still doesn't know what she's up to, but she verbally threatens him this time. Of course, he's scared of his older cousin.
Later she and Cora Sue go out to Renquist's farm and he tells them to go away, but Addie persists and after he finds out who Addie is, he really tells her to leave. She refuses and he ends up eating the dinner that the girls brought.
Addie soon starts going to the house on her own and develops a friendship with him, since she begins to care for his horse, Treasure. He keeps telling her that she's a bossy kid and that she reminds him of his former best friend, Pearlie Black, who was also a very bossy girl.
One day when she goes to the farm, she notices that Renquist is sick and tells him that she'll go get her Uncle Will (Larry Reynolds) since he's a doctor. He refuses any medical treatment, but remember, this is Addie.
Addie waits outside and when Uncle Will comes out, he tells her that Renquist has died and there was nothing that he could have done for him. This is the first time that Addie is confronted with death and of course has many questions.
She tells her grandmother (Mildred Natwick) that she wants to go to the funeral and later James finds out that they went. Of course, James is even angrier that Addie has spent time with him, plus he now knows that he won't be getting the money that is due him.
Just as he's about to explode, Walter's lawyer, Aaron Burkhart (Cec Linder) comes to the house and informs them that he has an update to the Will and he's left Treasure to Addie and money for the balance due to James. He also apologizes to James about not paying him, when he knew all along that James was right.
Addie is over the moon with getting Treasure, but James tells her that there's no way she can have the horse, but he'll sell it and she can have the money.
Even though Addie and Walter's friendship is short lived, the lesson here is to look past the person and to accept people for who they are, even if the story ends in a dark place.
High School U.S.A- 10-16-83
What to do with former child sitcom actors and current child sitcom actors? The answer seemed pretty easy- put the popular ones in a movie taking place in high school!
And of course, everyone loves school-based movies especially when there's a rivalry between the students.
At Excelsior Union High School, Beau Middleton (Anthony Edwards) runs the place with an iron fist. If your family's income isn't in a certain tax bracket, then you're not allowed to associate with him or his clique. Yet somehow, he's dating Beth Franklin (Nancy McKeon) who's a little under the tax bracket cutoff but comes from an above middle-class family.
Beth is still trying to fit into her role as Beau's girlfriend, much to the dismay of Anne-Marie Conklin (Crystal Bernard) and she'll do anything in order to be with him. However, their classmate, Cara Ames (Dana Plato) tries to school Beth on the cliques etiquette and whenever she messes up, Cara is quick to point it out.
But Beth doesn't know that she has a secret admirer in Jay-Jay Manners (Michael J. Fox) and he wants to win Beth over. He'll try anything in order to humiliate Beau and win the girl of his dreams.
But Nadine (Lauri Hendler) and Peggy (Cathy Silvers) also want to humiliate Beau as the two outcasts want to be popular by exposing him for the yearbook. Since they've joined Anne-Marie's photography club (the subject is nature) they set out to get a picture of Beau nude.
While the girls focus their energy on getting the picture, they keep getting a picture of Jay-Jay's friend Chuckie Dipple (Michael Zorek) and have to start all over.
Chuckie and his best friend Archie (Crispin Glover) really don't fit in anywhere and spend time with Jay-Jay and his misfit friends. The only one out his group that has a future is Otto Lipton (Todd Bridges) who's working on a robot for NASA.
When Beau announces a contest for the teachers, things become ugly as the teachers focus all of their attention on Beau. His biggest fan is Mr. Plaza (Dwayne Hickman) who hides his relationship with Miss D'Angelo (Angela Cartwright) even further. It's an open secret that the entire school knows they're dating, but Mr. Plaza thinks he's being discrete.
Tired of being harassed by Beau, Jay-Jay challenges him to a race where he bets him $1000 that he'll win. Beau laughs him off but accepts the challenge.
Archie lets it slip that his dad (Bob Denver) has just bought a sports car and with him being out of town, Jay-Jay takes it for a test drive, but Beau's henchmen report back to him that he has a fast car.
Beau talks Ann-Marie into luring Archie and Chuckie on a bogus date and they wreck the car.
When Mr. Feld gets back to town, the boys go to the airport bar to pick him up and they concoct a story about Archie becoming the quarterback and they manage to get him drunk(er). At the house, they've made it look like he had an accident on the way home, which gets everyone off of the hook.
Otto figures out a way to boost Jay-Jay's car and they steal a bus engine. Miss D'Angelo happens to be on the bus and she supports them in beating the preppy snobs.
In the end, everyone gets what they want and life at Excelsior Union High School is going to change since there's a new sheriff in town who doesn't believe in the class system.