Saturday, December 5, 2009

Holiday Movies

I have talked with many film historians and "cinephiles" who think the only good movies are those made before the sixties and in black and white. While I don't necessarily agree (after all, there is The Godfather), I do think this is the case for the holiday themed films. Maybe it's nostalgia, better sets and scripts or the fact older films are less commercial and product placement oriented, but the following holiday films are always the perennial favorites for me. (And yes, I left off It's a Wonderful Life and Christmas Story -- for some reason I have never warmed up to those films. Let the comments begin....).

Holiday Inn (1942)

The definitive holiday movie (it even covers Lincoln's birthday and Valentine's Day) complete with Irving Berlin tunes, an idyllic Connecticut setting, Bing Crosby singing "White Christmas" and of course, Fred Astaire and the dance numbers. Crosby flees Manhattan to open up a supper club only open on the holidays (hence the name) and vies with his old musical partner Fred Astaire over the affections of a flower girl turned performer, Marjorie Reynolds. The set was reused by Paramount twelve years later for the film White Christmas and supposedly the hotel chain Holiday Inn took its name from the film in l952. A must see.

The cast of Holiday Inn

Valentine's Day sequence with Marjorie Reynolds and Bing Crosby

One of three films that used the song "White Christmas"

Legend has it Astaire took a shot or two of bourbon for each take of the film's "drunk dance"

White Christmas (1954)

Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye play a successful song and dance duo after World War II who help their commanding general save a failing Vermont Inn and become involved with a sister act along the way. The Vermont Inn is the remodeled Connecticut Inn from Holiday Inn and was to have originally featured Astaire in the Danny Kaye role (who filled in at the last minute for Donald O'Connor).

Danny Kaye and Bing Crosby is full feather regalia

Crosby, Kaye and songstress Rosemary Clooney

Christmas in Connecticut (1945)

Barbara Stanwyck plays foodie journalist Elizabeth Lane who in actuality, cannot boil an egg. She writes a "Smart Housekeeping" column about her domestic life on a Connecticut farm which is of course all fiction. I won't spoil the rest of the story but it does involve romance and of course, the Christmas holiday in Connecticut. The Connecticut home was the same set used for the film the Katherine Hepburn-Cary Grant film Bringing Up Baby (1938). There was also a television remake with Dyan Cannon and Kris Kristofferson and directed by none other than Arnold Schwarzeneggar in 1992!

Stanwyck with love interest Dennis Morgan in Christmas in Connecticut

Connecticut "house" on the Warner Brothers lot

Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

Miracle is the classic tale of the "real" Kris Kringle proving he is Santa Claus to a disbelieving special events director at Macy's and her six year old daughter played by Natalie Wood. And here's another piece of trivia, actor Edmund Gwenn who played Kringle was also Santa Claus in the 1946 Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. Forever duplicated but none is better than the original.

Natalie Wood with Edmund Gwenn

And if you want to watch something more current on AMC this month there is always....

National Lampoon's Christmas (1989)

While it's not cinema verite', it is hands down one of the funniest holiday films ever made. Chevy Chase as the head of the Griswold family is priceless in his quest for the perfect Christmas -- complete with white trash in laws and a house lit up like Las Vegas (and doesn't every neighborhood have one?) The "squirrel" scene is worth the price of rental alone. And for those who really pay attention to these things, the Griswold house is the same one as the Murtagh house in the Lethal Weapon series on the Warner Brothers backlot.

The Griswold family

and my other personal favorite....

The Holiday (2006):

Two women (Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet) exchange houses during the holidays and love ensues. Jude Law, snappy script, fabulous sets...what's not to love? And thankfully on TBS all month. (See my earlier posts on the design of the film).

Try and have a happy stress free and sane holiday.... January is only three weeks away.

Photo Credits: Paramount Pictures, Warner Brothers, Columbia Pictures and Twentieth Century Fox.


  1. How about The Man Who Came to Dinner? Love that one with Monty Wooley and Bette Davis?

  2. Had not thought of that one!!! Thanks MC--

  3. I too am not a big fan of It's A Wonderful Life. Whenever I have tried to watch it, I just want it to be over. My favorite is Christmas In Connecticut. I still want a fur (faux) coat in a box! My children, who are now in their 20s) have a tradition of watching Christmas Vacation with their 60+ year-old aunt every Thanksgiving! I really love your blog. It is one that I go back to after watching certain movies. I would love to know if there are books on movie set designs--especially pre 1970s. Thanks again for a great post.

  4. I have to say that I am a huge fan of IAWL. I do understand how people don't get it. I watched White Christmas for years and loved it...but now, I can't watch it. Oh well. I like Christmas in Connecticut...but actually my favorite Christmas movie is Auntie Mame. The original not the one with Lucille Ball.
    We watch it every year during the holidays.

  5. Can't believe I forgot Mame -- one of the all time greats! I think there is a bit of Mame in all of us! Thanks for reminding me! And remember "life's a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death":)

  6. Miracle of 34th Street is my all time favorite but The Holiday is a modern day favorite. Thanks for the walk down memory lane! And happy holidays!

  7. Wow! You picked some of my faves! Holiday Inn, Miracle on 34th, and White Christmas. But another fave is a classic, not a Christmas movie but definitely hits the heart strings and definitely is angelic, is Going My Way with Bing Crosby! Also for laughs we do watch The Christmas Story and National Lampoons but also love Elf and Christmas With The Kranks!