Original “Rudolph” GE spots

Here’s a rare holiday treat. Someone posted the original GE commercials, the open and end titles from the original 1964 NBC airing of Rankin Bass’ Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer on YouTube. It’s a black and white kinescope featuring Santa’s Elves showing off the latest GE appliances, and some bonus shots of the voice cast to wish you Season’s Greetings. The unidentified actors pictured are Janis Orenstein (Clarice), Paul Kliegman (Donner and The Coach) and Paul Soles (Hermey), then Paul Soles, Billie Mae Richards (Rudolph), Carl Banas and Alfie Scopp (Charlie-In-The-Box).

(Thanks, Mike Nickel)


  • http://blackwingdiaries.blogspot.com Jenny Lerew

    …and all of that “throwaway” commercial material is just bursting with charm. I love the Rankin-Bass timing, design, editing-everything! It’s never been duplicated (although trying to is a noble aim). Thanks for sharing the link.

  • The Gee

    Yeah. It is really cool.

    Why black and white though? Was it broadcast in B/W or the only copy of the footage is in B/W?
    Stupid questions, I know. But, so much of that footage would be more amazing had it aired in color. It would have freaked people out more because it would have been like a magazine ad in motion.

    On a side note, that was showcasing a lot of products. It’s amazing what that company used to make and sold, and just how many people owned those GE products. Now, most of it can only be found in thrift shops.

    • Chris Sobieniak

      The usual reason and what I often seen over time is that B&W copies were cheaper to print up over color copies in those days when making back-ups.

      • The Gee

        Thanks.

  • uncle wayne

    Ohhhhhhhhh, my GAWRD! This is priceless! (And me who had just watched it last NITE!) And what a hysterical (fond) memory: my mom had one iDENTical to that….the hair-dryer with the hose in the back. I just died laffing when she wore that. Thank YOO for such a grand piece of find, and a great memory re-lived!!

  • David Cuny

    Cool!

    Interesting how they can’t decide if “General” should be pronounced “jen-ral”, or “jen-er-ul”. And having the characters ride across the ice on a plugged-in iron is brilliant!

    I recall seeing newspaper advertising tie-ins with the characters as well.

    The Kinescope is basically a film of a television screen. I’m guessing the footage was shot on monochrome film.

    • Chris Sobieniak

      Watching this, it appears more like a dupe from another source than simply filming off a TV monitor anyway, so I assume this was a blow-down from a 35mm source print of sorts, it doesn’t have the odd image lags or other transmission type artifacts often associated with kinescopes. The original was probably in color anyway when it aired almost 50 years ago.

  • Katella Gate

    @Gee: I am wondering if this kinescope isn’t part of contractual fulfillment. Because GE was paying for the entire show to be on the air, if these commercials failed to play for technical reasons, there was probably a heavy penalty clause in the network contract.

    This kinescope air check would be proof that the commercials came off without any problems.

    0-0-0-0

    We had several of these products. They worked perfectly for decades. I DREAD having to buy new kitchen appliances, knowing that they are just junk.

  • http://www.classicparamountcartoons.blogspot.com ParamountCartoons

    Nice! I loved the General Electric Fantasy Hour opening! And all of those commercials! Rankin-Bass should’ve just let GE do the idea of stop-motion elves for one year when they sponsored Rudolph, and no other advertiser would then use it again. Ever. Not even in the 2000′s. Specfically 2007 when it was practically the idea of every ad.

    I wonder if somebody can post the entire 1965 intial telecast of A Charlie Brown Christmas with the Coca-Cola plugs (Linus crashing into a Coke sign, the final “Merry Christmas from Coca-Cola” message before the “The End” screen with the copyright notice) and commercials.

  • http://shaneprigmore.blogspot.com Shane Prigmore

    So great you posted these. Thanks Jerry.

  • Paul N

    Terrific! Now all we need is a link to the old Norelco (or “Noelco”) commercial that played during Rudolph, with Santa riding down a snowy hill on a Norelco shaver head. Classic!

    • Keith

      I seem to remember the Norelco Santa commercial being shown a year or two before RUDOLPH was broadcast. Here is a link to the color version of this very famous commercial:
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oUQycfgCjr0

      • Paul N

        You may be right Keith; I was pretty young when Rudolph debuted. I just remember seeing during the special; never forgot the tagline.

