Welcome to the Weekly Movie Thread, your place on the Avocado to discuss films with your fellow commenters. Want to make a recommendation? Looking for recommendations? Want to share your opinions of movies, both new and classic?
This year marks the 80th anniversary of Holiday Inn. It may not have been the first Christmas movie, but it certainly established a legacy. It might not even be a Christmas movie per se. The story takes over the course of a year with several holidays that have their own songs. The movie poster seems to be leaning heavily on the Independence Day portion of the movie. No accident, as the US had just entered World War II one year prior.
But it does begin on Christmas, ends on Christmas, has one of the most played songs of all time in “White Christmas” (and to a leaser extent, “Happy Holiday”), had a hotel chain named after it, stars Bing Crosby…. it’s a Christmas movie.
The song “White Christmas” was key in establishing the wistfulness of 40’s era Christmas movies. That’s the magic of Irving Berlin, baby. The song cemented the movie’s legacy when it became a hit among US Servicemen during WWII.
The trend of wistful movies for homesick listeners would continue throughout the next few years. The Ginger Rogers/Joseph Cotten film I’ll Be Seeing You had two lovers meet over Christmas during WWII. Christmas in Connecticut saw Barbara Stanwick fall in love with a returning war hero. Judy Garland introduced another holiday standard, “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,” in Meet Me in St. Louis. Also known as one of the most depressing Christmas songs if you stick to the original lyrics. Listen to it in 2022. It hurts.
The era also produced some of the most enduring Christmas classics, such as Miracle on 34th Street and It’s a Wonderful Life. Those movies are a man who goes on trial for impersonating Santa Claus and divine intervention to save someone considering suicide. While generally seen as feel good movies, these films have an edge lacking in the current crop of Hallmark Christmas films (though roughly half are likely inspired by these two movies).
Twelve years after Holiday Inn, Bing Crosby and Irving Berlin would return in another Christmas classic, White Christmas. There was an upgrade in director, with Michael Freaking Curtiz (Casablanca, The Adventures of Robin Hood) at the helm. The film brings everything full circle, with Crosby now dealing with people trying to find self-worth in a post-War world. At the same time, it’s OK to revel in the glitz and color of post-war prosperity. Let’s let go of the misery and go skiing! It’s the 50’s!
White Christmas closed out this era of Christmas films that mixed melancholy with low key holiday cheer, perhaps the perfect run of films for a generation that had just lived through one of the most devastating moments in history. At the same time, these films helped create the blueprint to how we understand the holiday today.
Today’s bonus prompt: What movies are you watching over the Christmas break?