Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Five Films That Turner Classic Movies Should Show Every Single Holiday Season

I think it is safe to say that one of the things TCM fans most look forward to for the holidays is watching Christmas movies on Turner Classic Movies. What is more, I think every fan has their favourites that they absolutely want to see every year. In fact, there are specific movies that if omitted by TCM during any given December are apt to result in howls of protests from the fans. Here are five movies I believe that Turner Classic Movies absolutely must show ever December. Here I have to note for those who notice that It's a Wonderful Life (1946) and some other holiday favourites are missing from the list that there are some movies that TCM simply does not have the rights to show.

The Bishop's Wife (1947): The Bishop's Wife was a holiday favourite well before TCM was founded in 1994. After a slow start the film did fairly well at the box office. It would later become a perennial favourite on television. In fact, The Bishop's Wife would seem to be one of the very few Christmas movies that matches or nearly matches It's a Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th Street (1947) in popularity. And there should not be any wonder why. The movie has an incredible cast, starring Loretta Young, David Niven, Cary Grant, and Monty Woolley. It also has a solid script, in which angel comes in answer to a bishop's prayer for divine guidance, only to find himself enchanted by the bishop's wife.

Christmas in Connecticut (1944): Amazingly enough, Turner Classic Movies did not air Christmas in Connecticut this year, even though it was produced by Warner Bros. and hence rights to the movie are owned by TCM's parent company Warner Bros. Entertainment. Needless to say, many TCM fans were not happy with the omission of Christmas in Connecticut from this year's schedule. And there is little wonder why. Christmas in Connecticut is an incredible movie. It is both a screwball comedy and a romantic comedy. Essentially, magazine columnist Elizabeth Lane (played by Barbara Stanwyck) finds herself in a bind when her publisher, Alexander Yardley, invites himself and a sailor to her Connecticut farm that she entirely fabricated for her column. The movie is filled with the sort of comic misunderstandings one expects from the best screwball comedies, as well as the Christmas trappings one expects from a holiday movie. The cast is one of the best of any comedy made in the Forties. In addition to Barbara Stanwyck, it features Dennis Morgan, Sydney Greenstreet, S.Z. Sakall, and Una O'Connor.

Holiday Affair (1949): Unlike The Bishop's Wife and Christmas in Connecticut, which were successful in their initial theatrical runs, Holiday Affair bombed at the box office. The film was saved by television, airing on local stations throughout the Sixties, Seventies, and Eighties, and still later on many cable channels. These repeated airings would finally allow Holiday Affair to join the ranks of Christmas favourites. There is little wonder that Holiday Affair should eventually find success. The movie benefits from an intelligent script by Isobel Lennart which approaches a romantic triangle in a realistic and mature fashion. Indeed, the two rivals for the hand of Connie Ennis (played by Janet Leigh), Steve (played by Robert Mitchum) and Carl (played by Wendell Corey), are both nice guys with no real flaws. The movie also has plenty of humour, and a scene with Harry Morgan as a wisecracking police lieutenant is one of the best in any comedy.

It Happened on Fifth Avenue (1947): It Happened on Fifth Avenue has a complicated history. Even though it was released more in time with Easter than Christmas, it did well at the box office. It also proved to be a hit on television, where it often shown during the holiday season from the Fifties to the Eighties. Strangely enough, for whatever reason, it disappeared from television screens around 1990 and would be largely unseen for nearly twenty years. It was in 2008 that Warner Home Video released It Happened on Fifth Avenue on DVD. In 2009 Turner Classic Movies began airing the film each holiday season, often multiple times. Since then the movie has become a holiday favourite. There is a little wonder why, as the film was very nearly made by Frank Capra (he chose to make It's a Wonderful Life instead) and plays much like a Frank Capra film. The film centres on Aloyisius T. McKeever (played by Victor Moore), a hobo who makes his home in the mansion of the second richest man in the world while the millionaire is wintering in Virginia. There he remains until its wealthy owner returns in March. McKeever's usual occupancy of the mansion is complicated by the arrival of a young, newly homeless veteran (Jim Bullock, played by Don DeFore) and eventually others as well.

The Man Who Came to Dinner (1942): Unlike some of the films on this list, The Man Who Came to Dinner was a hit upon its initial release. What is more, it would later become popular on television and has never been out of circulation. There should be little wonder why it has been continuously popular, as it is unlike any Christmas movie of its time. The movie's protagonist is radio personality Sheridan Whiteside, a prickly and caustic wit who spares his venom for no one (not even his friends). Unfortunately, for the Stanley family, Whiteside slips and falls on the steps of their Mesalia, Ohio home and winds up staying for an extended period right before Christmas. Manipulative to the core, Whiteside is soon spinning his webs throughout the Stanley household, particularly after his assistant falls in love with the local newspaper publisher. As played by Monty Woolley, Sheridan Whiteside is a delightful combination of sarcasm, wit, and cunning. The rest of the cast stands out as well, with Bette Davis as his strong-willed assistant Maggie, Ann Sheridan as vain actress Lorraine Sheldon,and Jimmy Durante as madcap comic Banjo. The screenplay stands out as well, with non-stop one-liners and non-stop scheming and counter-scheming from the various characters.

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