Sunday, November 30, 2008


Sorry, I’m not counting TV shows, which rules out three of the greatest Christmas shows: A Charlie Brown Christmas, How The Grinch Stole Christmas (Boris Karloff) and Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer (Burl Ives as ‘the Snowman’). However, here are my favorite Christmas movies … and no, It’s A Wonderful Life is not on the list … a much better Jimmy Stewart film is however. In chronological order ...

THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER (1940) Set in and around a Budapest store, lonely co-workers Klara (Margaret Sullivan) and Alfred (James Stewart) hold an intense dislike for each other, while maintaining a secret letter-writing relationship, with neither realizing who their pen-pal is. They fall in love via their correspondence, while being peevish and curlish towards one another in real life. This is a love story about a couple too much in love with love to fall tidily into each other's arms. Though it all works out finally it explores the fear of how easily good people can miss their chances.Klara sets up a meeting in a café with her pen-pal love and when Alfred arrives he realizes his pen-pal is none other than Klara. The following scene in the cafe and the conversation between Klara and Alfred is (for me) one the best romantic scenes in American film.Remade in 1998 as You’ve Got Mail, which, for all the charms of Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, is a pale imitation of this, the original. It's not a fluke that this film is on Time magazine's 100 Greatest Film's of All Time.

CHRISTMAS IN CONNECTICUT (1942) Nurse Mary falls in love Navy sailor Jones. He tells her that, being in the Navy, he's never really known what a real home is like. She reads an article in a housekeeping magazine by Elizabeth Lane. Elizabeth Lane (Barbara Stanwyck) is comparable to today's Martha Stewart. She lives on a farm in Connecticut with her husband and baby, a model of domesticity and the idol of many an American housewife. Mary decides to write to the publishing magnate, Mr. Alexander Yardley (Sydney Greenstreet) who controls Lane's publication. She asks if Jones can spend Christmas on Mrs. Lane's farm. Mr. Yardley, sensing a public relations boon, supports the idea wholeheartedly.Unfortunately, there's a problem; Elizabeth is not nearly what she appears. She lives in a small apartment in New York, is unmarried and has no concept of domestic life or cuisine. she is a brassy night life girl. She writes the articles simply for the money, and her "five-star" recipes are provided by her uncle, Felix, who owns a Manhattan bistro. When she hears of Mr. Yardley's plan, she begins to panic. She tries to call off the plan, but Yardley insists she go through with the scheme. What happens next is classic screwball comedy at its finest, as Stanwyck desperately procures a Connecticut farm, rents a husband and baby for the week and then ... everything begins to fall apart.

THE BISHOP'S WIFE (1947) Bishop Henry Brogham (David Niven) prays for divine guidance with the troubled building of a new cathedral. His plea is seemingly answered by a suave angel named Dudley (Cary Grant), who reveals his identity initially only to the clergyman.Henry has become so obsessed with the building of the new cathedral, he ignores his duties and marriage with his neglected, unhappy wife, Julia (Loretta Young). Everyone, except for Henry, is charmed by the newcomer Dudley, even the non-religious Professor Wutheridge (Monty Woolley). As Dudley spends time cheering up Julia, there is an unexpected development: Dudley finds himself strongly attracted to her. Sensing this, Henry becomes jealous and anxious for his unwelcome guest to finish his assignement and depart. Eventually, he stands up to the angel. With his mission completed and knowing that Julia loves her husband, Dudley departs, promising never to return. All memory of him is erased. It was remade in 1996 as The Preacher's Wife starring Denzel Washington, Whitney Houston.

A CHRISTMAS WISH [a.k.a.The Great Rupert] (1950) The Great Rupert was something of a marvel when it was released in 1950. Produced by special-effects pioneer George Pal, this charming comedy employs Pal's technique of animated puppetry to bring life to the title character--a lovable trained squirrel that comes to the rescue of a down-and-out family of vaudeville performers in the depths of the Great Depression.Jimmy Durante leads the struggling clan, barely able to pay rent in a converted garage adjoining the home of a man who's been stockpiling lucrative investment dividends in the floorboard between the two homes. From his cubbyhole in the wall, the resourceful Rupert begins to toss wads of $100 bills to Durante's wife, who thinks it's cash from heaven!

A CHRISTMAS STORY (1983) The greatest Christmas movie of all. You know it’s true. How much of this movie can you quote by heart? It's hard to believe that the man (Bob Clark) who made this sweet-natured gem, was also responsible for the very crude, but hilarious Porkys.

DIE HARD (1988) Most people forget this is a Christmas movie. The best Christmas action movie. Yippie-kai-yah mother-&*$*er.

PRANCER (1989) Jessica Riggs (Rebecca Harrell) is a 9-year-old girl who still believes in Santa Claus while her peers taunt and throw rocks at her. Therefore, when she stumbles across his reindeer Prancer in a remote part of the forest, no one believes her.

THE SANTA CLAUSE (1994) Sounds silly but for some reason it’s great. Tim Allen plays an executive who accidently kills Santa on Christmas Eve and is magically compelled tinto service as the next Santa. I had no desire to see this, but once I did …

THE REF (1994) The movie opens with Lloyd and Caroline Chasseur in marriage counseling on Christmas Eve; the session does not go well and the audience quickly learns of their problems. Caroline has had an affair, and Lloyd is miserable and blames the problems with their son Jesse on his wife.The movie then switches to a criminal named Gus (Denis Leary) who breaks into a house to steal jewelry from the safe; however, he accidentally sets off the alarm, a trap door opens, and he lands in the basement. He is able to get away but his getaway car driven by his partner Murray is no longer there.While Caroline is in the market Gus spots her and with a gun to her back orders her to take him to her car. He then proceeds to order both her and Lloyd to take him to their house. Along the way the couple continues to argue, with Gus beginning to act as a referee to make them shut up. And then the fun begins … Not your typical Holiday movie, caustic and nasty. Which leads us to …

BAD SANTA (2003) This is almost an anti-Christmas movie. Rude, crude, and seething with attitude. NOT FOR EVERYONE. Billy Bob Thorton stars as Willie, an alcoholic mall Santa who, with his dwarf partner (who works as Santa’s elf) breaks into the safes of the malls where they work. And that’s just the beginning.

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