Welcome class, today we’re going to discuss Christmas movies. By my count we now have 12 days left until Christmas and this is as good a time for a blog like this as any.
Now what makes a good Christmas movie and what makes a bad Christmas movie? Anyone? Anyone?
OK. I’ll tell you. Innocence. Innocence and a charming childlike sincerity make for great Christmas movies. The reason many Christmas movies fail is they lack either of these qualities. In other words, if the people making the movie don’t believe in what they are doing, if they are just throwing a Christmas movie together for the money and not for the sentiment and emotional belief of the season, then it will be a crap movie.
This is why the original Miracle on 34th Street works so well and all the remakes are just utter crap and totally unwatchable. The people involved, the actors, directors, and screenwriters of the 1947 version all believed in the story, fully accepted Edmund Qwenn as Santa.
I can think of dozens of movies that didn’t satisfy, that’s didn’t make the grade, and I could list them if you’d like, but I think that would make for an awfully long and boring list. I mean how many times can you read a review like:
Santa Claus: The Movie (1985). Pure crap.
Scrooged (1988). Pure crap.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000). Pure crap.
before it gets tedious?
So as the name of this blog suggests, these are the Greatest Christmas Movies of all Time according to Me. Anything not on this list is not the greatest. Deal with it.
So without further ado, presented in no particular order, The List (accept no substitutes):
A Holiday Affair (1949). This is a holiday romance about a widow (Janet Leigh) who is a secret shopper (she price shops for the competition). Robert Mitchum is a sales clerk who catches her but then lets her go and is fired as a result. She’s engaged to another man, but Mitchum weasels his way into her life and becomes good friends with her young son, who I think steals the show. The catch is, she’s still in love with her late husband, a hero in WWII, who she has placed on a pedestal that neither man can compete against. It’s a four-way love triangle, so to speak.
It’s a Wonderful Life (1946). A charming movie of a boy who has big dreams of being a big-time adventurer and seeing the world but because of various responsibilities being dropped into his lap finds that he never leaves home while his brother and friends all become rich or famous or war heroes. Everyone has seen it at least once, I’m sure. Jimmy Stewart is wonderful as always. No matter how many times I’ve seen this movie (2,341 at last count), the ending still makes me tear up, which tickles my wife to death because normally I’m such an unemotional bastard.
Miracle on 34th Street (1947). This is the original and only one worth seeing. Forget the five or more remakes, they just don’t capture the charm of this one. None of the little girls are anywhere near as cute as Natalie Wood. And Edmund Qwenn is perfect as Kris Kringle and is, in my opinion, the most delightful Santa ever captured on film.
The Bishop’s Wife (1947). Utterly charming story of a priest (David Niven) who wants a brand new cathedral and gets so caught up in the pursuit of money donors that he forgets what the true meaning and spirit of Christmas is. He prays for guidance and an angel named Dudley (Cary Grant) is sent down to help. The romantic tension between Loretta Young and Grant, and the suspicions of Niven is what makes this movie such a delight. That, and Monty Wooly. Niven and Young’s daughter in this movie is Zuzu from It’s a Wonderful Life.
Scrooge (1951). Also named A Christmas Carol for American release. This is the crème-de-la-crème of Dickens’ adaptations. Alastair Sim is a delight as Scrooge. He pulls off mean better than most and still becomes as giddy as a schoolboy at the end. The Dickens’ story is one of the few Christmas movies that seems to survive remake after remake. I can’t think of one version I wouldn’t watch. I also love the 1938 version with Reginald Owen and the 1984 version with George C. Scott. Heck, I even find the 1992 A Muppet’s Christmas Carol entertaining in its own right, even if the ghost of Marley becomes two brothers played by Statler and Waldorf. And Michael Caine’s portrayal of Scrooge ain’t half bad neither.
A Christmas Story (1983). I haven’t seen Ralphy in several years, but its still a fun movie. How many of us remember daring a friend to stick his tongue to a pole on a cold winter’s day? Probably explains why I have no sense of taste, all my taste buds are still stuck to that flag pole at Townsend Street School. Ralphy’s dad, played by Darren McGavin, is so much like my own dad as to make me think McGavin had been peeking in through the windows in preparation for the part. My dad, however, never did win a major award from Nihi, so we never had a leg lamp in our house.
Holiday Inn (1942). Not strictly a Christmas movie because it actually celebrates nearly every American holiday throughout the year, but this is the movie that introduced the greatest Christmas song ever, “White Christmas” as sung by Bing Crosby. It’s an enjoyable movie with Fred Astaire and Crosby as former song-and-dance partners. Crosby has a nervous breakdown and opens an Inn that he plans to only have open during holidays. Astaire and Crosby become rivals for Marjorie Reynolds affections (Crobsy’s new partner) and that’s when the fun starts.
White Christmas (1954). This isn’t the first time the song “White Christmas” was sung as many believe (see above entry about Holiday Inn). Despite being critically panned when it first came out as one of Irving Berlin’s weakest musical efforts, the movie was the top grossing film of the year. It stars Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, and Vera-Ellen, who must have the thinnest waist in film history. What is that thing? Like 16 inches? I keep expecting her to break in half during some of the more robust dance numbers. Some interesting facts: Danny Kaye was actually the third choice for this role. Originally it was supposed to reteam Crosby with Fred Astaire. Then Donald O’Connor. Both very delightful entertainers, but I can’t imagine either having the same silliness of Kaye. And someone named Trudy Stevens dubbed the singing for Vera-Ellen in all the songs, except for “Sisters.” Clooney sang both parts in that song. All this time I thought Vera-Ellen was multi-talented and now to find out she’s the original Milli Vanilli? Well, I’m heartbroken, but I’m not going to sue anyone. It’s still a fun movie.
So there you have it. Those eight movies are all you need to watch this Christmas if you want to get into the spirit of the season and expect to have a very Merry Christmas. Go rent them, pour some brandy into that eggnog, sit back, be joyous, and you can thank me later.
Info about White Christmas came from Wikipedia.com.