5 Golden Age Movie Picks for Your Holiday Week

The_Thin_Man_Publicity_Photo_1936Lieutenant 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 ManMetro-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.

Happy viewing!

Which movies or TV shows get you revved for the holidays?

5 Golden Age Movie Picks for Your Holiday Week

CLASSIC MOVIEHoliday 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

angela-lansburyWhy? 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

***

janet-leigh-holiday-affair-movie-trailer

Holiday Affair

# 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

***

Cooper and Stanwyck in Meet John Doe

Meet John Doe

#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

***

After The Thin Man#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.)

***

James Stewart and Donna Reed 1946

James Stewart and Donna Reed 1946

#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?

Have a wonderful holiday week!

 

Photo credits:

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

Top 5 Golden Age Movie Picks for Your Holiday Week

James Stewart and Donna Reed 1946

James Stewart and Donna Reed 1946

“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 ….

Scrooge Emergency!!

Scrooge

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 MOVIEWhich movies or TV shows get you revved for the holidays?

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.

***

Barbara_Stanwyck_in_Christmas_in_Connecticut_trailer

Barbara Stanwyck in Christmas in Connecticut

# 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

***

1_It happened on

It Happened on Fifth Avenue (1947)

#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.

Don Defore and Alan Hale in It Happened on 5th Avenue

Don Defore and Alan Hale in It Happened on 5th Avenue

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

***

Ingrid Bergman in The Bells of St. Mary's 1945

Ingrid Bergman in The Bells of St. Mary’s 1945

 #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

 ***

natalie-wood-miracle-on-34th-street

Natalie Wood & Maureen O’Hara in Miracle on 34th Street

#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

***

Dancing_near_the_crack

It’s a Wonderful Life

#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!

 Photo credits:

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

Winter Solstice and My Christmas Gotta-Have

James Stewart and Donna Reed 1946

James Stewart and Donna Reed 1946

“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, Liberty Films, 1946

Winter Solstice

A_Winter_SunsetAs I post this, we’re encroaching upon the shortest day of the year. If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, you’re liable to miss the daylight hours if you blink. So, pay close attention. There’s something just a wee bit magical about the Winter Solstice…

Christmas Procrastination Activity Update

For those following, I’m here to report that my Christmas Procrastination Activities are progressing on schedule. There was one day when it was touch and go when I did some successful online shopping, but, overall, I still have plenty to buy and haven’t yet wrapped a thing.

So, yes. I’ll be wandering the malls on Christmas Eve and wrapping and bagging until midnight. I’ll fall into bed delirious and with a gift tag stuck to my butt, scotch tape tangled in my hair, and still muttering groggily, “Where are the scissors? Where are the damn scissors?”)

How’s your holiday prep going? 🙂

Reruns…

If there’s ever a time of year when we can be nostalgic, it’s the winter holidays, so forgive me for indulging in a flashback post from 2013 – one of my favorites…

My Christmas Gotta-Have

its_a_wonderful_life_002Confession: As I write this, I’m still basking in the afterglow of… yes, fair warning—if you’re not the sentimental type, get out now because I’m about to say—It’s a Wonderful Life.

Christmas isn’t like it used to be back when my kids were young and I indulged in traditions like baking cookies, writing out Christmas cards, and prowling toy stores in search of that year’s “gotta-have” gift.

I remember the year Furbies came out. Never mind the kids, I wanted one–no, make that two (so they could talk Furbish to each other). U-nye-loo-lay-doo? [Do you want to play?] Now those furry, sorta creepy little robots are back, which proves that, if you live long enough, you get to see just about everything twice.

Those days of baking cookies and reading ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” to eager little ears are gone for now. The day job’s responsibilities weigh heavy, more gift cards than gotta-haves fill our stockings, and the kids have grown up and moved out. The only pitter-patter of little feet I’m likely to hear on this Christmas morning are four each of the canine and feline variety.

And that’s okay. It’s how it should be. But not everything has to change.

I first stumbled on It’s a Wonderful Life as a kid by flipping through TV channels on a snowy Sunday afternoon. Back then, that’s the way you discovered the old black and white movies—on cable channels on weekends or late at night.It’s a Wonderful  Life was my first introduction to Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed, and I loved it. Loved them. Shed a tear. And then I forgot it.

