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



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

Ring in the New Year with Laughs

CLASSICMOVIEJUNKIEJohnny Hooker: He’s not as tough as he thinks.
Henry Gondorff: Neither are we.

From The Sting, 1973, Universal Pictures

A Look Back at the Future

Happy 2015.

Wow. Look at that number.  No, really. Look at it.

Is it just me, or does anyone else remember when the year “2015” would have looked like something out of a science fiction novel? I’m not sure it doesn’t still look a little like that to me. Then again, I’m no spring chicken. Maybe this has to do with age and perspective.

For example, once there was a novel titled 1984 by a fella named Orwell. I’m sure that title looked more than a little futuristic when it was published in 1949. (And, no, I wasn’t around back then.)

And ever hear of a movie called 2001: A Space Odyssey? By 1969, the prospect of a looming new millennium would have fired our imaginations and triggered predictions of a just-out-of-reach future that would look like something out of The Jetsons. (Speaking of which, I’m still waiting for those cool Jetson flying cars to make an appearance. George, Jane and Astro were living in 2062, so there’s still time.)

Then came Y2K.

Back then, I swear, “2000” sounded futuristic right up to the very day the millennium turned.

What do you think? Have we become jaded? What year can possibly look awesomely futuristic to us now? 2025? How about 2100? 3000? 🙂

Writing Comedy in Dialogue

Every writer has their strengths and weaknesses—the elements we love to write and the elements with which we perpetually struggle.

Me? I love writing amusing dialogue. I get so jazzed when my characters spout a smile-worthy line, I can coast on it for days.

So, what makes dialogue fun?

Timing, flow, conflict. I used to think it took a witty writer to write witty dialogue, but that’s not necessarily so. Dialogue that not only entertains and delights but propels a scene forward can spring up naturally when we put two strong-willed, colorful characters in a challenging new situation together.

No one teaches this lesson better than one of the most talented comedy playwrights of our time, Neil Simon.

We could do worse than to study Simon’s sublime comedic timing in the dialogue of opposites in The Odd Couple and Barefoot in the Park or the raw emotional vulnerability that underlies the deceptively light banter in The Goodbye Girl.

Lucky for those of us who appreciate fine comedic dialogue, there are some splendid movies to recommend this month on TCM, including three Neil Simon classics and the oh-so-clever Redford-Newman tour de forceThe Sting.

Laugh. Learn. Enjoy.

Tuesday, January 6
Missed it? Catch it for a week or more on demand at Watch TCM)

8:00 pm The Sting (1973) Drama/Comedy TCM. Two confidence men concoct an elaborate con game to avenge the death of their friend at the hands of a ruthless gangster. Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Robert Shaw, Eileen Brennan.

Why? Newman and Redford. That’s enough, right? Oh, but there’s more. This outstanding Depression-era period film won seven Oscars, including Best Picture in 1973, and—if that ain’t enough– it’s in my personal top ten all-around favorite films. Smart, funny, suspenseful, and one of the best movie endings EVER.

Friday, January 9
Missed it? Catch it for a week or more on demand at Watch TCM)

Peter_Falk_-_19739:45 pm The Cheap Detective (1978) Comedy/Spoof TCM. A private eye becomes involved with more sultry femme fatales than he can shake a fedora at while trying to solve his partner’s murder. Peter Falk, Louise Fletcher, Marsha Mason, Madeline Kahn, James Coco, Ann-Margaret, Dom DeLuise, Sid Caesar, Eileen Brennan.

Why? Love Casablanca? The Maltese Falcon? To Have and Have Not? You’ll love this top-drawer send-up. (“You know how to dial, don’t you? You put your finger in the little round hole and …”)

Falk spoofs Bogart to perfection (“That’s just how it is, angel…”) and Marsha Mason is hysterical as his murdered partner’s faithless widow. In fact, you’ll find no weak links in this all-star ensemble cast. Guaranteed to tickle your funny bone.

Check out the trailer here: Peter Falk and Madeline Kahn in The Cheap Detective (1 min. 24 sec.)

Tuesday,  January 13

Rpbert Redford

Robert Redford in Barefoot in the Park

10:00 pm Barefoot in the Park (1967) Romance/ Comedy. TCM. Mismatched newlyweds adjust to married life amid odd-ball neighbors and broken plumbing in a tiny walk-up Greenwich Village apartment. Robert Redford, Jane Fonda, Mildred Natwick.

Why? Could there have been a better looking pair of young actors than Fonda and Redford to cast in this 1967 film adaptation of Simon’s hit Broadway play? Nope. And that’s just the icing.

