Fall Forward, Peanut Butter Cups & Classic Movie Junkie

Bogart and Bergman in Casablanca“Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.”

From Casablanca, Warner Brothers, 1943

Fall Forward… Or “She got the Left-Over Halloween Peanut Butter Cup Blues”

Are peanut butter cups getting smaller?  Or am I getting bigger?

The answer, I fear, is… yes.

There’s an old mnemonic: Spring forward. Fall back.

We set the clocks back a couple weeks ago. (Or has it been a month? I can’t remember.) We sell ourselves cheap. In exchange for one extra hour of sleep, it’s now getting dark too early. Way too early.

I find myself pondering lofty left-over Halloween peanut butter cup questions much too soon in the evening simply because we’re being plunged into darkness by 6:00 p.m. I’m developing a vitamin D deficiency, and my brain is getting fuzzy before toddlers go to bed.

Can you tell I’m blue?

Why do we do this? Do we live in the Land of the Midnight Sun? Can we see Russia from our back yards?  No! So, why can’t we just keep Daylight Savings Time for a wee bit longer?  Or, better yet…

Fall forward.

Wait a minute. Yeah… Let’s fall forward. Think about it. Days getting shorter? Duh. Make ‘em longer. That would put us on DDST (Double Daylight Savings Time). How cool is that?

Fall forward. Be happy! Who doesn’t love sunshine?

I’m going to get lapel pins and lawn signs made up. And I’m writing a suggestion letter to the governor. We just got a new one here in the Keystone State. He’s all fresh and perky and he’ll need something snazzy to do when he gets to the office on January 2nd.  My letter will be Right on Top.

Wow. I feel much better now. My mind is beginning to clear.

Pass me some sunscreen, will you?  :)

Classic Movie Junkie’s November Blow Out

Even a casual perusal of the TCM schedule this month turns up several heavyweight, multiple Academy Award winners and iconic genre classics. I certainly can’t do these films justice in a thumbnail review, but, dang it, here’s my best shot. Don’t miss a one!

 Saturday, November 15

Saint and Brando in On the Waterfront

On the Waterfront

8:00 pm  On the Waterfront (1954)  Drama. TCM.  A young longshoreman defies the powerful and violent mobster who controls the city docks. Marlon Brando, Eva Marie Saint, Karl Malden, Lee J. Cobb, Rod Steiger.

Why? Witness Brando in his prime and Eva Marie Saint in a stunning film debut that won her an Oscar. I love this story about the triumph of the human spirit. I adore the characters—including Malden’s waterfront crusading priest—and a fist-pump-worthy ending that makes me want to queue this up and watch it all over again. The sweet romance between Brando and Saint is sublime and is at the heart of this classic drama.

Nominated for twelve Academy Awards, it won eight, including Best Picture, Best Director (Kazan), Best Actor (Brando), Best Supporting Actress (Saint), and Best Score (Leonard Bernstein).

Tuesday November 18

Casablanca_Trailer Shot

Casablanca

8:00 pm  Casablanca (1942)  Drama/Romance. TCM An expatriated American nightclub owner is drawn into WWII when his former love walks into his club on the arm of an Allied underground leader. Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid, Claude Raines,

Why? Set in Africa at the outset of WW II and filmed soon after America joined the war, Casablanca is a five-star Best of the Best Academy Award winner that will never age and never disappoint. Bask in the matchless romantic chemistry of Bogart and Bergman that, according to behind-the-scene sources, was wholly accidental and would never be recreated. (They barely spoke off screen.)

Casablanca features some of the most instantly recognizable lines and timeless songs ever recorded on film. “Play it, Sam… Play ‘As Time Goes By’.”

Sunday, November 23

Bogart and Bacall

Bogart & Bacall

 2:00 pm   The Big Sleep (1946) Film Noir/ Mystery / Romance TCM. Private eye Philip Marlowe is hired by a wealthy retired general to pay off his daughter’s blackmailer. He stumbles instead into a puzzling case of murder. Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Martha Vickers.

Why?   The twisting-turning mystery is of secondary interest in this film noir classic. This is a Hollywood-sanitized Hays Code version of Raymond Chandler’s detective novel, The Big Sleep, but it makes up for what’s glossed over with clever Chandleresque dialogue and smart romance. Watch Bogie and Bacall burn up the screen without removing a stitch. Excellent from start to finish.

Friday, November 28

Perkins

Perkins

6:00 pm  Psycho (1960)  Suspense/Horror. TCM. A woman on the run from the law checks in to a remote motel run by a timid young man and his domineering mother.  Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, Vera Miles, Martin Balsam.

Why? For the first-time viewer—are there any out there?—the red herring opening is only the beginning of a creepy, suspenseful chill-ride with a twisted ending that’s unforgettable. This is arguably Hitchcock’s finest film—certainly his most universally recognized—in which the Master of Suspense shows exactly how it’s done. That is, scare the bejeebers out of an audience while showing very little actual violence on screen.

I wonder…  who could pull off that sort of artistry today?

 

 Times listed are EST. Check here for your U.S. time zone Turner Classic Movie monthly schedule.

***

Photo credits:

Casablanca  By Trailer screenshot (Casablanca trailer) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 On the Waterfront – By Trailer screenshot (On the Waterfront trailer) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Bogard & Bacall – Promotional photograph by Warner Bros. [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Promotional photograph of actor Anthony Perkins (1960s) – [Public domain], via Wikimedia Common – Author Unknown

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happily Ever Afters & Classic Halloween Movie Picks

Alfred_Hitchcock's_The_Birds_trailer_02“Are the birds going to eat us, Mommy?”

From The Birds, 1963, Universal Pictures

What happens in Jersey stays in Jersey… Not.

October brings with it not only colorful autumn leaves and Jack O’Lanterns but my annual trek to New Jersey to attend the New Jersey Romance Writers’ awesome Put Your Heart in a Book Conference.

This is a conference that never fails to deliver a great selection of workshops for beginning writers as well as more seasoned scribblers, the newly published and the multi-published. And it’s always well attended by agents and editors too.

See? I didn’t make it up!

This year, I was excited that my 1920s romantic mystery It Had to Be You was among the finalists named in the annual Golden Leaf Contest for excellence in romantic fiction from RWA’s Region 1.

As it turned out, the winner of my category—Romantic Elements—was the talented K.M. Jackson for her 2014 contemporary novel, Bounce. (A well-deserved win, folks.) Best wishes to K.M. for continued success!

But best of all? Happily Ever Afters, of course.

I do love the craft workshops, but the thing I enjoy most is the opportunity to soak it all in with my Central PA writer pals. This year, several of us attended– Sunni Rose Blendette, Vicky Burkholder,  Natalie J. Damschroder, Misty Simon, and Ava Quinn.  In fact, anyone who follows our Twitter feeds may have noticed that we soon discovered an awesome new signature drink  – the Happily Ever After.

So, while some things that happen in Jersey really must stay in Jersey (i.e. less than graceful dance moves to “Love Shack” at the after-party) I’m more than happy to return with memories of very good times with very good friends.

Till next year, ladies!

Classic Movie Junkie’s “Low Gore Score” Halloween Picks

There was a definite chill in the air this past weekend. Could it be a portent of a spooky holiday on the horizon?

Halloween is more popular than ever and there are plenty of Fear Fests on the tube to prove it. Me? I  love a good horror movie, but as for the gore, not so much.  To wit, here are some Low Gore Score TCM picks guaranteed to put you in a non-queasy Halloween frame of mind.

The Queasy Classic Movie Junkie’s Halloween Gore Score Rating System
1 Boo =  Suspense and implied or off-camera violence.
2 Boos =  Suspense and occasional “ick” moments.
3 Boos =  Close-your-eyes moments and cringes
4 Boos =   Just. Close your eyes.

Wednesday, October 22

The_fog_1980_movie_poster2:15 (Thurs. 10/23) am  The Fog (1980)  Horror. TCM.  Murderous maritime ghosts return under cover of a supernatural fog to take revenge on a New England coast town.  Jamie Lee Curtis, Adrienne Barbeau, Janet Leigh, Hal Holbrook.

Why?  An under-rated spooky gem. John Carpenter released this watery ghost story on the heels of his low budget mega hit Halloween.  From the opening scene—a ghost story told around a flickering beach campfire–The Fog rises above (yes, pun intended) typical low budget spook fests of the ’80s. Gorgeous shots of the coastline and Carpenter’s spine-tingling musical score make this an enjoyable Halloween treat.

Gore score = 2 Boos  (Mostly for squishy sounds. Ew.)

Saturday October 25

512px-Alfred_Hitchcock's_The_Birds_Trailer_-_Tippi

Tippi Hedren in The Birds

 5:45 pm  The Birds (1963)  Horror. TCM  A California town is beset by unexplained and increasingly deadly attacks from masses of ticked-off birds.  Rod Taylor, Tippi Hedren, Jessica Tandy, Suzanne Pleshette.

Why? Arguably Hitchcock’s best horror film. It’s got it all. Flashes of Hitchcock humor, Psycho-like red herring plot threads, interesting characters, slow-to-boil suspense, odd camera angles and shock shots. The special effects are hokey by today’s standards,  but they’re still surprisingly effective. Why? Because, I suspect, special effects were never what this was about. Gore Score = 1.5 Boos. 

Julie_Harris_-_1963

Julie Harris

8:00 pm  The Haunting (1963)  Horror. TCM  A paranormal researcher and three volunteers move into a deserted mansion that’s reputed to be haunted.  Julie Harris, Claire Bloom, Richard Johnson.

Why? Atmospheric and scary. The Haunting is a forerunner to many a haunted house story to follow – including Stephen King’s Rose Red. Julie Harris is at her flighty best as the psychologically fragile misfit Eleanor Lance.  Is she truly going mad or is it the house itself that breathes and morphs and beckons her to join others who have perished within its malevolent embrace?

The Haunting will creep you out with a Gore Score of… wait for it… 1.

 Tuesday October 28

Jonathan_Frid_Barnabas_Collins_1968

Jonathan Frid as Barnabas Collins

1:00 pm   House of Dark Shadows (1970) Horror. TCM. A small town doctor tries to cure an 18th century vampire who has returned to his ancestral home to marry a woman he is convinced is the present-day reincarnation of his dead fiancée. Jonathan Frid, Grayson Hall, Kathryn Leigh Scott.

Why?  All right, Dark Shadows peeps! I know you’re out there. Either you’re one of the scadillion now-grown school kids who scurried home every day to get their daily fix of D.S. or you’re one of many who have discovered this campy, crazily addicting ’60s horror soap opera in reruns or online.  (I ain’t gonna say which I am.)

This 1970 film was produced soon after the daytime series was cancelled to feed the legions of baby boomer fans who were left bereft and thirsty for more… more blood, that is.  Bwa-ha-ha-ha! So bad, it’s good. Pure fun. Gore Score = 1.5 Boos.

So, tell me, spooky movie fans, what’s your favorite scene from The Birds?

Anyone remember Dark Shadows?  Who was your favorite character?

Am I the only one who misses scary movies that leave more to the imagination than not?

What can writers learn about building suspense from watching Hitchcock films?

Have a great week!

Times listed are Eastern time. Check here for your U.S. time zone Turner Classic Movie monthly schedule.

 Photo credits:
The Fog – Original theatrical poster
The Birds – By Trailer screenshot (The Birds trailer) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Julie Harris – By Bill Doll and Company (ebay) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Jonathan Frid – By ABC Television (eBay front back) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

After the Equinox, Coincidences and Classic Movie Junkie

Ghost and Mrs Muir“It’s been a dream, Lucia…”

From The Ghost and Mrs. Muir  1947, 20th Century Fox

After the Equinox

Happy belated autumn equinox!

autumn pumpkinHere in Pennsylvania, temperatures have been lovely—70s and sunny. It doesn’t get better than that. But our daylight hours are shortening, leaves are turning, and night temps are dipping.

Autumn has always been a mixed bag for me. A sense of melancholy sets in as the season changes. Why? I don’t know, but I also remember the excitement that starting a new school year used to bring. So, I tap into those memories to help counteract my autumn blues. Football games, apple cider, farm shows, favorite sweaters and Halloween. Bring it on!

