Sunday, 11 December 2016

Yuletide Movies on TCM

Christmas Day is only a little over two weeks away today. I am then guessing if many of you weren't already in the mood for Yuletide movies, you might well be now. Here then are my picks of what to watch on Turner Classic Movies in the coming fortnight.

December 15 2016

The Shop Around the Corner (1940): When the average person thinks of Jimmy Stewart and Yuletide movies, they tend to think of It's a Wonderful Life (1946). Classic film buffs know better. The Shop Around the Corner may not be as well known as It's a Wonderful Life, but it is just as much a classic. It is a wonderful comedy centred on a  a leather goods store in Budapest. Jimmy Stewart plays Alfred Kralik, the best salesman at the store, who simply cannot stand the shop's new employee, Klara Novak (played by Margaret Sullavan). It benefits from a great script by Samson Raphaelson (with some uncredited work by Ben Hecht), the direction of  Ernst Lubitsch, and a wonderful cast.

Christmas in Connecticut (1945): If you are a regular reader of this blog, you already know this is my third favourite holiday movie (after The Apartment and It's a Wonderful Life). To me it is one of the funniest comedies of the Forties. Quite simply, Barbara Stanwyck plays Elizabeth Lane, a food columnist for the magazine Smart Housekeeping. Unfortunately for Miss Lane, her publisher (Alexander Yardley, played by Sydney Greenstreet) invites a war hero (Jefferson Jones, played by Dennis Morgan) to her farm for Christmas dinner. There is just one big problem. Elizabeth Lane can't cook and she doesn't even live on a farm! Christmas in Connecticut has a great cast, including S.Z. Sakall, Una O'Connor, Reginald Gardiner, and Dick Elliott).

December 22 2016

Holiday Affair (1949): This is another one of my favourite Yuletide movies. It stars Robert Mitchum in one of his few romantic comedy roles. Janet Leigh plays Connie Ennis, a young war widow and comparative shopper for a major department store, whose life is complicated by the appearance of veteran and drifter Steve Mason (played by Robert Mitchum). Holiday Affair has an excellent cast, including Wendell Corey and Harry Morgan (in a hilarious turn as a Police Lieutenant) and a script that is both touching and funny.


Remember the Night (1940): This is another holiday favourite of mine starring Barbara Stanwyck. What is more, it is written by none other than the great Preston Sturges. In the days leading up to Christmas Lee Leander (played by Miss Stanwyck) is arrested for shoplifting. Assistant District Attorney Jack Sargent (played by Fred MacMurray) gets the trial postponed on a technicality in order to avoid having a jury filled with people in a Yuletide mood. Unfortunately for Jack, he also feels sorry for Lee having to spend the holiday in jail and has a bondsman post bail for her. Ultimately Jack finds himself spending the holiday with the felon he is supposed to prosecute! As might be expected, Remember the Night is very funny and filled with great lines.

December 24:

Meet John Doe (1941): It's a Wonderful Life may be better known, but Frank Capra also directed this holiday classic. After being laid off from her newspaper, journalist Ann Mitchell (played by Barbara Stanwyck) writes a letter to the newspaper from a fictional "John Doe" who is threatening to commit suicide on Christmas Eve as a protest against all that is wrong with society. Unfortunately, the letter becomes something of a phenomenon and not only is Ann rehired, but ultimately the newspaper must hire a "real" John Doe in the form of John Willoughby (played by Gary Cooper). The film benefits from a strong cast, as well as Frank Capra's direction. And it fits in well with Mr. Capra's classics Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936) and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1949).

Scrooge (1970): A somewhat faithful musical version of Charles Dickens's A Christmas CarolScrooge also happens to be one of the best adaptations of the novella. Albert Finney shines as the title character, while the songs by Leslie Bricusse are memorable and among the best in a latter day musical. Scrooge was nominated for four Oscars and really should have won most of them (especially Best Original Song for "Thank You Very Much").

It Happened on Fifth Avenue (1947):  I first saw It Happened on Fifth Avenue a few years ago and fell in love with it. The film centres on hobo, Aloysius T. McKeever (played by Victor Moore), who takes up residence in a boarded up Fifth Avenue mansion in New York City each winter. McKeever soon finds himself sharing the mansion with Army veteran Jim Bullock (played by Don DeFore) and  yet others. It Happened on Fifth Avenue has plenty of humour and plenty of Yuletide spirit. Viewers probably won't be surprised to learned that it was originally optioned for Frank Capra, who elected to direct another holiday classic instead (It's a Wonderful Life).

The Man Who Came to Dinner (1942): Quite simply, this is one of the greatest Yuletide movies of all time. It has an incredible cast, particularly Monty Wooley in his best role, the acerbic  Sheridan Whiteside. Sadly for the Stanley family, Mr. Whiteside slips on the ice on their steps and injures himself, and as a result must stay with them for several days. The film's cast included Bette Davis as Sheridan Whiteside's long suffering secretary Maggie, Ann Sheridan as film star Lorraine Sheldon, Jimmy Durante as entertainer Banjo, and Grant Mitchell and Billie Burke as the much put-upon Stanleys. Its screenplay by Julius J. Epstein and Philip G. Epstein (based on the original play by Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman) has more laughs in a minute than many films have in two hours.

Bell, Book and Candle (1958). Many people might not think a film about a romance between a witch and a mortal would make good holiday fare, but Bell, Book and Candle certainly does. Its leads (Kim Novak as witch Gillian Holroyd and Jimmy Stewart as Shep Henderson) give excellent performances. They are supported by a great cast, including Jack Lemmon as Gillian's brother Nicky, Elsa Lanchester as Gillian's aunt Queenie, and Ernie Kovacs as writer Sidney Redlitch. Set during the holidays, it captures the Yuletide spirit better than many more mainstream holiday films.

For whatever reason Turner Classic Movies is not showing The Apartment (1960), The Bishop's Wife (1947), or I'll Be Seeing You (1944), but I fully recommend you catch them on DVD or, if you can find them, on streaming!

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