Shining, sweet dialogue, fun 60s New York City setting, and just-this-side of understated sexy romantic chemistry between future mega-stars Redford and Fonda make this film an enjoyable watch even today.

Friday, January 16

8:00 pm The Goodbye Girl (1977) Comedy/ Romance TCM. A Broadway dancer/single mom is chagrined to learn that her ex-fiancé hasn’t only jilted her, he’s sublet their apartment to an out of town actor. Marsha Mason, Richard Dreyfus.

Why? You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll laugh again. Dreyfus (Best Actor), Marsha Mason, and Quinn Cummings soar in this funny, heartwarming, delightful Neil Simon gem. Nominated for Best Picture.

Have a great week!

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

Photo credits:

Publicity Photo – Peter Falk – By TV studio (ebay) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 Redford – By Trailer screenshot (Trailer Screenshot) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Warm Up Your December… with Classic TCM Comedy & Romance

Romantic Comedy

Comedy & Romance

Alison: I knew I should have taken the bus.
Gib:  What? And wind up sitting next to some sleazebag?
Alison:  [Gives the “look”.]
Gib: Some sleazebag you don’t know?

From The Sure Thing, 1985, Embassy Pictures

Bizzy, bizzy, bizzy.

Well, it’s official. I can no longer live in denial.

Summer’s over.

Week before last, I had to shovel snow away to clear a muddy brown dead grass spot so my dog could do her business. And then a bunch of relatives showed up at our door expecting to eat turkey. Two days later, I caught hubby lurking outside with a ladder, hanging twinkle lights. Then, the final straw. I finally broke down and put up our Christmas tree.

So, now it’s clear I’ve got to get busy with my Christmas shopping procrastination activities, which involve cleaning out my refrigerator, editing, drinking wine, reading, brushing the cat,  internet surfing, painting my toenails, tweeting, and organizing my sock drawer.

As you can see, I’ll be under a lot of time pressure, so try not to call me unless it’s important. (For example, if you need a buy link to my latest romantic mystery, It Had to Be You, or if you need a mailing address to send me a gift card for a spa day.)

So, are you the enthusiastic, organized holiday type? Or are you a holiday procrastinator like me? Do tell!

Romance in December… “Is he funny? Does he make you laugh?”*

If you’re a holiday procrastinator or if you just happen to love romance, take it from me. There’s no better holiday procrastination activity than soaking up some TCM classics while rearranging your living room furniture. Why not warm up your December with these romantic gems?

Monday, December 8


Deborah Kerr in An Affair to Remember

8:00 pm  An Affair to Remember (1957)  Romance TCM.  A whirlwind shipboard romance inspires a couple to break their practical, real-world marriage engagements and promise to meet again six months later. Will their love prove strong enough to survive? Cary Grant, Deborah Kerr.

Why? It’s the lovely, elegant, underplayed chemistry between Grant and Kerr that has propelled this film to number 5 on AFI’s list of the top 100 greatest love stories in American cinema.

(And besides, don’t you want to see the movie that inspired Nora Ephron to write Sleepless in Seattle?)

Wednesday, December 10

Sure_thingposter10:00 pm The Sure Thing (1985)  Comedy/Romance  TCM.  A drastically mismatched pair of college freshman find the “real thing” when they’re stuck traveling together on a cross-country road trip to visit their respective paramours for Christmas.  John Cusack, Daphne Zuniga, Nicolette Sheridan.

Why? This under-rated romantic comedy has been described as an ‘80s version of It Happened One Night. Is it predictable? You bet, but in the best possible way. Straight from the heart.

Cusack and Zuniga are perfectly cast in this smart, funny, warm, charming odd-couple teen romance that surpasses its bawdy sub-genre and then some. This was director Rob Reiner’s romantic comedy masterpiece until he slammed it out of the park with When Harry Met Sally. Five stars and a half.

Thursday December 11
Also showing Sunday, Dec. 14 at 2:00 p.m. and Wednesday, Dec. 24 at 4:00 p.m.

Classic Movies

James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan

8:00 pm  The Shop Around the Corner  (1940)  Romance/ Comedy/ Drama. TCM. Sparks fly between a no-nonsense  salesman in a Budapest gift shop and a sharp-tongued new salesgirl while, unbeknownst to them both, the two are falling in anonymous love by mail. Margaret Sullavan, James Stewart, Frank Morgan.

