Last week I gave the run-down of the origin of Rudolph in 1939, with a Christmas give-away at Monkey Wards. This week I bring you 2 great leaps in the character's popularity that occurred long before every one's favorite Rankin-Bass TV special.
The Theatrical Short:
In 1944, just 5 years after the initial comic book was handed out to millions of kids, a theatrical animated film was released to theaters. Max Fleischer himself had just been ousted from his own studio by the bigwigs at Paramount and was working for the Jam Handy Company. Jam Handy was usually in the business of producing commercial films for General Motors and training films for the military, this is one of the few forays they made into pure entertainment.
This edited version of the cartoon was edited with the Rudolph song (not written for 4 more years) dropped into the opening credits. Probably the way millions of kids saw the film on TV the following decade.
This version of the Rudolph story was very successful after being sold into television syndication in the 1950's and was re-run every Christmas on stations everywhere for a decade or better.
It was in 1948 that Rudolph really fell into our national consciousness. Prolific songwriter Johnny Marks was enlisted to tell the little-reindeer-that-could's story in his own way.
The song was recorded by Gene Autry, then at the pinnacle of his career as B-movie western hero, matinee idol of millions and America's number one singin' cowboy!
No video for this one. You know the words though. Sing along!
Next week: the "Little Golden Book" version with great artwork by the wonderful Richard Scarry. See ya then!