The Miracle of Santa's White Reindeer (lost Christmas fantasy film; 1960)
The Secret of the White Reindeer, subsequently retitled as The Miracle of the White Reindeer before being retitled again as The Miracle of Santa's White Reindeer, was an independently produced low-budget feature-length Christmas film running approximately 60 minutes long. According to the AFI Catalog, the film was a mix of live-action and animation. The film was originally produced in 1957. However, it was withheld from release for some time, as one of the stars, veteran actor Charles Winninger, sued the producers, Fred Gerrior and Martin Nosseck, for $6000 dollars in unpaid wages. In 1959, after Winninger won his suit, production appears to have passed into the hands of Nick Giovan.
According to some sources, such as IMDb, the story and screenplay were written by Lawrence Raimond. However, this is unconfirmed. Very little is known about the plot. A short 1957 news article briefly mentions that two little children visit the zoo to try to find a reindeer for Santa Claus. On a Tapatalk forum discussion, one member recounts seeing the film in 1963. This person claims that the children went to visit an elderly man who tells them a story from WWII about lost soldiers ending up at the North Pole and finding the titular white reindeer. Some of the remaining stills could support this, as they do show the children meeting an older gentleman. While the plot details are unclear, the film was intended for the younger viewers, specifically catering to the "Kiddie Matinee" children's audience. The few remaining production materials support this, as they show a chimpanzee as one of the characters.
In addition to Charles Winninger, the film also featured Fritz Field (known for his buffoonish, clownish like characterizations), child stars Dennis Holmes (who would later work on the TV show Laramie) and Ruthie Robinson (whose limited credits reflect more television work) with Hal Smith (of The Andy Griffith Show fame) reportedly playing the role of Santa Claus.
There is some confusion as to when the film premiered. IMDB claims the film was released in 1960. However, AFI claims that the film did not premiere until Nov 2nd, 1963. The film is known to have had regional releases in Phoenix Arizona, Pasadena California, Oakland California, and Bridgeport Connecticut. However, it is unclear if it ever released beyond that.
There are no known home releases of the film. It is also believed that the film was never played on television, which would mean there were likely no 16mm prints produced for that purpose. Even if the film had aired on television at the time, home recording systems were still largely unavailable in the 1960s, so it is unlikely to have been captured from there.
Archive prints of the film have survived, and though not commercially available, have prevented the film from becoming completely lost to the ages.
- AFI Catalog page for the film. Retrieved 04 Apr '21
- TapaTalk discussion on the film, including potential plot details Retrieved 04 Apr '21