AS Christmas and the New Year beckon, what better time to indulge in some classic holiday movies?
Here, I share my top 5 Christmas movies to put you in the festive mood:
No. 5: Holiday Inn
This Irving Berlin movie features two great performers on one stage – the much-loved crooner Bing Crosby and the dance legend Fred Astaire. Joining them are Virginia Dale and Marjorie Reynolds.
Although not quite a Christmas story, much of the movie happens during the holiday season.
Jim (Crosby) and Ted (Astaire) along with Lila (Dale) sing and dance together as a stage act. Jim and Ted complement each other well – one excels at dancing and the other at singing. They’ve been together a while when Jim decides to call it quits; he’s tired of working through all the holidays. He gets the bright idea of living on a farm where he can take it easy. But farm-living involves more work than he ever imagined, leading him to come up with his next big plan – having a holiday inn where people from the city can come and relax while he puts on a show. He hires the beautiful Linda (Reynolds) and the two develop feelings for each other. That is until Ted comes along to hire Linda and sweep her off her feet.
It really does’t matter what the plot is, as long as you have Bing and Fred on one stage, or one movie – it makes it sheer entertainment watching them in action. The 1942 movie also features the song White Christmas – more famously found in the movie of the same name, which was released in 1954 and also starred Crosby.
No. 4: Christmas in Connecticut
This 1945 romantic comedy stars Barbara Stanwyck (of TV’s Big Valley fame) and Dennis Morgan.
Stanwyck on her own makes this movie worth watching as she plays the role of magazine columnist Elizabeth Lane who has fooled everyone into thinking she’s married with a baby and cooks wonderful meals. The truth is she’s single with no baby and she can’t cook. The recipes have been coming from her friend Felix who owns a restaurant. Her life gets complicated when her publisher insists she entertain returning war hero Jefferson (Morgan). Elizabeth has to find a husband, baby and learn how to cook immediately or risk losing her job.
The movie is memorable because of Stanwyck’s portrayal of a young lady at her wit’s end and trying to pull off a lie, while not entirely sure what’s going on. She plays the helpless and witless young lady with as much aplomb as she would the part of the matriarch in Big Valley years later.
No. 3: A Christmas Carol
Many movie adaptations of this Charles Dickens’ classic have been made, but the first one (made in 1938) stands out; not just because it was the first but also because it set the standard for the rest.
The story, as you probably know, is about the miserly Scrooge (Reginald Owen) who hates Christmas and stinges on money and electricity and makes life miserable for his clerk Bob Cratchit. All that comes to a head when he is visited by the ghost of his former partner Jacob Marley, telling him to expect a visit from three spirits. The first is the Ghost of Christmas Past who reminds Scrooge of his pleasant childhood; the second is the Ghost of Christmas Present who shows him what life is like for Bob and his family, and Scrooge’s nephew Fred; and lastly the Ghost of Christmas Future shows him that after he dies, nobody misses him.
The effects can come off looking a bit low budget by today’s standards, but Owen’s portrayal of Scrooge is commendable and memorable. His portrayal of the stingy businessman makes this movie an absorbing watch.
No. 2: White Christmas
This is one of my favourites, although it is a bit long and might be guilty of having too many songs and dances. This is another Irving Berlin movie and the combination of Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye make it a thoroughly enjoyable watch.
This 1954 musical romantic comedy is about two World War II army boys – Bob (Crosby) and Phil (Kaye) – who team up after the war to form a musical duo. They end up helping two sisters – Betty and Judy – who get in a bind. They also fall in love with the sisters. The boys decide to put on a show to help raise funds for their much-loved former commanding officer. There is a series of misunderstandings and confusion which inevitably has a happy ending, of course.
Watch out for the scene during the war when Crosby sings White Christmas; also the one of Crosby and Kaye singing Sisters – which is hilarious; and lastly the scene where the war veterans reunite to pay tribute to their commander.
This movie is one of the few that can cause shivers up my spine and bring tears to my eyes. There are two scenes of the commander with a large group of soldiers and both of those scenes are very moving.
Kaye and Crosby are a great combination as well. Kaye is funny without even trying; and Crosby … well, what need I say? His singing can melt any heart.
No. 1: It’s a Wonderful Life
No Christmas movie list is complete without this 1946 movie starring James Stewart and Donna Reed.
Stewart stars as the ill-lucked and extremely good-hearted George Bailey. He loses his hearing in one ear as a child after attempting to save his little brother who falls into the ice cold water in the pond. Then when he wants to travel the world, after his brother graduates from high school, their father has a fatal stroke. George ends up taking over the Building and Loan Association that his dad headed. Then when his brother returns from college, George again dreams of travelling, hoping that his brother can take over the Building and Loan, but his brother is married and has a good job offer from his father-in-law. George’s plans to travel are scrapped once again. Although he never leaves Bedford Falls, he is nonetheless blessed – he marries the beautiful and kind Mary and together they have four children. But the bad luck continues to plague George and it leads him to entertain suicidal thoughts. It is up to Clarence the angel to persuade George otherwise and show him that he truly is blessed.
This is the ultimate feel-good movie. It makes you realise how good your life is, no matter how bad it looks, so you can appreciate what you have.
Stewart is exceptional as the extremely responsible and kind George. His performance put him on the list of Oscar nominees in 1947.
Although It’s a Wonderful Life had six Academy Award nominations, it won only one – the Technical Achievement Award.
All these movies can be bought on Amazon.com. Alternatively, you can try looking for them on YouTube, but you may have to watch each movie in parts.
Enjoy the classic holiday movies, and Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
“God bless Us, Every One!”