Happy Groundhog Day!

Pennsylvania Polka by Frankie Yankovic  (press link to play song)

Happy Groundhog Day. As always, Punxsutawney Phil has again prognosticated if we will have an early spring. If he sees his shadow, we 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.

The Movie

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.

During the making of the film, 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. They continued not speaking to each other for a long time.  The two men eventually met again and worked to heal the old wounds when Ramis was dying from autoimmune inflammatory vasculitis.  The director died in 2014.

The separation was sad,  not only because the two created good work in this movie, Stripes and Ghostbusters.  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. Yet, in creating a wonderful movie with such a beautiful theme, the two strong creative forces involved in the movie lost their friendship.

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.

One of the funniest scenes in the film features Stephen Tobolowsky as Ned Ryerson. Ryerson has 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. Here is another interview with Tobolowsky about the movie and the famous scene. It’s a doozy. Bing!

As Groundhog Day 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.

  • Visiting the Locations for “Groundhog Day”
  • Groundhog Day (and Ghostbusters?) 2012
  • Harold Ramis: The SCTV Years
  • Cinderella story, Outta nowhere: Caddyshack Anniversary
  • Teaser Trailer for New “The Jungle Book” from Disney
  • New Track from Darlene Love: “Forbidden Nights”
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    7 thoughts on “Happy Groundhog Day!”

    1. I don’t know why, but as many times as I watch Groundhog Day, I don’t get what’s so great about it. I think it’s partly the cast: I know Andie McDowell is pretty, but she is more wooden than Keanu Reeve (who is similarly easy on the eyes); and I reallly loathe Bill Murray. When I found out it’s a Harold Ramis movie, I tried again, but I still didn’t get it.

      On the other hand, when I was isolated and lonely in the country, there was a groundhog that I called “my friend” because I couldn’t name him. I thought he was a prairie dog, but they’re not really abundant in the suburban northeast. Whenever we saw one on the side of the road I’d say, “hey there’s my friend” and if it was roadkill, we’d say, “hey my friend is sleeping”.

    2. Thanks for the comment. I can see how if you do not like the lead actors in “Groundhog Day,” you might not like the movie. Your dislike of Bill Murray may be connected to the fact that some say he is close to playing himself in this movie.

      The first time I saw the movie, I just thought it was okay, but upon repeated viewings through the years, it has become one of my favorites.

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