THE LAST CHRISTMAS SHOW
Copyright, 1985 by Hugh Wreisner


A script for the show which, if there had been time to do it,
would have been the best way I know how to explain everything,
to thank everybody properly, and to leave 'em laughin'.

Click HERE for the QuickTime audio version.

NARRATION

VISUALS and MUSIC

Tree and screen are dark.
  MUSIC: A grand, showy fanfare, then the intro and whole of "You're Gonna Hear from Me", played by Andre Previn himself with one of his Salinger-like arrangements.

After the first strophe ....

HUGO: (Voice over)  
There never was a 'last Christmas show'.  
But if there had been, it would have ended with the lighting of the Christmas Tree, as they all did ....  
And it certainly would have started with this music. "You're Gonna Hear from Me". It's by Andre Previn, and it was my theme song. Not too many people knew about this, but it was the first thing I played every night and it will always be a special song for me.  
During the music we'd of course have the Red Curtain . Slide # 1: The familiar RED CURTAIN
And then the "HW". All the shows started with that. Slide 2" The "HW" logo
  [These next superimposed over a very Christmassy background.]
And, at the proper climax, the TITLE! S3 "Hugo Wreisner Presents..."
  S4 THE LAST CHRISTMAS SHOW
  S5 A thanksgiving...
  S6 for 15 adventurous years ....
  S7 which turned out wonderfully well.
  [Music finishes ]
And then the 'story' would start, which would simply illustrate what Mary Seibel said so wisely and succinctly in 1977: "There are only two things that Hugo really cares about: Show Business....and God".
And she was certainly right about that . It's been true for as long as I can remember.  
  Gregorian chant sneaks in under the narration and we see the following places in long, panoramic, romantic shots:
  WINONA, Minnesota. St. Peter-Martyr Priory, the novitiate, where I entered the Order in 1950. It is deserted now but we can still see its lovely isolation and catch some of the purity, innocence and generosity that once filled the place. " Oh! happy, happy young men", Archbishop Ryan cried passionately during the retreat.
And so, when I was a young man choosing my path in life, I had no difficulty in choosing what seemed clearly the better of the two; I headed straight for the monastery and joined the Dominicans. And I loved it. RIVER FOREST, Illinois. The Dominican House of Studies, where I studied philosophy for three years. This was the most 'monastic' of all our places; Gothic, full of learning and prayer. I remember it as filled with a shadowy, holy hush, though actually it was more often bursting with youthful high spirits.
  DUBUQUE, Iowa. St. Rose Priory, where I completed my theological studies and my brothers and classmates were ordained priests.
   
  CHICAGO: St. Pius Priory, my first assignment after I "got out" of the Studium. I was Provincial Secretary.
But I didn't forget about Show Business. We were always having a party. And the party always had a show. And I was always IN the show. And I loved that! The chant fades out and the sounds and music of a party fades in. We see pictures from the innumerable parties and shows. With a little asking around, I'm sure I could come up with hundreds of these because the parties and shows were frequent and went on until 1970.
  We hear the end of "Leave the Latin Alone", one of the last comedy numbers we did. This is a live taping from the actual show. It ends in endless cheers and applause.
Ah! The roar of the greasepaint! The smell of the crowd! A heady wine .  
  Shot of the office door in River Forest:"Registrar's Office".
Then in 1968, when I was Registrar in River Forest, I was offered a side job at Acorn on Oak, a piano bar right down there on Rush Street.  
And before you know it, little by little, willy nilly ... I'm in SHOW BIZ ! Music: A rollicking, MGM arrangement of "You're Gonna Hear from Me" accompanied by slides of the various places I played.
  The Croydon
  Marquee: "Hugo is here. At the piano"
  Lobby cards.
  Hands on keyboard.
  Shots of Hugo " at work".
  The Yorkshire Room
  The Churchill
  The Four Torches
  The Captain's House -
  Sage's East
  MUSIC STOPS very abruptly and we see the interior of the daily-mass chapel at St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Hyde Park.
But I didn't forget about God. And He didn't forget about me, either, because something kind of weird happened. In the chapel at St. Thomas the Apostle [Parish Church] (which is not a Dominican parish) every single window had ... guess what ? ... a Dominican saint!
  ["Surprise" music accompanies the next shots. The same music was used previously for the "Waking Up in the Summerhouse" sequence of The Twelve Days of Christmas.)

Slides of the windows


St. Vincent Ferrer
St. Catherine of Siena
St. Louis Bertrand

St. Rose
St. Antoninus

St. Catherine di Ricci
St. Agnes of Montepulciano

 

St. DOMINIC

AND St. Dominic !  
So every morning at mass I always sat under St. Dominic's window.  
And for quite a while everything was wonderful.  
I had a great apartment Shots of Hugo's apartment, featuring the great skyline view and other good things of this time
a good job  
wonderful friends....  
And Show Business and God seemed to be sort of integrated in my life. The last shot shows red wine in a tall, graceful glass with the crucifix visible on the wall in the background.
For instance ....  
For instance, one night a man passed me a cocktail napkin with a note on it. I thought it was a song request, but it was this: THE FAMOUS NAPKIN:

SCAN of the actual napkin.
 
