Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown (1975)

Starring: Duncan Watson
Grade: A+

When compared to the very light A Charlie Brown Valentine, this somehow comes off as edgy when lined up against it. It’s interesting how different the styles of certain cartoons change with the era in which they come out.


Because he has nothing else to do, Charlie Brown (Watson) is laying on the ground and leaning up against his mailbox waiting for valentines to be delivered. Lucy (Melanie Kohn) shows up and wishes him good luck because he’ll need it. Once she leaves, he reaches in the mailbox to see if anything is in there, but it’s empty. As he walks away, Snoopy (Bill Melendez), dressed like cupid, fires arrows in his direction. They aren’t sharp-tipped or anything. In fact, they look like tiny plungers. Anyway, after he misses quite a few times, he stops Charlie Brown and sticks one directly on his head.

At school, Linus (Stephen Shea) takes his teacher Miss Othmar saying his name for roll call as a sign that she likes him. Sally (Lynn Mortensen) isn’t buying his theory, but he’s in love (and delusional). Othmar asks him to pound the erasers, and he accepts wholeheartedly because he thinks this is a privilege. Later, Charlie Brown reaches into his mailbox but still doesn’t receive a valentine. Linus joins him and once he hears him say the word “valentine”, he gets the idea of getting Miss Othmar the biggest valentine there is. After Linus leaves, Charlie Brown reaches into the mailbox again as if a valentine was going to magically appear twenty seconds after he already checked it. He lays back on the ground against the base of the mailbox. Elsewhere, Lucy tells Schroeder (Greg Felton) about the history of the valentine from a book she’s reading while he plays his piano. She tries to drop hints about Valentine’s Day, but he doesn’t respond as he plays. She tries to get him jealous by saying he could lose her and how bad it would be to have a lost love, but he says nothing. This causes her to slam the piano and destroy it by jumping on it over and over again. As everything is laying there destroyed, she asks Shroeder if he’s sure he wants to risk losing her. He just looks frustrated. At the store, Violet (Linda Ercoli) runs into Linus, who’s buying a heart-shaped box of candy for Othmar. Despite the price of the large box, he doesn’t care. Violet warns him that it’s not a good idea to fall in love with his teacher, but he insists he doesn’t love her.

He’s just “fond of the ground on which she walks”.

Violet understands, as she’s there to buy something for a male teacher, though she doesn’t know what to get him. Linus suggests shaving lotion and leaves. Sally sees him leave with the heart-shaped box and assumes it’s for her, talking to Violet right after about it once she exits the store. She asks Violet what she should get him, and she suggests shaving lotion. Meanwhile, Lucy sees a sign for a “Pawpet Show” now playing. Interested, she follows the signs. It mentions a special Valentine’s Day drama. Snoopy is working the tickets, the food counter, and is doing the show, though Lucy doesn’t know this. After he messes around a bit and gives her everything except for the popcorn she asked for, he falls into the popcorn machine as its being made. All is well though because she finally gets the popcorn. He shows her to his doghouse where the play begins. Charlie Brown appears and narrates the show aloud as Snoopy mimes the story with puppets. As the story goes on, there are certain descriptive scenes that talk about the weather conditions. Each time this happens, real precipitation is dropped on Lucy by Snoopy. For example, if a river is mentioned, water is dropped on her. When Charlie Brown mentions a muddy road, mud is thrown on her. When he talks about an avalanche, Snoopy just throws a bunch of garbage on her. Following this, he talks about bandits attacking, causing Snoopy to hit her a few times. The last bit is about a thunderstorm. This is when Snoopy pours water on her again. She storms out in protest, so Charlie Brown reminds her there’s another performance this evening.

It shouldn’t surprise you, but she’s not interested.

At school, Schroeder announces to the class they are to put the valentines they want to give into a box at the front of the room. Sally asks if they can be homemade, and Schroeder encourages it, agreeing with the teacher that if you really like someone, a homemade valentine is really special. Charlie Brown is excited. He’s confident that in this big of a class, he’s bound to get a valentine. At home, Sally tries to make her own but continues to fail. She explains her dilemma to Charlie Brown and says she has to do this because Linus got her this big heart-shaped box gift (that isn’t actually for her). He shows her how to cut a heart out of paper, but she manages to cut the shape of a cloverleaf, which is undoubtedly harder. She tries again and cuts out a diamond. Snoopy comes over and cuts out a shape that somehow turns into a music box. Charlie Brown attempts a more intricate design, but it disintegrates. Following this, Snoopy cuts out a regular heart and heads outside to Woodstock. He slams it over his beak, laughing as he walks away. Don’t worry though, Woodstock does the same to Snoopy later on.

The next day at school is Valentine’s Day, and it’s time to celebrate! Sadly, Charlie Brown isn’t going to have the holiday he was hoping for.

My Thoughts:

In all of the love-related Peanuts specials and compared to the other one centered around Valentine’s Day in A Charlie Brown Valentine, Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown is the best one by far. In terms of holiday specials worth being shown once a year, it’s right up there with the “Big Three” of A Charlie Brown Christmas, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, and It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. How you rank the four against each other will vary for all Peanuts fans, but Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown is in the discussion for not only representing the spirit of the holiday for the age group but also for being genuinely funny and true to the characters and comic strip.

