(This article was written last year on the old site)
There are several movies that take place throughout an entire year, and that includes Christmas, but you wouldn’t consider them Christmas movies. For example, Christmas happens in every Harry Potter film, including the Yule Ball sequence in the fourth film. Other movies in this category are Little Women, The Godfather, and Holiday Inn (which features the song “White Christmas”), which leads to our first movie:
Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
Director: Vincent Minelli
Starring: Judy Garland, Margaret O’Brien, Mary Astor
Synopsis: In the year leading up to the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, the four Smith daughters learn lessons of life and love, even as they prepare for a reluctant move to New York. A big part of the film takes place at Halloween, but the film is famous for the Christmas section which features…
Songs?: Certainly. “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” has become a Christmas standard and is primarily the reason it’s considered a Christmas classic. The movie features several songs including “The Trolley Song.”
Did it become a musical?: Yes. A stage version opened in 1989
My take: Any movie with Harry Davenport is okay in my book. Garland is at her most lovely, and Margaret O’Brien is precocious and funny.
Notable quotes: “Tootie, if you don’t hit Mr. Braukoff in the face with flour and say “I hate you”, the Banshee will haunt you forever!”
“Excuse me, young man, but in the great country of China, when a stranger admires one of your possessions, it’s common courtesy to offer it to him. Well I spent many years in China, and if you want me to feel thoroughly at home, you might offer me your partner.”
Christmas in Connecticut (1945)
Director: Michell Leisman
Starring: Barbara Stanwick, Sydney Greenstreet, Dennis Morgan, S. Z. Sakall
Synopsis: Journalist Elizabeth Lane is one of the country’s most famous food writers. In her columns, she describes herself as a hard working farm woman, taking care of her children and being an excellent cook. But this is all lies. In reality she is an unmarried New Yorker who can’t even boil an egg. The recipes come from her good friend Felix. The owner of the magazine she works for has decided that a heroic sailor will spend his Christmas on her farm. Wackiness ensues.
Songs?: Dennis Morgan sings “O Little Town of Bethlehem”
Did it become a musical?: Not as far as I know.
My take: Barbara Stanwick is hysterical as the least domestic person pretending to be the pre-war Julia Child
Notable quotes: “The things a girl will do for a mink coat.”
It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
Director: Frank Capra
Starring: Jimmy Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore
Synopsis: George Bailey has given everything to the town of Bedford Falls, putting his own dreams on hold to run the Savings and Loan. During a low moment of crisis, he wishes that he was never born. He is overheard by Clarence, his Guardian Angel, who shows him an alternate reality in which he is never born.
Songs?: It’s not a musical, but Stewart and Reed sing “Buffalo Gals”
Did it become a musical?: Not really, but a musical version was performed as a benefit performance for one night in 2005.
My take: We really only get to the Christmas section during the last third of the film, but that’s the only way it really works. When you have a story with an alternate reality, you have to establish the world first. Otherwise you have no connection. The real star of the film is the town of Bedford Falls. By the time they come streaming into George’s living room, you know each one of them and how much George means to them.
Notable quotes: ” Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?”
“Look, Daddy. Teacher says, every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings.”
“A toast to my big brother George: The richest man in town.”
Miracle on 34th Street (1944)
Director: George Seaton
Starring: Edmund Gwenn, Maureen O’Hara, John Payne, Natalie Wood
Synopsis: When Macy’s new Santa Claus claims to be the real thing, a young lawyer decides to defend him not only to the State of New York, but also to a young girl and her mother.
Did it become a Musical: A 1963 Broadway musical version, entitled Here’s Love for some reason, was written by Meredith Wilson.
My take: Skip the remake, this is real deal. It’s funny and clever and Gwenn won the Oscar for this performance
Notable quotes: “Yeah, there’s a lot of bad ‘isms’ floatin’ around this world, but one of the worst is commercialism. Make a buck, make a buck. Even in Brooklyn it’s the same – don’t care what Christmas stands for, just make a buck, make a buck.”
White Christmas (1954)
Director: Michael Curtiz
Starring: Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney
Synopsis. A pair of Army buddies who have a popular variety act decide to vacation in Vermont with a pair of sisters who have an act of their own. There they encounter their former commanding officer and decide to stage a benefit for him
Songs?: Obviously, the title song is one if the best known Christmas songs, but the movie is filled with Irving Berlin songs such as “Sisters?” “Snow,” and “Choreography.”
Did it become a musical?: Yes, in 2008
My take: You can’t go wrong with Irving Berlin, and the four leads are fantastic, and while the plot seems to be just an excuse to put on a bunch of numbers, the numbers are great.
Notable quotes: “You know, in some ways, you’re far superior to my cocker spaniel.” “My dear partner, when what’s left of you gets around to what’s left to be gotten, what’s left to be gotten won’t be worth getting, whatever it is you’ve got left.”
Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964)
Director: Nicholas Webster
Starring: John Call, Leonard Hicks, Vincent Beck
Synopsis: Martians, upset that their children have become obsessed with TV shows from Earth which extol the virtues of Santa Claus, start an expedition to Earth to kidnap the one and only Santa. While on Earth, they kidnap two lively children that lead the group of Martians to the North Pole and Santa. The Martians then take Santa and the two children back to Mars with them. Voldar, a particularly grumpy Martian, attempts to do away with the children and Santa before they get to Mars, but their leader Lomas stops him. When they arrive on Mars, Santa, with the help of the two Earth children and a rather simple-minded Martian lackey, overcomes the Martians by bringing fun, happiness and Christmas cheer to the children of Mars.
Songs?: Oh yes. “Hooray for Santa Claus” sung by Pia Zadora, who was a child jn the film
Did it become a musical?: I wish
My take: Like most people, I was introduced to the movie through Mystery Science Theater 3000 , and it really is incredibly goofy, but I think it’s prime for a remake as a modern action-comedy
Notable quotes: “Well, when Voldar “accidentally” left us in the airlock and then came up here and “accidentally” threw the door switch, we knew we had to get out of there in a hurry or that would be the end of us. Eh, uh, “accidentally,” of course.”
A Christmas Story (1983)
Director: Bob Clark
Starring: Peter Billingsley, Melinda Dillon, Darren McGavin
Synopsis: All Ralphie wants for Christmas is an Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle
Did it become a Musical: Yes, in 2012. You’ll see it this year on FOX
My take: Still one of the funniest Christmas movies out there, no matter how many times I see it. Darren McGavin is phenomenal. It was his idea to use nonsense swearing for keeping the ratings family friendly
Notable quotes: (I might as well just quote the movie word-for-word) “Aaah! “Fra-GEE-leh!” It must be Italian!”
“You’ll shoot your eye out, kid.”
Santa Claus: The Movie (1985)
Director: Jeannot Szwarc
Starring: Dudley Moore, John Lithgow, David Huddleston
Synopsis: A woodcutter finds a society of elves and becomes Santa Claus. In later years an elf named Patch goes to the modern word where an evil tycoon attempts to exploit him
Did it become a Musical: No
My take: I don’t remember much of this film, except that it sucks. Late-era Salkind sucking.
Notable quotes: “A sequel. That’s it. We’ll bring it out on March 25, and we’ll call it… Christmas 2!”
Next time: Movies after 1988, including a certain action movie..