So I thought: Well, maybe I'm doing something right  
 
And best of all, there were the Christmas shows. Without any doubt, the major events of the whole 15 years. Shots from the Christmas parties. Music throughout is "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas", played in a gentle, jogging rhythm.
  Title slide:
THE TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS
This was a 'tale of terror' in which Mercita was driven mad by not only all the gold rings, lords a-leaping, pipers piping and drummers drumming That poor girl had 184 BIRDS in there ! It done her in. Mercita writing at her desk
  Merce gone mad
  Title slide:
MURDER FOR CHRISTMAS
The Homicide Commander... Bill and Hugo
...put me in touch with a Mysterious Lady in Chinatown. Mysterious Lady
She led me to the fabulous penthouse apartment of Dahlilah Dubois, glamorous singing star of stage, screen, radio, television and God knows what! Dahlilah!
But Dahlilah didn't have the Christmas spirit. Dahlilah the Christmas Witch. The whole flying sequence ending with Santa looking alarmed.
  Merce, Gary and Larry singing happily.
Needless to say, everything turned out just fine.  
  Title slides:
THE CONTINUATION OF...
GONE WITH THE WIND
We saw Tara at Christmas time...and took the story up to 1912, when Scarlett sailed off to be reunited at last with Rhett Tara at Christmas
But she booked passage on the Titanic. The Titanic
More and more, the shows turned into sharp little theological statements. Starry sky.............
BROADWAY JESUS presented the Faith as Christmas lights, shining in the darkness. Christmas lights
And turned the whole city into a sacrament. Skyline shot
   
GOOD NEWS confronted the sceptics with the reality of the Incarnation Mud-spattered Gospel
Chalice in mud puddle
  Embryo
  Correggio painting
Eric the Christ child in all his diapered glory.
SOMEONE TO WATCH OVER ME used Beethoven to show God's loving providence as a simple fact of life. Earth in space
Door opening into Garden
The "I'll be right here" slide in the moonlit garden.
And "All will be well, And all manner of thing shall be well." The Tree of Life, aglow in the garden.
Like a true son of St. Dominic, I was preaching ! Willy nilly! [Christmas music starts fading out...]
But all was not so well with me. There's a scene in the Continuation of Gone with the Wind where Scarlett has a nightmare She dreams she's alone in the middle of the ocean in a raging storm, with nothing to hang on to, the waves crashing over her. Scarlett "drowning"

Nightmare shots of the raging sea.

And I began to feel something like that.
And I guess St. Dominic saw my predicament and decided to help me out. And he figured the only way to get his message through to me was to sing it. Which he certainly did ! Music sneaks in under narration.
St. DOMINIC (singing gently but urgently)





Hear my voice
Through the din
Feel the waves
On your skin
Like a call
From within
Come back to me!
The St. Dominic window again.

Leave behind
All you own
Tell your friends
You will phone
Let your dog
Walk alone
Come back to me !

through

the
song

we

move

Let your tub
Overflow
If a date waits below
Let him wait for Godot
Ride a rail!
Come by mail!
C.O.D. !
closer

and

closer

Hang a sign
On your door
"Out to Lunch
Evermore"

to

him

Don't get lost at Korvette's
Or get signed by the Mets
Don't give up cigarettes
Come back to me!
Come back to me!
Come back to me!
COME BACK TO ME !!

[ A little gasp. A bell rings .]

Closeup of St. Dominic's face in the window. It is very gentle and thoughtful. All these years, I never noticed that before.
HUGO (resuming):  
Well, that finally rang a bell. And suddenly, the whole 15 years seemed like a dream.  
[Direct from the soundtrack of THE WIZARD OF OZ ]  
DOROTHY: (Judy Garland)  
But it wasn't a dream.  
It was a place... [Separate closeups of four beloved friends]
And you..... 1.
and you .................... 2.
and you .......................... 3.
and YOU were there ! 4.
  These pictures will be changed for each showing depending on who's watching the show. Nor is this cynical in the least. Everyone to whom I would want to show this played a very important part in my life during these years. I would hope that this device would hit them very hard and they would feel the depth of my gratitude.
DOROTHY ( continuing):  
This was a real, truly live place. And I remember that some of it wasn't very nice. But most of it was beautiful! But just the same, all I kept saying to everybody was: I want to go home!  
And they sent me home !! The highest note of the KING'S ROW finale zings in.
  SLIDE: Skyline of St. Louis, clearly identifiable by the steel arch. Perhaps some green/gold halos around the whole thing. A yellow brick road leads into the city.
  As the KING'S ROW music finishes, we see:
  The naked central pole of Hugo's artificial Christmas tree.
  The pole with one branch attached.
  Two branches ...
  Three ........ etc. etc. etc.
  The tree grows to its full stature, acquires tinsel, ornaments, lights and finally we see a gorgeous time-exposure of it at night, standing in its traditional spot, all the lights blazing, reflecting in the window... the skyline glittering beyond.
  THEN: Scrawled over this, handwritten, we see:
  "Much love and many thanks,
            - Hugo"
  MUSIC: The very last bars of "You're Gonna Hear from Me" on a solo trumpet.
  "THE END"