Does the change of seasons affect your mood?

Coincidence Department

Most years, the hub and I spend some time in Montauk, Long Island, a tradition that started when I talked him into going with me to do some research for the 1920s romantic mystery I was writing—It Had to Be You.  Montauk has some rich 1920s bootlegging history.

This year, on our way to our Long Island retreat, we spent a night in Manhattan at the New Yorker. Wonderful midtown location.

TOP OF THE ROCK

View from the Top of the Rock

During our short stay, we visited the World Trade Center Museum, Times Square and Top of the Rock, but my favorite picture from this visit was the sight that greeted me when I stepped out from the revolving door of our hotel. Directly across the street was a building with space to lease. Beautifully carved into its face was one word: BICKFORD’S.bickfords 3

For those who haven’t read It Had to Be You (and I know you’re out there, you one person, you), Bickford’s was a popular national chain of cafeterias that started in the 1920s. It was a part of the New York City landscape for much of the 20th century. It was talked about by Andy Warhol and it appeared in works by William Styron and Woody Allen. It also happens to be a favorite hangout for my hero and heroine as they tool around 1920s Manhattan solving mysteries. ;)

So, here it is. The view from the sidewalk outside our hotel. Look closely at the top face of the building. I love coincidences. Don’t you? Any interesting coincidences happen to you lately?

Classic Movie Junkie

In nosing through TCM’s October schedule, I saw no shortage of classic favorites I’d happily recommend, but I decided that, for this post, I’d look for some options that were new to me – movies that I’ve always meant to see but never got around to.

I picked six that caught my eye. They either had interesting reviews, stars I couldn’t resist or were considered classics. But I hadn’t seen a one. Of the six, here are three picks. Happy post-equinox viewing!

Thursday, October 9

 Gene_Tierney_in_Ghost_and_Mrs_Muir_trailercropped9:45 pm   The Ghost and Mrs. Muir  (1941)  Fantasy/Romance. TCM.  A headstrong young widow moves into a seaside cottage haunted by the ghost of a rugged sea captain. Gene Tierney, Rex Harrison, George Sanders, Natalie Wood.

Why? Five-star romantic gem. Gene Tierney is perfectly cast as the proper but willful widow Lucy Muir in this sweet, funny, wistful love story that transcends time. Rex Harrison excels as the brash ghostly sea captain who first challenges her and then slowly falls in love with her. But he’s a spirit and she’s young and alive. Will he set her free? Highly recommended.

 Wednesday, October 15

 6:30 pm   Wife vs. Secretary  (1936) Comedy TCM. The wife of an affluent magazine publisher begins to believe that the rumors about her husband and his lovely secretary are true. Myrna Loy, Clark Gable, Jean Harlow, James Stewart.Jean_Harlow_in_Libeled_Lady_trailer

Why? Star power. It’s impossible not to recognize shades of Nora Charles in Myrna Loy’s portrayal of the sophisticated wife. Her glib other half is portrayed handily by Clark Gable, but it’s Jean Harlow—playing against type as Gable’s over-competent secretary—who’s the most fun to watch. Harlow, a comedienne at heart, had already built a stunning movie career by playing platinum blond vamps-with-a-wink. She was ready to show audiences what else she had.

Also watch for a young Jimmy Stewart in one of his earliest film roles as Harlow’s adorable, long-suffering boyfriend. You’ll want to take him home.

 Sunday, October 19

Alfred_Hitchcock's_Marnie_Trailer8:00 pm   Marnie (1964) Psychological Suspense TCM. A wealthy businessman becomes obsessed with curing a beautiful compulsive thief by uncovering the tragic secrets in her past. Sean Connery, Tippi Hedren. (Director – Alfred Hitchcock)

Why?  Riveting, flawed, complex characters. Connery’s suave brand of animal magnetism has never been more potent (or disturbing) and Hedren’s thinly-controlled ice princess performance never goes over the top. Critics seem to be split on whether Marnie is one of Hitchcock’s masterpieces or if it missed its mark entirely. Judge for yourself. My eyes never left the screen.

