Pennsylvania Polka by Frankie Yankovic Pennsylvania Polka by Frankie Yankovic (press play button to play)
Happy Groundhog Day. This year is Punxsutawney Phil’s 125th prognositcation, and he has predicted an early spring here in the U.S. One benefit of the storm hitting the eastern U.S. this morning is that it created cloudy skies, because if the groundhog saw his shadow, we would get six more weeks of winter.
Even though the official website claims Phil has been the same groundhog all those years, I am not sure I believe them. According to historical markers around Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, German immigrants began observing the day as early as 1886. The tradition arose out of a European custom to predict winter’s length by the weather on the ancient Christian holiday of Candlemas.
I cannot think of Groundhog Day without thinking of the wonderful movie with the same name. One of the most surprising discoveries about Groundhog Day (1993) the movie, courtesy the DVD commentary, is that Bill Murray and Director-Actor Harold Ramis had a big falling out during the movie and are no longer friends. Apparently, Murray wanted to make a more serious movie while Ramis wanted the movie to be more of a comedy. That disagreement provided a lot of growing tension during the filming of the movie. Last I heard, they still do not speak to each other.
The separation is sad — not only because the two created good work in this movie, Stripes and Ghostbusters — but that the division is so contrary to the theme of the excellent Groundhog Day. One of the lessons of the movie is that the best cure for the existential crises and the miseries in your own life is to forget yourself and concentrate on doing good for others. So it is unfortunate that in creating a wonderful movie with such a beautiful theme that the two strong creative forces involved in the movie are no longer friends.
Maybe it was because of that sharp creative tension that they were able to make such a perfect movie. The film walks an exact line, never straying too far either way toward light-hearted comedy or seriousness. As the movie nears its conclusion, you understand what Phil Connors meant when he explained in Groundhog Day, “When Chekhov saw the long winter, he saw a winter bleak and dark and bereft of hope. Yet we know that winter is just another step in the cycle of life. But standing here among the people of Punxsutawney and basking in the warmth of their hearths and hearts, I couldn’t imagine a better fate than a long and lustrous winter.”
May the rest of your winter be without animosity and be full of warm hearths and hearts.
Bonus Video that’s a Doozy: In a fan video, Stephen Tobolowsky, i.e., Ned Ryerson, discussed how mad Bill Murray was during the scenes where he had to repeatedly step in the deep puddle of water in the cold weather. Unfortunately, that fan video is no longer available, but here is another interview with Tobolowsky about the movie and the famous scene.