Christmas again. Can you believe it? I think I just celebrated New Year’s last week! I wonder why the time flies much more rapidly as you get older. Anybody got any ideas?
Anyway, I thought I’d do a little post about my favorite Christmas movies. These films convey to me a Christmasy feeling, even though some of them don’t deal directly with the Christmas holiday. In no particular order they are:
HOLIDAY INN (1942) / Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire, Marjorie Reynolds, Virginia Dale. Director: Mark Sandrich. Crosby-Dale-Astaire song and dance team is broken up when Astaire takes Dale away. Crosby eventually heads for Connecticut (always shown in these movies to be a rural kind of place populated with funny Hollywood types), where he opens up an inn that operates only on holidays. Irving Berlin wrote a song for each of the major holidays, including the legendary White Christmas, performed for the first time in this film. Lots of charm as Bing sings and Fred dances. As expected, Berlin’s tunes are top drawer.
YOUNG AT HEART (1954) / Frank Sinatra, Doris Day, Gig Young, Ethel Barrymore. Director: Gordon Douglas. Classy remake of 1938 film, Four Daughters, in which a down-and-out piano player arrives into a warm and fuzzy home, and things are never the same. Sinatra shines as the loner with an attitude and Day warms up her cutesy persona that would permeate her films of the late 50s and early 60s. Barrymore, as Aunt Jessie, delivers many great lines.
A CHRISTMAS STORY (1983) / Peter Billingley, Darren McGavin, Melinda Dillon. Director: Bob Clark. Now-classic holiday yarn set in the 1940s, told from Ralphie’s (Billingsley’s) point of view. He craves a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas, but his parents are adamant: it’ll put your eye out. McGavin scores big as Ralphie’s father, the “furnace fighter”, and Dillon as the weary mother. Movie touches every Christmas nerve in your body and gets better with each viewing. Often runs as a 24-hour marathon on Christmas day.
IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE (1946) / James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore. Director, Frank Capra. Stewart runs a small-town building & loan company and is well-liked by everyone but Barrymore. Things turn sour for him and he’s about to commit suicide when he is saved by his guardian angel, unforgettably played by Henry Travers. What follows is a look at what his life would’ve been like if he’d never been born. Imaginative, fanciful piece of filmmaking by Capra, who was inspired to make this movie after visiting Seneca Falls, New York, the town on which the fictional “Bedford Falls” was created.
CHRISTMAS IN CONNECTICUT (1946) / Barbara Stanwyck, Dennis Morgan, Sydney Greenstreet. Director: Peter Godfrey. Stanwyck writes for Greenstreet’s magazine and has everyone fooled into thinking her Martha Stewart-type articles reflect her real lifestyle, when in fact she is completely un-domestic. Enter returning war veteran Morgan and the fun begins. Pour some hot cocoa and curl up with this film on Christmas Eve.
I’LL BE SEEING YOU (1945) / Ginger Rogers, Joseph Cotten, Shirley Temple. Director: William Dieterle. Wartime tale has Rogers as convict on Christmas leave from prison. She meets Cotten, a war vet who has recovered from his physical wounds but not from the mental problems he incurred during the battles. Memorable MGM drama with the stars at the top of their form. Haunting title song stays with you.
MIRACLE ON 34th STREET (1947) / Maureen O’Hara, John Payne, Natalie Wood, Edmund Gwenn. Director: George Seaton. Gwenn is hired as a last-minute replacement Santa Claus for Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, eventually becomes the store Santa for the Christmas season. Pretty soon, he’s claiming to be the real Santa Claus. Good-natured film hits all the right spots in attaining its well-deserved classic status. Film won four Oscars, including one for Gwenn in a supporting role. Lost out for Best Picture to Gentleman’s Agreement.