1940, RKO Pictures
This movie had an interesting yet somewhat dark and complicated idea. Three lonely old men end up meeting a young man and then a young woman on Christmas Eve and they all spend the evening together and become friends. The young people fall in love, the older gentlemen die in plane crash (!!!) and then come back as ghosts to help keep the young couple together.
It’s trying to be a heart-warming tale but with the plane crash and then sending one of the ghostly men to hell later on and another being shut out of Heaven after refusing to leave until the couple gets back together… it’s just weird.
The actors and character are likable and there was potential here for a true sentimental Christmas classic, but it feels kind of slapped together and a bit dark at times. I love the film’s score though.
The movie is in the public domain, so you can find it cheap on DVD (and easily online for streaming) but 20th Century Fox released a colorized version in 2004 and retitled it Beyond Christmas. I wouldn’t mind watching the colorized version because the version I watched on DVD definitely needed some restoration work.
It Happened on 5th Avenue
1947, Allied Artists Pictures
Frank Capra originally acquired the rights to this story but ended up relinquishing them in order to do It’s a Wonderful Life and that’s when B-movie studio Monogram Pictures stepped in. Monogram was known for knocking out low-budget movies at a quick pace but they had become interested in developing movies with a bigger budget and set up Allied Artists Pictures to do just that. This was the first movie released under that banner.
The new direction instantly paid off. The movie was a success at the box office and with the critics and ended up receiving an Academy Award nomination for Best Writing/Original Screenplay (it lost to another holiday film — Miracle on 34th Street).
I apparently had seen this movie already as I had given it four-stars on Netflix yet I don’t see it in my rental history. Maybe I caught it on Turner Classic Movies at some point but all I remembered from this movie after starting to watch it (again apparently) was the first 10 minutes or so and even that was fuzzy.
It’s another light-hearted farce that doesn’t make too much sense but it’s so fun that you won’t really care.
The Bells of St. Mary’s
1945, RKO Pictures
The sequel to Going My Way, this one has Father O’Malley (Bing Crosby) being reassigned yet again. This time it’s to a parish with a run-down inner-city school building that is close to being condemned. I liked this one a lot. Possibly even more than Going My Way and I think a big reason for that is Ingrid Bergman. She gets just as much screentime (if not more) than Bing does and she’s just so beautiful. Since she spent the entire movie dressed as a nun, there’s not much to focus on other than her face and what a beautiful face it is! I don’t have a nun fetish, I promise. She was nominated for Best Actress by the Academy and won the Golden Globe for Best Actress.
Anyway, as much as I love the loose & casual persona of Bing Crosby through his pictures with Bob Hope and on his own radio show, he does exceptionally well as the patient and kind-hearted Father O’Malley. It wouldn’t be hard to say it’s his greatest role. He won the Oscar for Best Actor in Going My Way and was nominated as Best Actor for this movie.
The holiday connection is a bit loose but there is a scene featuring a Christmas pageant and Bing sings “Adeste Fideles (O Come All Ye Faithful)”. I highly recommend this one but I don’t consider it much of a holiday film.
Oddly, Going My Way was released by Paramount yet the sequel was released by RKO just a year later. And Bing was a long-time player for Paramount. There must’ve been some kind of trade going on.