As much as I love Christmas, most of the holiday films I’ve seen have come from the 1980s or later. It’s only in the last year or so that I’ve discovered a number of great holiday films from many decades earlier. Some seem a bit forgotten and some certainly aren’t…
The Shop Around the Corner
1940, MGM Pictures
Six years before It’s a Wonderful Life, Jimmy Stewart co-starred in this holiday romantic-comedy. If you’ve ever seen You’ve Got Mail, well, that was a remake of this movie — two people who don’t get along in person end up corresponding with each other anonymously via letters and end up falling in love. The only difference is that this movie takes place during Christmastime in Budapest. It was also remade in 1946 as In the Good Old Summertime, which starred Judy Garland & Van Johnson.
Despite being inducted into the Library of Congress and being ranked by the American Film Institute as one of the top 100 romance movies of all-time, The Shop Around the Corner seems to take a backseat to many of Stewart’s better known films like It’s a Wonderful Life, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Harvey, Vertigo, Rear Window and The Philadelphia Story.
I thought the final scene between Stewart and Sullavan was particularly great and touching. Definitely worth seeking out for anyone that’s a fan of holiday or romance movies.
Going My Way
1944, Paramount Pictures
Though the movie doesn’t take place solely around the holidays, it is often lumped into the holiday movie category because one of the film’s final scenes takes place on Christmas Eve and also due to performances of “Silent Night, Holy Night” and “Ave Maria”. The movie was released in May of 1944 though so the studio obviously wasn’t thinking about this being a holiday movie when they released.
In one of Bing’s best roles, he plays the young and unconventional Father O’Malley, who has just been appointed to a new parish. Old ideas and new ideas collide between O’Malley and the parish’s other more conservative pastor, Father Fitzgibbon.
This film really racked up at the Academy Awards. It was nominated for 10 awards and won 7, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor and Best Screenplay.
1949, RKO Pictures
Why Holiday Affair hasn’t caught on as an all-time holiday classic, I don’t know. From what I’ve read, the movie wasn’t received very well at the time of its release but having just recently watched it, I thought it was great. This is a lost classic that any fan of old Christmas movies needs to see.
In this one, a young war widow is torn between marrying the boring but dependable business-like boyfriend that she doesn’t love or taking a chance on a charming, exciting down-on-his-luck drifter.
According to Wikipedia, Robert Mitchum, who usually starred in film noir tales, was forced by his contracted studio, RKO Pictures, to star in this film in order to soften his image after being busted for marijuana.
1942, Paramount Pictures
I thought I talked about this one before but I guess not. I first watched this last year and just recently watched it again. Holiday Inn is an Irving Berlin musical that features a love triangle and an inn that is only open on holidays. Christmas isn’t the only holiday featured but the movie does start and end at Christmas and features the all-time classic “White Christmas” along with other holiday favorites “Happy Holiday” and “Let’s Start the New Year Right”. “Easter Parade” is also featured and “Be Careful, It’s My Heart” & “I’ll Capture Your Heart” are two more great tunes that have become some of my favorites from this era of traditional pop songs. It’s a fantastic soundtrack.
Seeing that snow covered farmhouse-turned-inn all decked for Christmas as the snow continues to fall makes up for what is possibly one of my favorite set pieces in the history of film. I would love to be able to experience an old-fashioned country Christmas again someday.
This is another one that wasn’t presented as a holiday movie at all. It was released in August and the movie poster brings to mind the Fourth of July more than anything else.
Christmas in Connecticut
1945, Warner Bros. Pictures
I remember when the 1992 remake was receiving a big push on TBS/TNT. There were airing tons of commercials for it, acting like it was destined to become a modern classic. It was directed by Arnold Schwarzenegger (!) and starred Kris Kristofferson and Dyan Cannon. I never watched it but going by reviews and ratings I’ve found online, it seems like it fell short of becoming the classic that Turner Entertainment wished it would be.
The original, on the other hand, is a fun 1940s farce. It’s the type of light, enjoyable fare that I think is synonymous with that entire decade in film history.
I can understand why it would be remade because the premise sounds fun and ripe for many hijinks. Barbara Stanwyck plays a woman who writes articles for a housekeeping magazine, supposedly based on her wonderful, cozy life on a farm with her family. When her publisher and a war hero who is a fan of her articles decide to visit her for the holidays, there’s one hitch: she lives in an apartment in New York City, she’s single and has been making everything up.
1954, Paramount Pictures
A loose remake of Holiday Inn, Bing signed back on but Fred Astaire didn’t like the script and declined. Danny Kaye took over his role. It seems like this film may be a bit more popular than Holiday Inn, but I’m assuming that probably because many people might think the song “White Christmas” debuted here and because this movie was obviously presented as a holiday film.
In addition to another run through of “White Christmas”, the movie introduces the minor holiday classic “Snow”.
Not as entertaining as Holiday Inn (I find that most movies from the 1950s seem a bit slow in pace), but still worth watching. In fact, I may watch it again this holiday season.