Until I stumbled over it again. Loved it. Sniffled. Forgot it.

Dancing_near_the_crackAnd so on–from year to year–as I grew up, went to college, moved out, got married … except I stopped simply stumbling over it and started keeping an eye out for it. At some point, it became apparent that I wasn’t the only one who’d developed a fierce affection for this magical Frank Capra holiday film.

So now, all these years later, I’m determined to stand firm for this one thing that will not change. It’s a Wonderful Life is my Christmas Gotta-Have.

It doesn’t care what house I live in or what I weigh. It doesn’t matter if I’m having a good year or a bad year. It doesn’t grow up, grow old, or move away. George and Mary never look over their shoulders in time to save themselves from dancing off the edge into that pool; Zuzu’s petals always reappear; and Clarence earns his wings.

Most of all, it’s this film’s message about the nature of true wealth—whether it’s 1946 or 2013—that remains the same. So, no matter how old this girl gets, this one Christmas Gotta-Have will not change.

What’s your holiday Gotta-Have?

***
Don’t have It’s a Wonderful Life on DVD?
Catch it free on NBC – Christmas Eve 2014 at 8 pm Eastern Time

Blessings of the holiday season to you and yours.
***

Photo Credits:

Winter Sunset – By SloMo2639 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

It’s a Wonderful Life – By National Telefilm Associates (Screenshots of the movie) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Holiday Classic Movie Junkie … “You want the moon?”

“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, Liberty Films, 1946

My Christmas Gotta-Have

Confession:  As I write this, I’m still basking in the afterglow of… yes, fair warning—if you’re not the sentimental type, get out now because I’m about to say—It’s a Wonderful Life.

Christmas isn’t like it used to be back when my kids were young and I indulged in traditions like baking cookies, writing out stacks of Christmas cards, and prowling toy stores in search of that year’s “gotta-have” gift.

What do you want? You want the moon?

“What do you want? You want the moon?”

I remember the year Furbies came out. Never mind the kids, I wanted one–no, make that two (so they could talk Furbish to each other). U-nye-loo-lay-doo? [Do you want to play?] Now those furry little robots are back, which proves that, if you live long enough, you get to see just about everything twice.

Those days of baking cookies and reading ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas to eager little ears are gone for now. The day job’s responsibilities weigh heavy, more gift cards than gotta-haves fill our stockings, and the kids have grown up and moved out. The only pitter-patter of little feet I’m likely to hear on this Christmas morning are four each of the canine and feline variety.

And that’s okay. It’s how it should be.

But not everything has to change.

I first stumbled on It’s a Wonderful Life as a kid by flipping through TV channels on a snowy Sunday afternoon. Back then, that’s the way you discovered the old black and white movies—on cable channels on weekends or late at night. It’s a Wonderful Life  was my first introduction to Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed, and I loved it. Loved them. Shed a tear. And then I forgot it.

Until I stumbled over it again. Loved it. Sniffled. Forgot it.

And so on–from year to year–as I grew up, went to college, moved out, got married … except I stopped simply stumbling over it and started keeping an eye out for it. At some point, it became apparent that I wasn’t the only one who’d developed a fierce affection for this magical Frank Capra holiday film.

So now, all these years later, I’m determined to stand firm for this one thing that will not change. It’s a Wonderful Life is my Christmas Gotta-Have.

It's a Wonderful Life - George and Mary Dance

James Stewart and Donna Reed 1946

It doesn’t care what house I live in or what I weigh. It doesn’t matter if I’m having a good year or a bad year. It doesn’t grow up, grow old, or move away.  George and Mary never look over their shoulders in time to save themselves from dancing off the edge into that pool; Zuzu’s petals always reappear; and Clarence earns his wings.

Most of all, it’s this film’s message about the nature of true wealth—whether it’s 1946 or 2013—that remains the same. So, no matter how old this girl gets, this Christmas Gotta-Have, if nothing else, will not change.

What’s your holiday Gotta-Have? 🙂

***

Don’t have It’s a Wonderful Life on DVD?

Catch this year’s encore showing for free on NBC – Christmas Eve at 8 pm Eastern Time

Blessings of the holiday season to you and yours.

***