Putting yourself in the spirit of the Christmas movie-watching season begins right after Thanksgiving. Sometimes there’s nothing more enjoyable and comforting on a chilly December’s night than mixing up a cocktail or two in front of a crackling fire and watching a feel-good Christmas movie. (I say “Christmas” movie, not “holiday” movie to distinguish it from St. Patrick’s Day movies or Veteran’s Day movies. I’m talking about Christmas movies here.)
You know all the classic standbys: Holiday Inn, Miracle on 34th Street, A Christmas Carol, It’s a Wonderful Life, White Christmas, The Bishop’s Wife, A Christmas Story, Christmas in Connecticut, The Lemon Drop Kid, The Man Who Came to Dinner, Going My Way, Holiday Affair, Bachelor Mother, Little Women, and Susan Slept Here. Wonderful holiday pictures all.
Unfortunately if you watch the same movie too often, no matter how much you may love the picture, you can destroy the experience for yourself. After watching It’s a Wonderful Life, White Christmas, Holiday Inn, or Miracle on 34th Street consecutively year after year after year, sadly, you can really grow sick of them. The best thing to do is to give those tried and true favorites a break for a couple of years or so, allowing yourself a chance to forget them a little bit. You can revisit them again in the future and appreciate them once again with a fresh eye.
So what to watch? Silly Hallmark Channel pap? The sappy stories which, more often than not, feature either twenty-somethings finding the true loves of their lives, or yet another hard-nosed business type discovering the real meaning of the holidays by actually encountering Santa Claus himself. These made-for-Hallmark Channel blood sugar spikers should include a disclaimer warning people with diabetes to switch channels or risk possible death.
I also avoid the contemporary Christmas comedies which have no genuine heart whatsoever. They simply make fun of the season with so-called comedy actors passing themselves off as dopey elves or Santa wannabes, or just bumbling fathers who are (surprise, surprise) overwhelmed by all the December hubbub. Sorry, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Will Ferrell, and Billy Bob Thornton, you guys just can’t deliver what Edmund Gwinn, Alastair Sim, and Jimmy Stewart can.
Slapstick Christmas movies just don’t do it for me either. I take my Christmas movies seriously; even the ones with fantasy and magic have to conform to a degree of believability. And, yes, I demand my Christmas movies to stir my emotions, pull on my heartstrings, and renew my faith in the human race, in short, to give me that happy, uplifting feeling. There are enough slapstick and snarky movies all year ‘round, I don’t need them at Christmastime.
So here’s what I do. I try to find old-fashioned movies with Christmas atmosphere and heart, not necessarily Christmas-themed per se, but having enough Christmas going for it to get you in the spirit of the season. These pictures are old and obscure ones, but for me, that’s part of the fun. Here is my list of obscure movies suitable for the Christmas season. Hope you can find one or two that you’ve never seen before. Enjoy!
- Christmas Eve (1947) starring George Raft, George Brent, and Randolph Scott.
- Scrooge (1935 British adaptation of A Christmas Carol) starring Sir Seymour Hicks.
- The Cheaters (1945) starring Joseph Schildkraut and Billie Burke.
- It Happened on 5th Avenue (1947) starring Victor Moore and Charlie Ruggles.
- Room for One More (1952) Cary Grant.
- Mr. Soft Touch (1949) Glenn Ford.
- Beyond Tomorrow (1940) Harry Carey, C. Aubrey Smith, and Charles Winninger.
- I’ll Be Seeing You (1945) Ginger Rogers, Joseph Cotton.
- Our Vines Have Tender Grapes (1945) Edward G. Robinson, Margret O’Brien.
- Since You Went Away (1944) Claudette Colbert, Jennifer Jones.
- Christmas Holiday (1944) Gene Kelly, Deanna Durbin.
- A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945) James Dunn, Dorothy McGuire.
- Remember the Night (1940) Fred MacMurry, Barbara Stanwyck.
- Miracle of Main Street (1939) Hard to find B movie. Lyle Talbot and Jane Darwell.
- Never Say Goodbye (1946) Errol Flynn, Eleanor Parker.
- Three Godfathers – There are three versions of this one; the most obtainable one is John Ford’s 1948 version with John Wayne. But try to find the earlier ones too.
- Come to the Stable (1949) Loretta Young, Celeste Holm.
- Period of Adjustment (1962) Tony Franciosa, Jane Fonda, Jim Hutton.