Content warning: Adult themes–no foul language or nudity, mild by today’s standards, certainly–but it’s about, among other things, predatory behavior and moral ambiguity. Not for kids.

Times listed are ET. Check here for your U.S. time zone Turner Classic Movie monthly schedule.

Next time… Halloween classics!

Until then, have a great week.

Photo credits:

Ghost and Mrs. Muir Trailer – [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Harlow – By Trailer screenshot (Libeled Lady trailer) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Marnie – By Trailer screenshot (Marnie trailer) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Pumpkins and NYC- Delynn Royer

Updates and Whatnot and Classic Movie Junkie

Baby_Face_Barbara“I have to think of myself. I’ve gone through a lot to get those things. My life has been bitter and hard. I’m not like other women.”

From Baby Face, 1933, Warner Brothers

Updates and Whatnot…

GLBadgeFinalist_2014There’s happy dancing going on here at Light of Heart. I was thrilled to learn last week that It Had to Be You was named as a finalist in the Romantic Elements category of New Jersey Romance Writers’ 2014 Golden Leaf Contest.

It Had to Be You is in wonderful company with titles from fellow Romantic Elements finalists K.M. Jackson for Bounce and Tanya Holmes for Within Temptation.

If you’re looking for great romantic reads, there’s something for everyone. Finalists in all of the categories are named in the August 29th post at the NJRW Blog here.  Beginning in September, there will be excerpts, and winners will be announced at the  Put Your Heart in a Book Conference on October 17, 2014. Fun!

Classic Movie Junkie… Labor Day Picks

What’s your favorite season? Are you a summer bunny? Autumn? Winter? Spring? I’m a summer bunny, so it gives me no joy to watch another summer season fade in the rear view mirror. Fortunately, there are some great films on tap at TCM this coming week to ease my grumpy seasonal transition. Here are just a few.

Tonight! Sunday August 31

Alan_Ladd_in_Shane8:00 pm   Shane (1953)  Western, Drama TCM.   A mild-mannered drifter with a violent past joins homesteaders to fight the deadly tactics of a ruthless cattleman to run them off their land. Alan Ladd, Jean Arthur, Van Heflin, Brandon deWilde, Jack Palance.

Why? The mysterious drifter… the Man with No Name … the gunfighter who rides off alone into the sunset. This is an American western archetype that may have culminated in Pale Rider, but long before Eastwood’s anti-heroes rode into town, there was the Man with One Name–Shane.

This classic western still stands as one of the of the best of the genre. Stunning cinematography, timeless story, great performances, and one of the most heart-tugging final movie lines of all time.

Friday September 5

8:00 pm  Baby Face (1933)  Drama. TCM  Tired of being used by men, a cynical young woman moves to the big city to Stanwyck_Baby_Facesleep her way to the top. Barbara Stanwyck, George Brent.

Why?  Stanwyck plays one tough cookie in this Pre-Code classic that, along with some other racy films—notably Jean Harlow’s Red-Headed Woman ( 9/12/14)— helped usher in enforcement of the Hays Code. Is there a great story here? Not particularly, although it’s frank enough to be interesting. I’m not wild about the ending, either, but Stanwyck is a pure delight to watch as this bad girl we love to root for.

Sunday September 7

Charlton_Heston_Ben_Hur_trailer 8:00 pm   Planet of the Apes (1968) Science Fiction. TCM. Astronauts go through a time warp only to find themselves stranded on a planet of the future where apes have evolved as the dominant species.  Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter.

Why? The first and best of the Planet of the Apes series. Charlton Heston brings his A-game to his role as the cynical, mankind-hating astronaut George Taylor. But it’s Kim Hunter and Roddy McDowall—as the truth-seeking ape scientist couple Zira and Cornelius—who bring light, wit and (ironically enough) humanity to this grim, clever tale about man’s inhumanity to both man and beast. The final 30 seconds … unforgettable!

Trivia Corner

 Curious about those naughty Pre-Code era films? Many featured strong female characters. Check out more on tap for September 5th on the TCM schedule – Female, Night Nurse, The Divorcee. Then check out TCM’s documentary–Thou Shalt Not: Sex, Sin and Censorship in Pre-Code Hollywood.