  • John A

    They must have used some of the tree trimming GE footage for more than one year because I remember seeing it as a kid.

  • the Gee

    A general thanks for the responses (I figure it is better to post one more time rather than twice, so thanks David and Katella).

    Plus, it let’s me recycle the link below:

    Paramount Cartoons’ Coca Cola reference is in one of those articles featured on the sidebar of the CB page:
    http://www.10zenmonkeys.com/2010/12/07/the-secret-history-of-charlie-browns-christmas/

  • http://orangecow.org Garrett Gilchrist

    The Coca-Cola Charlie Brown material is on Youtube, sort of … it doesn’t seem to have leaked in decent quality, and the sign doesn’t say Coca-Cola in the version I saw.

    • Chris Sobieniak

      It’s a typical fan-edit type deal (part of that ending bit comes from the promo to the special someone else had uploaded). I do not go for these at all personally since I can see through their disguises too well. I would rather wait until some conclusive evidence does show up somehow, be it a B&W 16mm dupe or such.
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RPUIJj5_qRU

  • james madison

    Awww…Love it!

  • Craig M

    It appears Don Draper got his daughter Sally a gig modeling the electric toothbrush.

  • http://www.crisafullidoodles.blogspot.com/ Marc Crisafulli

    Thanks for posting, and thanks to Mike Nickel, too.

    No one has mentioned Paul Coker Jr., so I thought I might…
    he designed for many of the Rankin~Bass specials… his characters may seem simplistic but are in fact very strong and appealing, fun to draw and look great when translated to three dimensions. Go back a few years and you’ll find a lot of his work in old Mad Magazines… like Jack Davis or Sergio Aragonés, he was able to communicate most any ridiculous idea effectively, efficiently, and with good humor.

    [This post is way funnier if your do it in your best old~timey announcer's voice.]

  • David Breneman

    I wish that one year some cable channel would show all the classic Christmas specials with all the original commercials and network announcements intact. I really miss Santa in the Norelco. That always meant Christmas to me. (Even if GE was the original “Rudolph” sponsor.)

  • Doodyville 101

    I remember at least two of those commercials from watching them as a kid! We had the GE iron, hair dryer and can opener in our house. Thanks for posting this – it really zoomed me back to my childhood in record time!

  • Mike Nickel

    I’m glad that folks here are enjoying the GE commercials from the show. As soon as I finished watching them, I emailed Jerry to give him a heads up. Perhaps someday someone will unearth a dub of the Charlie Brown Christmas special with the Coca-Cola plugs in the show intact.

  • dr. giraud

    We had the GE electric knife (which, when turned on to carve the beef, would mess up the reception on our GE television) and can opener.

    I remember RUDOLPH being sponsored by Natural Gas. This would have been the late 1960s, I guess.

  • E. L. Kelly II

    Having just watched part of a 1975 “Price is Right” episode befor seeing this, I have to say I was in old TV bliss for more than a minute there!
    Man, ain’t old-type TV corporate issuance wonderful?

  • maxeythecat

    I remember every single one of these commercials! My mom had the hair dryer and the can opener…that hair dryer was a hoot, boy! That stupid plastic bonnet used to get so hot and I can still remember the smell of warm plastic and ozone whenever she fired that baby up. GE had great products back then…nowdays the only quality GE stuff I see are a few Xmas lights over the Holidays.

  • DW

    As a former employee of NBC, especially during the prime GE years, I find this hilarious! And yes, someone like J. Fred MacDonald in Chicago has some of this in color … it once aired on the Today Show many years ago …

  • Jude

    Ohh, how nice! I never thought I’d see these surface. Love the special – just watched it again today.

  • Steve Menke

    Great find, Jerry! I’d had a vague recollection of these for years, especially the “on behalf of Burl Ives and the cast” outro (which may have been repeated on a couple subsequent telecasts). I also remember at least one of Rudolph’s first showings being on a Sunday afternoon, not in prime time (unless it was local affiliate schedule shifting).

    Guess this just leaves a search for the customized “A Full Service Bank” bumpers used the first few airings of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/benjamin.edge1 Benjamin Edge

    Here is a link to a compilation of Norelco Santa ads, going back as far as the 1960s and the more recent ones date up to the mid 1990s.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y888mx7hMZ0

    ~Ben