Christmas TV Specials: Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer

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Johnny Marks wrote the song “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer”, based on a book by his brother-in-law, Robert L. May, written in 1939. In 1949, Gene Autry recorded the title song. This was the basis for this 1964 special.

Romeo Muller wrote the teleplay. His desire was to base the special off of May’s original book, but was unable to find a copy. The scripts and storybook designs were made by Arthur Rankin, Jr who also made Frosty the Snowman.

Stop-motion puppet figures were used for the characters, but since it was unknown the success of the special, many were not preserved. Although Rankin claimed to be in possession of the original Rudolph. In 2005, Antiques Roadshow appraised the puppets of Rudolph and Santa at $8,000 and $10,000 and after having been restored are shown at conventions.

Robert L. May

The original 1964 premiere debuted on NBC. Since 1972, the special has been shown on CBS.

Burl Ives was the only non-Canadian in the cast. He re-recorded and released “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer” and “Have a Holly Jolly Christmas” on his 1965 album.

Various sequels have appeared over the years, along with various merchandise.

Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer is the longest “continuously running Christmas TV special.”  The United States post office marked it’s 50th anniversary with a set of postage stamps.

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