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Brandon deWilde

Brandon deWilde – “Shane…! Shane…! Come back!”

Brandon deWilde was that baby-faced actor who belted out the famous tear-jerking final lines in the movie Shane. He was the youngest actor at the time to be nominated for a competitive Academy Award–Best Supporting Actor.

Have a great week!

Times listed are EST. Check here for your U.S. time zone Turner Classic Movie monthly schedule.

 Photo credits:

By Trailer screenshot (Baby Face trailer) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Shane – By Trailer screenshot (MGM) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By Trailer screenshot (MGM) (Ben Hur) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Brandon diWilde – By ABC Television (eBay item photo front photo back) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Drive-By Classic Movie Junkie…OMG! It’s Audrey Day!

Audrey Hepburn_Roman Holiday“She’s fair game, Joe. It’s always open season on princesses.”

From Roman Holiday, 1953, Paramount Pictures

 

OMG! It’s Audrey Day!

If I’ve ever done a blog post during the work week before, I can’t remember it, but–crazy busy as it’s been of late–I couldn’t let this get by.

Classic movie lovers such as moi have been basking in happiness this month with TCM’s Summer Under the Stars. Stars featured included some of my all-time favorites: William Powell, Paul Newman, Carole Lombard, Claudette Colbert, Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart and Barbara Stanwyck.

Can it get any better? You betcha! Today tune in for Audrey Hepburn!  Check it below. Three of my favorite Hepburn films are on deck. What are your favorite Hepburn films?

(Too late to catch Audrey today? There’s always TCM’s streaming on demand after the air date. If your cable company is signed up for the on-demand service, it’s free. Worth checking into.)

Friday August 22 – Summer Under the Stars–Audrey Hepburn Day

Audrey Hepburn_Shirley MacLaine_The Children's Hour_trailer4:00 pm   The Children’s Hour (1961)  Drama. TCM. A student’s malicious lie wreaks havoc with the careers of two dedicated school teachers.  Audrey Hepburn, Shirley MacLaine, James Garner.

Why?  Based on a 1934 play by Lillian Hellman, The Children’s Hour is about the irreparable harm to reputation and livelihood one insidious lie can do. In the time period the play was written and even when this movie was made nearly 30 years later, the nature of the lie—the mere insinuation that a teacher was gay—was enough to destroy a career. Expect to get drawn in. Great performances all around.

Audrey Hepburn

Audrey Hepburn

6:00 pm  Wait Until Dark (1967 ) Suspense/Thriller. TCM. An innocent blind woman is terrorized by criminals who believe a cache of heroin is hidden in her apartment. Audrey Hepburn, Richard Crenna, Alan Arkin.

Why?  Some aspects of this 60s nail-biter are contrived, but Audrey Hepburn’s Oscar-nominated performance still stands up beautifully. Alan Arkin’s does as well. He’s just plain skin-crawling as the deadly Mr. Roat. In 2004, the Bravo cable channel ranked Wait Until Dark’s hair-raising climactic scene number 10 among its 100 Scariest Movie Moments.

Audrey Hepburn_Roman Holiday

Roman Holiday (1953)

8:00 pm   Roman Holiday (1953)  Romantic Comedy. TCM. A runaway European princess falls in love with an American reporter who is being paid to write an exposé on her.  Audrey Hepburn, Gregory Peck, Eddie Albert.

Why?  Ask a group of twenty women over thirty to name their favorite classic movie, and there’s a good chance more than one will choose Roman Holiday. This perfectly delightful 5-star romantic romp through the Eternal City launched Audrey Hepburn’s film career and won her not only an Oscar for Best Actress but a special place in movie-goers hearts that lives on today.

Times listed are EST. Check here for your U.S. time zone Turner Classic Movie monthly schedule.

Have a great weekend!

 Photo Credits:

Roman Holiday – By Trailer screenshot  (Roman Holiday trailer) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Children’s Hour – By Trailer screenshot  [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Hepburn – By Audrey1.com {Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Audrey Hepburn – By Trailer screenshot (Roman Holiday trailer) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons