Tootsie Wootsie Hoochee Koochee

I can't say I really dig Christmas movies. The whole Elf, Tim Allen Santa thing just makes me cranky. I will, however, watch Meet Me in St. Louis. It's not particularly Christmas themed, but it has nifty titles, technicolor, and a happy turn of the century setting. I don't quite understand the plot. It's a family, and the world's fair, St. Louis, and a possible move to New York. This is the part that I don't understand: The father gets a better job in New York, so the family needs to move. But everyone is so whiny and spoiled that he decides to forgo this amazing opportunity and stay in St. Louis.

That's not going to end well. They're all happy at the end of the movie, but a few years later when teenage rebellion kicks in there are going to be screaming matches. "I gave up the biggest chance of my life for you girls!" says the father, "F#*k You! F#*kface" screams the teenage daughter. The titles are nice though.

Hoochee Koochee, Tootsie Wootsie

This may be hard to believe, but I don’t particularly like musicals. I’m a big Rodgers and Hammerstein fan, but that’s due to brainwashing at the ranch. I’m the type of person who fast-forwards over the singing sections of a movie. Last week, Meet Me in St. Louis was on television. I could live without the singing parts, and if I were the father and had a big promotion, I’d tell everyone to shut-up and start packing. The titles, however, had that saccharine and Technicolor “Gay Nineties” style. I love that. Flourishes and fancy frames need a revival. I’ve slipped them in here and there, but nobody particularly loves them—yet. However, there is hope. Last week’s Milner Gray post was passed around all over the web. Maybe it’s that time; the time when fancy frames, Victorian pink and yellow houses, old fire trucks, and handlebar mustaches come back into fashion.

Nostalgia for Retro

LP Cover, 1955

I like retro-retro. This is a little complicated and we could quickly veer into post-modern appropriation and pastiche of a previous era’s appropriation and pastiche. Don’t worry, I won’t. Put simply, I like a reinterpretation of another time's nostalgia, like the 1970s version of the 1950s on Happy Days, or the 1960s love for the 1920s.

Starting during World War II, there was nostalgia for America at the turn of the century. There is a classic episode of The Twilight Zone involving a harried executive and a small town, Willoughby, in 1890, Meet Me in St. Louis has a Technicolor version of Missouri in 1904, and, of course, Main Street, USA at Disneyland is a perfect example of a 1950s interpretation of small town America, 1890-1910. Fitting perfectly within this arena is Firehouse Five Plus Two, a Dixieland jazz band formed by Ward Kimball and a group of animators at the Disney studios in the 1940s. The band wore turn of the century fireman outfits, antique fire hats, and had a 1914 American La France fire truck. They made 13 albums and often performed on Main Street. This aesthetic and their LP covers talk about a perceived simpler time, when an increasingly complicated 1950s public imagined an even simpler time when firemen formed their own band and sat on the porch of the old firehouse with a Dalmatian and creaky rocking chairs.

LP cover, 1958

LP cover, 1956

LP cover, 1956

LP cover, 1954

LP cover, 1955