Lieutenant Guild: You got a pistol permit?
Nick Charles: No.
Lieutenant Guild: Ever heard of the Sullivan Act?
Nora Charles: Oh, that’s all right, we’re married.
From The Thin Man, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1934
Feeling that Old Holiday Schmaltz…
Yep, it’s that time. Time to get out the hankies. (And, for once, I’m not talking about election hankies.) I’m talking about Holiday Hankies, the big, thick, absorbent kind we need in mucho grande supply for all the schmaltzy holiday classic movies we’ll be indulging in while we’re decking our halls with boughs of holly this week. (Yay!)
This year, between NBC and Turner Classic Movies, the options are plentiful. It was no easy task to pick only five, but this annual chore is finally done. This year’s picks are Capra-heavy with some time-tested favorites returning as well as two lesser-known holiday films in case you’re in the mood for something new.
Which movies or TV shows get you revved for the holidays?
5 Golden Age Movie Picks for Your Holiday Week
Holiday Movie Schmaltz Rating Guide
1 Hanky = Heartwarming
2 Hankies – Misty Eyes
3 Hankies – Oh, man…!
4 Hankies – Don’t schedule anything for the rest of the day.
#5 Tenth Avenue Angel (1948) Drama. TCM. Depression era New York City. A bright little girl’s faith in miracles is tested after she learns that her family has lied to her. Margaret O’Brien, Angela Lansbury.
When? Saturday, December 24, 6:45 a.m. Eastern
Why? Nine year old Juvenile Academy Award winner Margaret O’Brien carries the day in this heart-tugger about a precocious little girl outgrowing her childhood beliefs in the impoverished Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of the 1930s. O’Brien is supported by an able adult cast, not the least of which is a stunning young Angela Lansbury as her Aunt Susan and Rhys Williams as “Blind Mac,” the kindly owner of the neighborhood newsstand.
Holiday Movie Schmaltz Rating = 3 hankies
# 4 Holiday Affair (1949) Light Romance. TCM. A widowed single mother is torn between the security offered by a responsible business man and shaking up the status quo when she meets a footloose romantic newcomer. Janet Leigh, Robert Mitchum.
When? Saturday, December 24, 2:30 p.m. Eastern
Why? Sweet and predictable? Yes, but this underrated holiday romance set in post WWII New York is very well cast and worth a watch.
A young Janet Leigh (long before Psycho) gives a laudable performance as a war widow unable to move forward with her life after the loss of her husband. Robert Mitchum–a tough guy cast against type as her romantic lead—plays “Mitchum,” as always, but with a softer edge and understatement that surprises and works amazingly well.
This film also marks the debut of adorable child actor Gordon Gebert as six-year old Timmy. I bet you a cookie you’ll want to hug this little guy to pieces.
Holiday Movie Schmaltz Rating – 1 hanky
#3 Meet John Doe (1941) Comedy/Drama/Romance. TCM. A reporter’s fake story for her soon-to-be-defunct column saves her career, turns a homeless man into a national hero for the working class, and changes them both into pawns of a powerful politician. Will they sell out? Gary Cooper, Barbara Stanwyck.
When? Saturday, December 24, 8:15 a.m. Eastern
Why? Feeling a little 21st century world weary? Need a revitalizing dose of some Frank Capra-like optimism? There are some who rank the lesser-known Meet John Doe right up with Capra’s crowning achievement, It’s a Wonderful Life. Decide for yourself. A fist-pump-worthy final scene earns this film a…
Holiday Movie Schmaltz Rating of 3 hankies
#2 The Thin Man (1934) Mystery/Detective. TCM. A tippling ex-private detective and his heiress wife investigate a murder while spending the holidays in New York. William Powell, Myrna Loy.
When? Friday, December 23, 8:00 p.m. Eastern
Why? Not normally thought of as a holiday film, right? But these wisecracking sleuthy spouses are visiting the Big Apple for Christmas when they stumble into this, the first of several more screwy murder mystery screenplays to come.
Check it. Sparkling romantic chemistry, droll humor, and snappy dialogue are topped off by a true-to-form dinner party reveal-the-murderer scene that will tickle your funny bone. “The murderer is right in this room. Sitting at this table. You may serve the fish…”
Holiday Movie Schmaltz Rating – 0 Hankies (All smiles.)
#1 It’s a Wonderful Life(1946) Holiday Fantasy/Drama. NBC. A small town banker contemplating suicide is saved by a guardian angel-in-training. Jimmy Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore, Henry Travers.
When? Saturday, December 24 at 8:00 p.m. on NBC
Why? Of course this is number one. It will always be number one. If I ever do a list of holiday films and this is not number one, call the cops. I’ve been kidnapped and an imposter took over my blog.
This is the granddaddy of all classic holiday films for good reason.
Jimmy Stewart is so pitch perfect as Everyman George Bailey, it’s impossible to imagine anyone else in the role. Donna Reed plays beautiful counterpoint, Barrymore preens as the quintessential villain, and Henry Travers wins hearts as Angel 2nd Class Clarence Odbody.
It just ain’t Christmas without it.
Holiday Movie Schmaltz Rating = 4 hankies
Last year’s trivia question remains unanswered, so here it is again:
What classic holiday film title appears on the Bijou theater marquee when George Bailey runs through the streets of Bedford Falls near the end of the movie?
- Christmas in Connecticut (featured in last year’s 5 Picks)
- The Bells of Saint Mary’s (featured in last year’s 5 Picks)
- A Christmas Carol
Have a wonderful holiday week!
Margaret O’Brien –Tenth Avenue Angel movie trailer screenshot
Angela Lansbury – Tenth Avenue Angel movie trailer screenshot
Meet John Doe screenshot – By Frank Capra Prod., Warner Bros. (Tumblr) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
It’s a Wonderful Life – Screen Shots [Public domain]
Publicity Photo for The Thin Man with Myrna Loy, Skippy, and William Powell (1936) – [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
William Powell and Myrna Loy – Trailer screenshot Licencing information :http://web.archive.org/web/20080321033709/http://www.sabucat.com/?pg=copyright and http://www.creativeclearance.com/guidelines.html#D2 (After the Thin Man trailer) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
The Bells of St. Mary’s! I hope you and your family have a great Christmas.
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Yes, exactly right, Mark! It was The Bells of St. Mary’s. Now I have to come up with a new trivia question for next year…. I’ll get right to work on that. 🙂 Our Christmas was lovely. Hope yours was too.