Why?  This is a story about the faces we put on for the world and the treasures that lie beneath. This understated gem goes from amusing to heartwarming to jaw-droppingly romantic as Stewart is the first to discover his secret love’s true identity.  (Later remade as You’ve Got Mail.)

 Friday, December 19

The Apartment 1960

Shut up and deal…

5:45 pm The Apartment (1960) Comedy/ Drama/ Romance.   A mild-mannered insurance clerk rises through the corporate ranks by letting his bosses use his Upper West Side Manhattan apartment for extra-marital trysts. All fine and good  until he falls for his boss’s quirky mistress, the elevator girl. Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine.

Why?  As may be deduced from the genre description —Comedy/ Drama/ Romance—this film aims high and it hits on all cylinders. It’s funny, cynical, bittersweet, honest, sentimental, and clever. Nominated for ten Academy Awards, it won five, including Best Picture and Best Director (Billy Wilder).

Monday, December 29


Sophia Loren

10:15 pm  Houseboat (1958)  Romance/Comedy. TCM  A restless young Italian socialite runs away from her insulated life only to sign on as housekeeper for an American widower with three rebellious children. Cary Grant, Sophia Loren.

Why? This is my second Cary Grant pick this month, but it’s not Grant who shines the most in this forerunner to ‘60s blended family comedies like Yours, Mine and Ours and With Six You Get Eggroll. It’s a gorgeous 23-year-old Sophie Loren in the unlikely role of housekeeper who runs away with this show.

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

*Subtitle quote from The Sure Thing, 1985, Embassy Pictures

Photo credits:

Comedy & Romance  Snow Peeps – Delynn Royer

Kerr – By Trailer screenshot  (An Affair to Remember trailer) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

A low resolution version of the movie poster for the 1985 film The Sure Thing has been used for the purpose of providing critical commentary on the film and to suggest genre and style.

By Trailer screenshot (The Shop Around the Corner trailer) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Apartment / By Billy Wilder / United Artists / Mirish Corporation (DVD with the film and the trailer) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 Sophia Loren – 1959 – By Paul A. Hesse Studios (eBay) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Drive-By Classic Movie Junkie…OMG! It’s Audrey Day!

Audrey Hepburn_Roman Holiday“She’s fair game, Joe. It’s always open season on princesses.”

From Roman Holiday, 1953, Paramount Pictures


OMG! It’s Audrey Day!

If I’ve ever done a blog post during the work week before, I can’t remember it, but–crazy busy as it’s been of late–I couldn’t let this get by.

Classic movie lovers such as moi have been basking in happiness this month with TCM’s Summer Under the Stars. Stars featured included some of my all-time favorites: William Powell, Paul Newman, Carole Lombard, Claudette Colbert, Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart and Barbara Stanwyck.

Can it get any better? You betcha! Today tune in for Audrey Hepburn!  Check it below. Three of my favorite Hepburn films are on deck. What are your favorite Hepburn films?

(Too late to catch Audrey today? There’s always TCM’s streaming on demand after the air date. If your cable company is signed up for the on-demand service, it’s free. Worth checking into.)

Friday August 22 – Summer Under the Stars–Audrey Hepburn Day

Audrey Hepburn_Shirley MacLaine_The Children's Hour_trailer4:00 pm   The Children’s Hour (1961)  Drama. TCM. A student’s malicious lie wreaks havoc with the careers of two dedicated school teachers.  Audrey Hepburn, Shirley MacLaine, James Garner.

Why?  Based on a 1934 play by Lillian Hellman, The Children’s Hour is about the irreparable harm to reputation and livelihood one insidious lie can do. In the time period the play was written and even when this movie was made nearly 30 years later, the nature of the lie—the mere insinuation that a teacher was gay—was enough to destroy a career. Expect to get drawn in. Great performances all around.

Audrey Hepburn

Audrey Hepburn

6:00 pm  Wait Until Dark (1967 ) Suspense/Thriller. TCM. An innocent blind woman is terrorized by criminals who believe a cache of heroin is hidden in her apartment. Audrey Hepburn, Richard Crenna, Alan Arkin.

Why?  Some aspects of this 60s nail-biter are contrived, but Audrey Hepburn’s Oscar-nominated performance still stands up beautifully. Alan Arkin’s does as well. He’s just plain skin-crawling as the deadly Mr. Roat. In 2004, the Bravo cable channel ranked Wait Until Dark’s hair-raising climactic scene number 10 among its 100 Scariest Movie Moments.

Audrey Hepburn_Roman Holiday

Roman Holiday (1953)

8:00 pm   Roman Holiday (1953)  Romantic Comedy. TCM. A runaway European princess falls in love with an American reporter who is being paid to write an exposé on her.  Audrey Hepburn, Gregory Peck, Eddie Albert.

Why?  Ask a group of twenty women over thirty to name their favorite classic movie, and there’s a good chance more than one will choose Roman Holiday. This perfectly delightful 5-star romantic romp through the Eternal City launched Audrey Hepburn’s film career and won her not only an Oscar for Best Actress but a special place in movie-goers hearts that lives on today.

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

Have a great weekend!

 Photo Credits:

Roman Holiday – By Trailer screenshot  (Roman Holiday trailer) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Children’s Hour – By Trailer screenshot  [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Hepburn – By Audrey1.com {Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Audrey Hepburn – By Trailer screenshot (Roman Holiday trailer) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Classic Movie Junkie and the Countdown

Lauren Bacall_WIkipedia CommonsSchatze Page:  Most women use more brains picking a horse in the third at Belmont than they do picking a husband.

From How to Marry a Millionaire, 20th Century Fox, 1953


Yikes. The countdown has begun. It’s no longer months till the release of It Had To Be You, but days.

Am I excited? Yes. Happy? You bet. Stressed? Yeah, a little.

You know how they say good things can be as stressful as bad things? There’s truth to that. The release of a new book is a very good thing, so all I should be doing this month is basking in happiness and excitement. I should not be nibbling at my nails as well as every innocent piece of chocolate that crosses my path.

But there you have it. Me. Wherever I go… there I am. Basking and nibbling… 😉

Writers out there… am I alone?


It’s a good thing there are some terrific movies on tap to help keep me happily distracted and away from the chocolate truffles bag.  Here are just two of my favorites, both of which coincidentally feature Lauren Bacall, a class act if there ever was one.

Anyone else a Bacall fan? What are your favorite Lauren Bacall movies?

Tuesday March 11 (Wednesday am)

Paul Newman_Harper_WIkipedia_Commons1:15 am  Harper (1966)  Detective/Mystery/Action. TCM. A sardonic P.I. is hired by the wife of a multi-millionaire to find her missing husband.  Paul Newman, Lauren Bacall, Arthur Hill, Janet Leigh.

Why?  Kick back and enjoy. Newman is a pure treat to watch in this no frills, sunny California hard-boiled detective mystery. He’s backed solidly by an accomplished cast of 60s stars—Robert Wagner, Julie Harris, Janet Leigh, Shelley Winters, and Arthur Hill.  Lauren Bacall is priceless. (As is Newman in his scivvies. Just sayin’…)

3:30 am   How to Marry a Millionaire. (1953) Romantic Comedy. TCM.  Three beautiful New York models set out to catch millionaires, but find true love instead. Lauren Bacall, Marilyn Monroe, Betty Grable, William Powell.How to Marry a Millionaire_Wikipedia_Commons

Why? Funny, entertaining and a visual delight. From gorgeous widescreen shots of the Manhattan skyline to the three stunning lead actresses to their fabulous wardrobe—all shot in vivid Technicolor.

Bacall, who plays the trio’s ringleader Schatze, handily delivers most of the smart dialogue; Betty Grable charms as the cheeky Loco; and Marilyn Monroe is perfect as the nearsighted, sweetly dim Pola. William Powell–ever debonair in this, his last big screen role—doesn’t miss a beat.

(Caveat: Beware an opening orchestra sequence that’s amazing but may overstay its welcome—six minutes. If you must, go get a snack. The wait is well worth it.)

Trivia Corner – How to Marry a Millionaire.

When Marilyn Monroe’s character models a swimsuit, she’s introduced with the words “You know, of course, that diamonds are a girl’s best friend.” Not so coincidentally, Monroe sings “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” in her other hit film from 1953, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.

Listen closely for two other in-jokes–throw-away references to Bacall’s and Grable’s real-life famous spouses:

  • The first is delivered by Lauren Bacall to William Powell: “I’ve always liked older men… Look at that old fellow what’s-his-name in The African Queen. Absolutely crazy about him.”
  • In a later scene at the lodge, Betty Grable’s character mentions Betty’s real life husband, band leader Harry James, while listening to the radio.

Have a great week!

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


Photo Credits

Lauren Bacall Publicity Photo – Unknown Author  [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Paul Newman – Harper by Warner Bros.  [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
By Trailer screenshot (How to Marry a Millionaire trailer) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons