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 Holiday Films:
Christmas time and the holiday spirit have really inspired some great movies over the years, and though most of these are quite enjoyable throughout the year, what better time to pull them out than after a long day of fighting your way through the holiday shopping crazy. Grab a nice mug of hot chocolate and curl up with these Christmas Classics.
IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE (1946)

The quintessential Christmas movie and an absolute must-see. If somehow you've managed never to watch this film in its entirety or if it's been a while, grab a blanket, camp out on the couch and pop this one in. Furthermore, don't get so down halfway through the film that you turn it off either (as I've known a few people to do). If you don't see the end then you've missed the whole point of the movie. Jimmy Stewart is George Bailey, a man with big dreams who gets stuck in his little hometown of Bedford Falls all his life because his conscience keeps him doing the honorable thing. Time and time again things don't go George's way, and he finds himself contemplating suicide because his life insurance policy is worth more than he is. A wonderful guardian angel in training named Clarence (played by Henry Travers) comes down to set him straight however, and the movie's title pretty much sums it all up. A nice feel-good movie, and good acting all around by Stewart, Travers, Lionel Barrymore and a host of other supporting characters including Thomas Mitchell.

MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET (1947)

Though it's been remade, I still prefer Maureen O'Hara, Natalie Wood and Edmund Gwenn in this holiday classic about a little girl who doesn't believe in Santa Claus. It's got something for everyone, from working parents to skeptical kids, and supporting characters like Thelma Ritter and Gene Lockhart really fill out the cast nicely.

A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN (1946)

Christmas isn't the main focus of this movie, but it's a masterful film adaptation of Betty Smith's classic novel about a young girl and her family growing up poor in Brooklyn at the turn of the century. The real story is the timeless conflict between a young girl and her mother in the face of a heroic adoration of her father. Peggy Ann Garner gives the best performance I've ever seen by a child star, and she's magnificently flanked by Dorothy McGuire and James Dunn as her parents. The holiday scenes however, really seem to make this film the classic it is, and they're a captivating portrait of how Christmas is so much more about family than about material possessions.

MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS (1944)

Another film in which Christmas isn't the primary focus, but the holiday scenes are heart-felt and memorable. Judy Garland has the lead, but little Margaret O'Brien almost steals the show in this musical story of a turn-of-the-century family (including four daughters) and their day-to-day adventures as residents of St. Louis in the year it hosts the World's Fair. It's in this film that Garland introduced the world to that holiday classic "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," and the film is worth watching just to hear her sing it.

WHITE CHRISTMAS (1954)

Another Christmas musical, this one featuring such stars as Bing Crosby, Dany Kaye, Vera-Ellen and Rosemary Clooney. Bing croons such Irving Berlin classics as "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas," Vera-Ellen taps up a storm, Kaye entertains with his usual goofy antics, and this movie is overall a lot of fun. A lot of comedy, a little bit of romance, and just enough holiday sentiment to go around.

THE BELLS OF ST. MARY'S (1945)

Bing Crosby plays Father O'Malley, newly appointed to take charge of financially-troubled St. Mary's school. But he and the sisters (lead by Ingrid Bergman) don't always see eye-to-eye when it comes to how things should be run. Bing croons a little of course, and once again, Christmas is not the primary focus of the film. But you'll never see a better first grade Christmas pageant than you get in this movie, and trust me, it's not to be missed.

AN AFFAIR TO REMEMBER (1957)

This movie has gone down in history as one of the greatest classic romances of all-time, but it's a holiday movie too, climaxing on Christmas Day. Cary Grant is a playboy who becomes smitten with no-nonsense Deborah Kerr on an ocean liner crossing the Atlantic. Love blooms but each have previous commitments so they agree to take off six months to get their lives in order. Tragedy strikes followed by misunderstanding, but they're brought together on Christmas Day and, given all the pre-makes and re-makes of this one, you probably know what results. Still, another holiday-related classic.

A CHRISTMAS CAROL (1951)

There are several versions of this Dickens Christmas classic, but I like this one the best. I don't think you'll find a better Ebenezer Scrooge than Alastair Sim, and his performance is so good that when the film was released in Britain (where it was made) it was called simply SCROOGE. It's a great movie.

THE BEST CHRISTMAS PAGEANT EVER (1983 TV)

Okay, I know this is a made-for-TV movie, but give me a little leniency here. I'd first recommend reading the book by Barbara Robinson because it's better, but if you haven't the time or energy, see if you can find the movie. It's worth it just because the story is so creative and fun. There'll never be another family like the Herdmans.

Also:

  • THE BISHOP'S WIFE (1946)
  • HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS (1966 TV)
  • LITTLE WOMEN (1933)
  • MICKEY'S CHRISTMAS CAROL (1983)

Return to the Index of Recommended Films.

 

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