Everything works. In the non-holiday specials, this isn’t always the case, but it is here. For starters, Charlie Brown’s wish for a valentine is perfect for his personality and desire to be liked by his classmates, and it creates for some amusing moments like when he throws the case containing all the valentines (none of which were given to him) directly out the window of the classroom. Above all else though, it’s not too much for Charlie Brown to where it gets depressing. A big part of these Peanuts specials is Charlie Brown dealing with his status as a loser, internalizing it, and trying his best efforts to overcome it. Most of the time he fails, but the programs where they succeed tend to have some silver lining for our star to keep going in spite of failure. If we’re lucky, sometimes he wins too, though you should never bank on it. This is the fine line in creating a good Peanuts story and is the reason why this special succeeds and others like Someday You’ll Find Her, Charlie Brown don’t. Here, Charlie Brown just wants one valentine. Sure, he’d enjoy a bunch, which is why he overthinks things and brings a briefcase in the off chance he gets too many to carry (and even considers getting a second just in case), but it’s no secret that one would suffice. It would mean the world to a kid like him. Sadly, he gets nothing. Out of the entire class, he doesn’t get a single valentine to call his own. Pig-Pen even got one and he smells like cat litter (probably). We can’t help but feel for our star, but the energy is different for this show. It’s such an entertaining program throughout that this doesn’t ruin our outlook on things. Everyone kind of fails in their plight for love. Such as life.

Linus is after his teacher who has a boyfriend. Everyone knows this except for him somehow, but he pursues anyway and doesn’t even get to give her his gift because she drove off before the class party ended. Schroeder still has no interest in the lovestruck Lucy, and Sally goes out of her way to make Linus a valentine but doesn’t get anything in return. Hell, even Violet’s gift of shaving lotion for the male teacher was a waste because it didn’t hit her until after she gave it to him that he has a beard.

Side note, I loved the delivery of Violet’s when she talks to the clerk at the store and asks with a big smile on her face, “Do you have any heart-shaped…shaving lotion?”. It was a cute moment for someone dealing with their first love.

Anyway, this is why the presentation of the special works as a whole. It’s consistent and everyone struggles when trying to succeed at love. The climax was not only funny, but it worked on two other levels as well, with it being a great “Charlie Brown” moment and a star-making showcase for Schroeder, who isn’t used nearly as much as he should be. Usually, his inclusion in the ending would be taken by someone like Linus, but this change of pace was a welcomed one. Plus, it makes sense since Linus was having such a bad day after the Othmar fiasco. So far, this has been the best I’ve seen of Schroeder, showing a side to his personality we very rarely get to see. The girls of the class come to Charlie Brown and admit they’ve been feeling guilty for not giving him a valentine, so Violet takes the initiative of erasing her own name from the one she got and wants to give it to him. Now, we know re-gifting a valentine is nasty work and kind of disrespectful, but this is when Schroeder speaks up like he never has before saying, “Is kindness and thoughtfulness something you can make retroactive? Don’t you think he has any feelings? You just hate to feel guilty and now you have the nerve to come one day later and offer a used valentine just to ease your conscious?”. It’s perfectly written and has been my all-time favorite Schroeder moment, especially since he receives so few opportunities to shine. Him sticking up for a guy he doesn’t really talk to that much speaks highly of his character. Despite this big moment, the grateful Charlie Brown happily accepts the valentine.

This might be a bit odd when you look at it, but it’s deeper than that.

Though it undermines Schroeder’s point, and he knows of the implications of the girls’ thoughts on the matter, he accepts the moment for what it is. He doesn’t shy away from what he did and the true intentions of everyone involved. When he admits he let Shroeder down, he points out to Linus that this was his first valentine. He was just happy to get one. With the girls going out of their way to speak to him, it showed that they noticed and thought of him, so it was still a positive act all things considered. It showed they cared enough to go through with this action. Maybe it wasn’t completely altruistic, but it can’t be completely passed off in a pessimistic manner. It was a step in the right direction, which is why Charlie Brown can’t think of his holiday as a complete flop. Sometimes, it really is the thought that counts, especially for someone who receives so little positives in his life. It’s the possibility of something better like when he knows there’s a good chance that he didn’t get a valentine from the Little Red-Haired Girl but the slight chance of it happening is enough for him to look in his mailbox. As Charlie Brown gets his hopes up for the future and thinks there’s a possibility that he gets a bunch of valentines next year and how he may need three briefcases instead of two, it’s at this moment we start to truly uncover the essence of who Charlie Brown is as a person. He’s a beacon for hope. Despite getting knocked down time and time again, he tries to find some positive in the conclusion of his situation to try again. It’s inspiring, and these final five minutes to end the special explains him through and through, his purpose in the franchise, and why he’s the endearing and timeless character who has lasted a lifetime.

The specials that don’t capture these crucial traits are the one’s that fail. Thankfully, Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown does.

Linus’s foot in mouth delivery of “The amount of money that you spend on a present should be in direct proportion to the amount of affection that you have for that person” was gold. Without a doubt, this is one of the funnier Peanuts specials made, highlighted by the subtlety of the “Pawpet Show” and Charlie Brown narrating it but stopping in the middle to ask Lucy calmly, “How do you like the show so far?”. The icing on the cake was when Charlie Brown got the valentine candy from Pig-Pen and instead of reading some sweet message it just said, “Forget it kid”. Great work all-around. Also, shoutout to Charles M. Schulz for managing to get in two Elizabeth Barrett Browning references in here. Putting all of Sonnets from the Portuguese on one small piece of candy from Snoopy to Sally was an underrated joke.

Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown is yet another special from the famed characters that deserves a yearly re-watch when the holiday comes around. It’s fun, it’s amusing, it’s well-written, and it’s very heartfelt in its ultimate message despite no one really winning in a satisfactory manner. If you rank all of the productions coming out of Charles M. Shulz’s franchise, this one will always be amongst the best.

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