By classic, I mean going back to the days of black & white.
Some of these you’ve no doubt heard of, others may be new to you. If you’re a classic movie fan, you’ve seen each one a dozen times or more, watching and re-watching every holiday season.
I’ve reviewed each of these on my other blog, Classic for a Reason, and I’ve conveniently linked to those reviews (click on the title).
This classic stands out as one of the best holiday films ever. The cast is clearly as charmed by the story as the audience, and it reminds us maybe — just maybe — there really is a Santa Claus.
Macy’s employee Doris Walker, a single mother who doesn’t believe in fairy tales, is in charge of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade. Much to her chagrin, the man playing Santa Claus shows up drunk. She enlists a reluctant bystander to replace him, a man who turns her whole life upside down, for he claims — with utter sincerity — to be the real Kris Kringle.
Maureen O’Hara and John Payne remained proud of their connection to this film for the rest of their lives, with Payne going so far as to write a never-published sequel. Their pride was justified.
This one will catch some of you off guard. Not because of a remarkable storyline — rather, it’s pretty formula — but because of the cast. Robert Mitchum stars in (as far as I know) his only romantic comedy, with a very young Janet Leigh as the object of his affection. Despite the predictable nature of this film, it’s a pleasure to watch, in large part because of the performances of Mitchum and Leigh.
She’s a secret shopper scoping out the competition; he’s the salesperson who recognizes what she’s up to, but doesn’t report it as required. When he loses his job because of his inaction, the two meet up and start getting closer in a manner that soon disrupts the comfortable relationship she has with her would-be fiancé. They’re not the only ones with a stake in what happens — she has a son from her previous marriage to a soldier who died in combat.
As I said, a formula plot, but a charming movie. Mitchum’s brooding loner persona translates well to this light romantic comedy, and Leigh’s youth and gentle spirit is a welcome contrast.
A movie for the times it was made. War hero Jefferson Jones (Dennis Morgan) longs for a home-cooked meal. In a publicity stunt, magazine publisher Alexander Yardley (Sydney Greenstreet) arranges for such a meal, a holiday meal, no less, with his popular writer, Martha Stewart-like Elizabeth Lane (Barbara Stanwyck). Elizabeth exemplifies the perfect wife of her time with her culinary and creative skills in the home. Problem is, she is lying with every word she writes. She not only isn’t a wife and mother, she can’t cook, sew or change a diaper.
The world was changing when this film was released. With so many men off to war, women were joining the work force in larger numbers than ever before. There are some who say Elizabeth’s career exemplifies one of the few socially acceptable options for a working woman at the time — make a good living as a housewife.
The rest of us say, phooey. Don’t analyze it. This is a fun movie with a creative twist on the standard comedy formula of confused identity. If it reflects the standards of the times, then consider how films of today might be viewed in fifty years, and enjoy the fun.
Cary Grant is Dudley, the debonair angel who visits Bishop David Niven and his wife, Loretta Young. Sent to set the floundering couple’s marriage right and steer the Bishop back on course with his life’s work, Dudley starts up a romance of sorts (but not quite) between himself and the lonely woman.
How the Bishop comes to see the truth about his life, as well as the poignant struggle his wife faces with her lot, makes for a heartwarming tale. This film moves a little slower, and includes some beautiful performances by a boy’s choir, as well as a moving sermon near the end of the story. But it’s not a religious tale — it’s a love story.
A perfect blend of sentiment and sophistication, director Ernst Lubitsch later called this “the best movie he ever made,” which is saying a tremendous amount given his legacy. It’s no exaggeration, either, for this is one of the finest romantic comedies ever made.
James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan are sparring co-workers with one thing in common: each is corresponding with someone they believe to be their ideal mate, even though they’ve never met. It’s Stewart who realizes the truth first, and the gentle way he handles first hiding, then revealing, the truth to Sullavan is immensely satisfying.
It’s a simple story with so much more going on than what you see at first glance, and one you don’t have to wait until December to enjoy. But it is December.