Saturday, December 25, 2010

Scene from “Christmas Holiday”

... a 1944 Universal Pictures film, which stars Deanna Durbin and Gene Kelly. In this unusually long Solemn High Mass scene, we are treated to snippets from a real Midnight Mass celebrated at the former Cathedral of Saint Vibiana, built in Los Angeles in 1876. This scene is a vast improvement over the poorly researched cutting-and-pasting of Latin phrases that are common to period pieces of recent years, and dates back to a time when Hollywood showed some respect for the Catholic Church, in the face of Protestant America.

The first part of this segment shows the ending of the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar, when the Priest, Deacon, and Subdeacon ascend the altar for the incensation, followed by the priest reciting the Introit. This in turn is followed by the choir singing the Kyrie, as the sacred ministers, accompanied by the Master of Ceremonies, retire to the sedilia. This dissolves into the next scene, which is the Communion of the Priest (we notice that the other two ministers remain close to him, rather than back away, which may have been customary in some places), followed by the Deacon and Subdeacon chanting the "second Confiteor." Until the 1960s, the Confession of Sin was proscribed immediately before the Communion of the Faithful, until it was dropped for the 1962 Missale Romanum, even as it is tolerated still as a venerable practice. Most Catholics, including adherents to the Traditional Roman Mass, never get to see the Confiteor done in this fashion.

In this second clip, Deanna Durbin and the Vienna Boys Choir (Wiener Sängerknaben) perform the Bach - Gounod setting of Ave Maria, from the 1937 film "Mad About Music." Durbin was only fifteen at the time. It has been pointed out that the scene is that of the St Luke's Choristers of Long Beach, California, lip syncing the words already recorded by Durbin and the Vienna Boys Choir.

I came across the first clip some months ago, and found it again only recently. There are other scenes from the movie that are worth watching, especially the dialogue between a lonely Durbin, and the mysterious man she meets in the back of the church during Mass.


Dad29 said...

Also little-known:

Paul Salamunovich, Knight Commander of St Gregory, was used as an 'expert' on Latin and RC Mass 'stuff' for a number of Hollywood TV shows and films.

John said...

Thanks for that clip of St Vibiana, David. It's good to see it again and heart-breaking at the same time. We used to sing for the ordinations there when Cardinal McIntyre was archbishop. There are a few photographs around but that's the only film I've seen.

I suppose nostalgia is always two-edged.

Thanks again,