Christmas movies are a tradition in many homes, including mine. Everyone loves the classics like A Miracle on 34th Street, The Bishop’s Wife, It’s A Wonderful Life, A Christmas Story and even National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.
I, however, like my Christmas movies with a side of screwball, a merry measure of mayhem…sometimes even a heaping of horror.
In the next few installments of this blog, I’ll be sharing my 25 Days of Christmas Movies; I hope you’ll find a new tradition in the mix. Please note that some of these movies aren’t exactly about Christmas, but may feature Christmas as a plot device or simply a backdrop.
1. Christmas in Connecticut (1945)
Have you ever wondered if Martha Stewart really can’t cook, or actually can’t make Christmas wreaths from dental floss and chopsticks? Well, that’s the secret of the wartime doyenne of domesticity, Elizabeth Lane (Barbara Stanwyck) Not only can she not cook, she doesn’t have a husband, a baby or a country home in Connecticut…all of which figure prominently in her successful magazine column.
When a war hero is given the prize of a holiday weekend with said family, panic and hilarity follow. Houses are rented, babies are borrowed, and love can’t help but blossom.
With the charming Dennis Morgan, a rare turn by Sydney Greenstreet as a “good guy” and the always funny S.Z “Cuddles” Sakall
“Eet is so romantic, eet geeves me peemples all over da goose”
Now Showing: December 10th at 12:30 AM on AMC
2. I’ll Be Seeing You (1944)
Two lonely people – a soldier (Joseph Cotton) and a woman (Ginger Rogers) – each with enough baggage to fill the overhead bins on a SST meet on a train bound for the same town. They find peace, redemption and hope with the help of a stellar cast that includes Shirley Temple (in one of her first “grown up” roles), Spring Byington and a very young John Derek. The soundtrack includes the title song, which became a huge hit that year.
“It's just the dreaming that counts. Nobody gets exactly what he wants out of life. One of the first things you learn is to make compromises with your dreams.”
Now Showing: January 3rd, at 12:30 AM on TCM
3. Holiday Affair (1949)
A young widow (Janet Leigh) has to choose between two holiday–time suitors. As the choices are Robert Mitchum and Wendell Corey, the ultimate winner is obvious without even having seen the film.
What makes the movie so charming is Mitchum (in one of his early rare romantic roles, which was undertaken in an attempt to rebuild his reputation after the notorious bust for marijuana possession in 1948), as well as one of the most natural and understated performances by a child actor…ever. Gordon Gebert, as Janet Leigh’s young son, is a marvel.
“And I want a girl that'll drop everything and run to me, no matter what the score is.”
Now Showing: December 20th at 8:00 PM on TCM
YouTube upload: http://youtu.be/QTmISocEi2g
4. The Ref (1994)
In a variation on the “Ransom of Red Chief” theme, a cat burglar chooses the VERY wrong house for a Christmas Eve break–in. Dennis Leary is the thief who finds himself playing marriage and family counselor to an extremely dysfunctional group that includes Kevin Spacey, Judy Davis, Christine Baranski and Glynis Johns, who (for my money) steals the show as a snotty, overbearing matriarch.
WARNING: Very naughty, extremely bad language in this film. Very. You've been warned. Seriously.
5. Remember The Night (1940)
A prosecuting attorney takes pity on a shoplifter and brings her home for Christmas. (Wait, what?)
This is the first on–screen pairing of Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray. Four years later, they’d burn up the celluloid in Double Indemnity. That same chemistry is apparent here, but in a sweeter, more melancholy way. Written by Preston Sturges, with uber–screen matriarch Beulah Bondi (Jimmy Stewart’s mom in It’s A Wonderful Life), Elizabeth Patterson, and Disney voice legend Sterling Holloway. A very sweet and lovely film – definitely one of my favorites; discovering it was a blessing.
“Now there's nothing as dangerous as a square shooter. If all men were like you there wouldn't be any nice girls left”
Now Showing: December 12th at 9:45 PM on TCM
6. Holiday (1938)
After proposing to Julia Seaton (Doris Nolan), self–made iconoclast Johnny Case (Cary Grant) realizes she’s rich. God only knows how it took him so long to realize this; she lives in a townhouse that looks like the First National Bank of 1%ers, but because it’s Cary Grant, we’ll give him a pass. Once he meets Julia’s free–spirited sister Linda (Katharine Hepburn), a quandary arises.
Hepburn and Grant are stunningly gorgeous; Holiday is the 3rd of four films in which they co–starred. However, the movie is completely and utterly stolen by Lew Ayres, as the dissolute brother of Hepburn’s character. Great dialogue and a display of acrobatics by Grant, who started out in show business as a stilt–walker. With Edward Everett Horton
"When I find myself in a position like this, I ask myself what would General Motors do? And then I do the opposite! "
Now Showing: February 22nd at 9:45 AM on TCM
Next up: Jimmy Stewart (no, not in that Christmas movie), and the world’s worst houseguest.
And remember…friends don’t let friends watch remakes of films.