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!!


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

# 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 & 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



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

Farewell, Maureen

Maureen O'Hara

Maureen O’Hara (1942)

“Above all else, deep in my soul, I’m a tough Irishwoman.”

–Maureen O’Hara

The Queen of Technicolor

It takes a lot these days to bring Classic Movie Junkie out from hiatus, but the sad news of Maureen O’Hara’s recent passing at the age of 95 did the trick.CLASSIC MOVIE

There are some movie stars who strike a universal chord of empathy with audiences. It may be because they play their heroic characters so well. When they reveal their human vulnerabilities for all to see, we believe as we watch them up on that big screen that maybe we can be more like them.

Or maybe they just have that special something called “star quality” that translates so eloquently to film.

Most likely, it’s a special combination of both. Whatever it is, it’s more than a pretty face. These performers work their way into our hearts over many years—Jimmy Stewart, Audrey Hepburn, and,  to name a modern example, Robin Williams. When it’s time to say goodbye, it feels like we’ve lost an old friend.

Maureen O’Hara was like that.


Maureen O’Hara

“I’m terrified about the day that I enter the gates of heaven and God says to me, just a minute.”  —Maureen O’Hara


I can’t recall for certain the first Maureen O’Hara movie I saw, but I suspect it may have been a TV showing of The Parent Trap. I was a kid, so I identified with the Hayley Mills twin characters. In fact, I think that movie inspired one of my first attempts to write fiction—a story about summer camp. But I knew even then which character I wanted to be when I grew up—O’Hara’s Maggie McKendrick.

Gorgeous? They didn’t call her the “Queen of Technicolor” for nothing. With that flaming red hair and those flashing green eyes, O’Hara was one of the most beautiful actresses to ever grace the screen.

More important than beauty, though, was the role. O’Hara was always a woman’s woman, not just stunning but smart and sassy. The role of Maggie in The Parent Trap was a perfect fit after she’d grown out of those fiery lass roles of her youth.

Like Kate Hepburn, O’Hara could play strong women at any age who could go toe-to-toe with their equally strong men and make us laugh every step of the way.

She once said, “I think I’ll just stick around until I’m 102.”  By damn, she was feisty enough to almost do it.


What are your favorite Maureen O’Hara films?

Here are some of mine.

The Parent Trap (1961)

The Parent Trap  (1961) Family Comedy/ Romance.  Twins separated by divorce meet at summer camp where they hatch an audacious scheme to switch places and reunite their parents. Hayley Mills, Maureen O’Hara, Brian Keith.

Why? Set aside the outlandish separated-at-birth premise and settle in for the original of one of Disney’s best-loved family comedies. Hayley Mills shines in her dual role as matchmaking teenage twins, and Maureen O’Hara and Brian Keith are pitch perfect as lively reunited ex-spouses set to prove that, though there may be snow on the roof, there’s still fire in the furnace. Uncomplicated fun.


“Bette Davis was right—bitches are fun to play.”

From ‘Tis Herself: An Autobiography, Maureen O’Hara, John Nicoletti, 2004


Wayne & O’Hara in McLintock! (1963)

McLintock! (1963) Western Comedy.  A cattle baron’s comfortable bachelor life is turned upside down when his estranged wife returns to get a divorce. John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara.

Why? I’m not a fan of pie-in-the-face comedy, but if a film has other attributes, I can be won over. McLintock! has two: Maureen O’Hara and John Wayne.

O’Hara takes no guff in this film. Her character—Kate McLintock—is a royal you-know-what from the get-go, and she keeps it up throughout this western version of The Taming of the Shrew.

The thing is, we sort of like her. In fact, the first time I watched this movie, I thought it had to be my imagination that I liked her. Then—in an instant—with a look, smile or a quip, O’Hara would reveal a glimpse of Kate’s humor, strength, or vulnerability.

Not my imagination.

Wayne wasn’t best known as a romantic leading man, but when paired with O’Hara, their chemistry shot through the roof. In McLintock!, G.W. and Kate aren’t youngsters. They’re in the later years of a marriage between two strong personalities that’s gone adrift. Theirs is a mature romantic chemistry that not only sparks with sexual tension but tugs at the heartstrings.

Recommended with the caveat that all is not 21st century politically correct in this film.


“Of all my films, The Quiet Man is my favorite, and John Wayne, who became a dear friend, was my favorite leading man,” – Maureen O’Hara


“It’s a bold one you are! Who gave you leave to be kissin’ me?” –The Quiet Man (1952)

The Quiet Man (1952) Romance/ Drama/ Comedy. An Irish-born American ex-boxer falls in love with the sister of a man who despises him when he returns to his birthplace to escape his past. John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara.

 Why?  O’Hara’s wonderfully nuanced performance as spitfire Mary Kate Danaher is her signature role, one for which she should have won an Oscar. John Wayne’s layered portrayal of Sean Thornton, an ex-boxer with a dark past, will surprise viewers who may only be familiar with his westerns.

Set in the magnificent Irish countryside, the legendary chemistry that sparks between these two Hollywood greats lights up the screen.

Caveat:  Not all is 21st century politically correct in this 1952 film set in 1920s Ireland. That said, this Oscar-winning Best Picture is a classic love story that shouldn’t be missed.


Miracle on 34th Street (1947)  Holiday Fantasy/ 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.

Miracle_on_34th_StreetWhy?  In a far cry from her country lass roles, 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 heartwarming performance won him an Academy Award and a special place in movie-goers’ hearts as the “real” Kris Kringle that lives on to this day.

This film enjoys repeated screenings on television each holiday season and can be streamed any day of the year. This year, though, there’s a special treat. It will be re-released on December 20 and 23, 2015 in select cinemas nationwide as part of the “TCM Presents” series.  Interested? Check for participating theaters HERE.


Maureen O’Hara (1942)


There’s a beautiful romantic line in How Green Was My Valley, spoken by Walter Pidgeon’s character to O’Hara’s character. “You will be queen wherever you walk.”

Céad slán, Maureen. Farewell.


Photo credits: 

Maureen O’Hara 1942 – Trailer screenshot (The Black Swan trailer) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Parent Trap – Reynold Brown [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Wayne & O’Hara – By Trailer screenshot (Wake o y DVD (Batjac-Paramount Pictures) (McLintock! film screenshot) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Wayne & O’Hara – The Quiet Man – Copyright held by the film company or the artist.
Fair use to provide critical commentary on the film.

By trailer screenshot (RKO Pictures) (Sinbad the Sailor trailer) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Miracle on 34th Street  – Copyright held by the film company or the artist.
Fair use to provide critical commentary on the film.

Maureen O’Hara circa 1942 – By Office for Emergency Management. Office of War Information. (06/13/1942 – 09/15/1945), Photographer (NARA record: 1138532) (U.S. National Archives and Records Administration) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons