Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A quick post about "The Monuments Men"

I went to see the recently-released film The Monuments Men last night.   I hold a degree in History, so I've always been a fan of movies that are "based on a true story."

The Monuments Men tells the story of soldiers who rescued priceless works of art that were stolen by the Nazis during World War II.  It's a story that I wasn't very familiar with, it's nice that those soldiers (two of whom were killed during the war) are getting the respect they are owed for saving so many great paintings and sculptures.  Plus, it features an all-star cast that includes some of my favorite actors.  Here's the trailer:

So why am I writing about The Monuments Men on this blog?  It's not a "Holiday" movie, but it certainly feels like one during one scene.  I don't expect 100% accuracy in historical films, but when it comes to "Christmas Pop Culture-related accuracy", that's another story.
There's a nice moment that takes place during the Battle of the Bulge sequence.  The song "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" plays over the PA system at the soldiers' camp.

Richard Campbell (Bill Murray) and Preston Savitz (Bob Balaban) carry Christmas packages sent by their familes.
This scene rings true, as the song was very popular among members of the military during the 1944 Christmas season.
A little background info about the song:
"Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" was written by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blaine. It was introduced in the movie Meet Me In St. Louis where it was performed by Judy Garland.

 The last verse was very relevant for families separated by war:
Someday soon, we all will be together
If the fates allow
Until then, we'll have to muddle through somehow

Those lyrics are often changed to "Through the years, we all will be together", but the sentiment remains the same.  Families were separated and forced to "muddle through" until war's end and they concretely identified with the song at Christmastime.

Since its introduction, the song has been covered by hundreds of artists and is one of the most popular Christmas songs.  In 1957, Frank Sinatra covered the song and believed that the "muddle through somehow" lyric wasn't "jolly" enough.  Sinatra asked the song's co-writer Hugh Martin to change it.  It was replaced with "Hang a shining star upon the highest bow".

Sinatra's version was very popular and most recordings of "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" since then have used these lyrics. 

When the song is played in The Monuments contains the Sinatra lyrics.  Which, of course did not exist until 13 years AFTER the Battle of the Bulge.   I'm surprised that the film's director George Clooney (nephew of Rosemary Clooney, who also recorded the song) didn't catch that.

I still recommend the film, but the incorrect lyric sort of took me out of an otherwise touching scene.

For further reading about the real Monuments Men, check out their official site,


1 comment:

bga said...

I was unaware of the change in lyrics. Thanks for filling us in on that. I, too, thought the scene to be touching and relevant. It is a shame it did not use the original lyrics. That would have been so relevant.