“What is it you want, Mary? What do you want? You want the moon? Just say the word and I’ll throw a lasso around it and pull it down.”
From It’s a Wonderful Life, 1946, Liberty Films
Top 5 Golden Age Movies for Your Holiday Week
It’s been a fact of my life for over a decade that my day job heats up at this time of year, offering no extra time off. My stress levels climb and Christmas spirit plummets. It’s been particularly bad this year.
First, our Thanksgiving dinner got pushed back, which in turn delayed putting up the Christmas tree. (Because I refused to have our Thanksgiving meal in the glow of Christmas tree lights. My standards may not be high, but they’re firm.) Add to this, freakishly warm December weather here in the northeast U.S., and I’ve been plunged into a serious state of ….
Yep. I need me one big huge honkin’ shot of Holiday Spirit to get me off the launch pad. To that end, I’ve been streaming mega-amounts of no-holds-barred, heavy-duty, pile-on-the-schmaltz holiday classic movies, and—
Oh… wait a minute…
I think it’s working… Wait…
I… almost… smiled?
Quick! Pass the egg nog!
Classic Movie Junkie’s
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 Christmas in Connecticut (1945) Holiday Screwball Comedy/ Romance. A popular columnist for a national homemaking magazine (who isn’t married and can’t cook) must fake a Martha Stewart-worthy Connecticut family holiday for a war hero. Barbara Stanwyck, Dennis Morgan, Sydney Greenstreet.
Why? Stanwyck Lite. This enjoyable bit of mindless holiday fluff is just the ticket for an afternoon of gift wrapping and sipping egg nog. No hankies necessary. It’s just, well, nice. Holiday Schmaltz Rating = 0 hankies
#4 It Happened on 5th Avenue (1947) Holiday Screwball Comedy/Romance. A philosophical hobo moves into a NY mansion while its millionaire owner winters in the south. The house soon fills with returning G.I.’s, their families, and the millionaire’s rebellious daughter. Don DeFore, Gale Storm, Charles Ruggles.
Why? All heart and sweet, sweet, sweet. This screwball comedy romance is set in New York City against the housing shortage that followed World War II.
The ensemble cast is full of faces that would soon become instantly recognizable to TV audiences—Don DeFore (Hazel), Gale Storm (My Little Margie), Alan Hale (Gilligan’s Island), and Charles Ruggles, who appeared in over 100 movies before playing recurring roles in shows like Beverly Hillbillies and Bewitched. Holiday Schmaltz Rating = 1 hanky
#3 The Bells of Saint Mary’s (1945) Drama/Comedy. Despite their differences, a priest and a nun work together to save their city school from being closed. Bing Crosby, Ingrid Bergman
Why? Crosby does his second turn as the glib Father O’Malley in this heartwarming classic that also stars Bergman as the proper but feisty Sister Superior Mary Benedict.
Best scene? Bergman in full nun’s habit teaching one of her youthful male students to box. An exceedingly pleasant distraction for a quiet afternoon. Highly recommended.
Currently free to stream on Amazon Prime
Holiday Schmaltz Rating = 2 hankies
#2 Miracle on 34th Street (1947) Holiday Fantasy/ Drama/ Comedy. When a department store Santa claims to be the real thing, a skeptical little girl asks him for her seemingly impossible heart’s desire. Maureen O’Hara, John Payne, Edmund Gwenn, Natalie Wood.
Why? The inimitable Maureen O’Hara plays Doris Walker, a divorced head-over-heart career woman who’s lost her faith in love.
Natalie Wood was just eight when she won her career-making role of O’Hara’s precocious daughter. Edmund Gwenn’s iconic performance won him an Academy Award and a special place in movie-goers’ hearts as the “real” Kris Kringle.
A particularly poignant film this year after screen legend Maureen O’Hara’s recent passing. Holiday Schmaltz Rating = 3 hankies
#1 It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) Holiday Fantasy/Drama. A small town banker contemplating suicide is saved by a guardian angel-in-training. Jimmy Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore, Henry Travers.
Why? Is there anyone on the planet who hasn’t seen this? It’s 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 Schmaltz Rating = 4 hankies
Trivia Question: What 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
- The Bells of Saint Mary’s
- A Christmas Carol
Have a wonderful holiday!
It’s a Wonderful Life – Screen Shots [Public domain]
Seymour Hicks – Scrooge 1935 – Screen Shot – [Public Domain]
Ingrid Bergman – By Trailer screenshot (The Bells of St. Mary’s trailer) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
It Happened on 5th Avenue and Miracle on 34th Street – Screen Shots for Critical Commentary
By Trailer screenshot (Christmas in Connecticut trailer) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons