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

Cicada Love Songs, Summer Jaunts and Classic Movie Junkie

Meet John Doe“…for every John Doe movement these men kill, a new one will be born. That’s why those bells are ringing, John. They’re calling to us, not to give up but to keep on fighting…”

From Meet John Doe, 1941, Warner Brothers

Cicada Love Songs …

Creek in summer

This is the creek out back of our house.: “Oh, little cicada, little cicada… I wonder where you are…”

I heard a cicada the other day.  I looked at the calendar. Yep. August.  The romance writer in me wondered if that  little fella was one of the first lotharios to eagerly scramble up from his subterranean abode–dressed all snappy and with his hair slicked back–ready to snag himself the best-lookin’ dang date in the neighborhood with his new mating song.

On the other hand, it’s also possible that–just as he was stretching his skinny legs and offering up his first “squee” of the season–he got chomped down by a passing bird or squirrel with a craving for 2014 cicada.

Now, that’s a bitter pill.

So is the end of summer.  It’s coming, folks. Oh, yeah… it’s coming.

Summer Jaunts …

For our anniversary, the hub and I took a weekend trip to Inner Harbor, Baltimore to re-do our second date–a dinner cruise. The weather was perfect, the food was great and we took home a nice photo of the two of us taken just before boarding the Spirit of Baltimore.

Inner Harbor at Night_2014

Inner Harbor at Night

When we got home, I juxtaposed that pic with the one taken 14 years ago. I’m happy to report that we’re still recognizable as the same couple. This indicates either we’ve aged rather well or we may be stuck in a rut. For example, it looks like I’m wearing the same outfit (I’m not–I wish I could still fit in that outfit) and my hair hasn’t changed (it really hasn’t). Hmmm.

Summer travels yet to come include…

  •  A day trip to the coal region of Central Pennsylvania to tour an old coal mine and learn about the life of miners back in the days of the Molly Maguires. (Whoot!)  Um, yeah. See, this is where I do get a little weird. I love this stuff. It’s research for one of my historical romances-in-progress. (Whoot!)
  • It Had To Be You_Carina PressAn overnight stay at the historic New Yorker hotel in my favorite city on the planet. I’ll be strolling the streets of Manhattan where my 1920s romantic mystery series is set.  (It Had to Be You, April 2014, Carina Press). Can’t wait!

What about you? Do you have any summer plans still on the calendar?

Classic Movie Junkie…

Yet another treat to look forward to in August is  TCM’s Summer Under the Stars – a month of amazing classic films. Many titles on tap have already been featured on this blog – The Thin Man, His Girl Friday,  Bringing Up Baby and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid… Check out the TCM schedule.

Here are a few others to watch for.

Tuesday August 5

Cooper and Stanwyck in Meet John Doe

Cooper & Stanwyck – Meet John Doe

5:45 pm   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.

Why?  Feeling a little 21st century world weary? Need a revitalizing dose of some off-season 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. (Keep a tissue handy for a fist-pump-worthy final scene Seriously!)

Sunday August 10

 

Barrymore & Lombard - Twentieth Century

Barrymore & Lombard – Twentieth Century

12:30 pm   Twentieth Century (1934) Screwball Comedy. TCM. An express train run from Chicago to New York sets the stage for an egotistical, down-on-his-luck Broadway director to pull every underhanded trick in the book to woo back the estranged high-strung star he created.  John Barrymore, Carole Lombard.

Why? A love-hate-love story at 85 decibels. The one-liners and zingers in this early screwball classic streak by so fast, you’ll need to watch it a dozen times to catch them all. Barrymore’s over-the-top performance as a megalomaniacal Broadway director elevates melodrama to art and Lombard serves back as good as she gets.

 

Carole Lombard

Carole Lombard

6:00 pm   Mr. and Mrs. Smith (1941) Screwball Comedy/Romance. TCM. When a three-year wed couple discovers their marriage isn’t legal, romantic misunderstandings ensue. Carole Lombard, Robert Montgomery.

Why? This fun, often-overlooked screwball comedy is worth a look-see. It was Carole Lombard’s second to last film before her tragic death in an airplane accident in 1942.  It was also Alfred Hitchcock’s only foray into romantic comedy. (Done reluctantly at Lombard’s request. Remember his legendary weakness for beautiful blondes?)  Watch for Hitch’s signature cameo.

Friday August 15

10:00 pm   Three Days of the Condor (1975) Mystery/Thriller. TCM.  A mild-mannered CIA researcher finds himself out in the cold and running for his life when he accidentally survives the execution of everyone on his research team.  Robert Redford, Faye Dunaway, Max Von Sydow.

Why?  This smart 70s conspiracy spy thriller was made in the wake of the Watergate scandal and still resonates today.  The opening scenes are riveting, Redford owns the screen (oh, ladies, yes he does), and Max Von Sydow is excellent as the bloodless yet creepily personable assassin Joubert.

Times listed are EST. Check here for your U.S. time zone Turner Classic Movie monthly schedule.

This month’s Amazon Prime Picks –  Meet John Doe and Three Days of the Condor

Photo credits:

Meet John Doe – By film screenshots (Frank Capra Prod. / Warner Bros.) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Twentieth Century – By Columbia Pictures [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Lombard – Paramount Studios (Ebay [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Mr. and Mrs. Smith – By Trailer screenshot (Mr. & Mrs. Smith trailer) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

It Had to Be You – Copyright © 2014 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited

Cover Art used by arrangement with Harlequin Enterprises Limited ® and ™ are trademarks owned by Harlequin Enterprises Limited or its affiliated companies, used under license.