Classic Holiday Films

by Coraline Crannell

What better thing to do to get into the holiday spirit, or simply relax in front of the screen, than watch a wonderful holiday movie? Holiday movies are amazing, with their festive themes about family and love. They are also super fun and entertaining. There are all kinds of different holiday films, but I prefer the older classics. They have exceptional acting, singing, and dancing that you just can’t beat with some of the more modern ones. I put together a list, with short synopses of each film, so you can relax and add some joy to one of your wonderful winter evenings.

 

White Christmas (1954)

One of my favorite movies, White Christmas is a wonderful holiday classic, starring Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye, with incredible, classic songs and great dances to go along with them. Starring the two actors as WWII army buddies, it begins on Christmas Eve night, 1944, someplace in Europe, in a sober time during the war. Captain Wallace (Bing Crosby) is giving a show to the troops of the 151st division with the help of Private Davis, (Danny Kaye) which includes the song “White Christmas”. However, it’s a fairly sad and sober time, as the troops have just heard that their beloved commanding officer, Major General Thomas S. Waverly, (Dean Jagger) is being relieved of command. He shows up at the end of the show and gives a wonderful farewell speech. After the war, Wallace and Davis become a duet, and meet two other actresses, who they become a little romantically involved with. They all go on a trip to Vermont, where they run into their former commander, and try and save his failing inn. This is a beautiful, heartwarming, hilarious tale about love and kindness.

 

A Christmas Carol (1938)

Another wonderful classic, this is the first adaptation of Charles Dickens’ story. There have been many different adaptations of it, but many prefer this one, as it is the first. It takes place in Nineteenth Century London, where lives the old, bitter, greedy, and cranky Ebenezer Scrooge, who hates Christmas and people. He runs his banking business exploiting his employee, Bob Cratchit, and is extremely mean to his nephew Fred and anyone else he meets. On the night of Christmas Eve, he is visited by his deceased partner Jacob Marley. He was just as mean and bitter as Scrooge, and he wants him to change so that he won’t have to face the consequences that he is facing in his afterlife. He warns him that that night, he will be visited by three ghosts. Sure enough, it happens. The ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come show him his past and what has shaped him to be who he is, how others are celebrating Christmas, and what will happen to him in the future if he does not change. In the end, it makes Scrooge reconsider his views and thoughts about Christmas, people, and life in general, and he takes advantage of the opportunity to mend his ways.

 

It’s a Wonderful Life (1947)

Often called one of the most beloved films ever made, It’s a Wonderful Life is truly an amazing work of art. George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) loves his small town of Bedford Falls. However, when his tiny Building & Loan starts to fail, thanks to the malicious influence of the town’s horrible tyrant, Mr. Potter (Lionel Barrymore), he is so devastated he is ready to end it all and commit suicide. But his helpful guardian angel, Clarence (Henry Travers), intervenes and shows him what life would have been like in the town had he never been born and done all of his good deeds. It would have been horrible, and George gets a chance to turn things back around. This is a wonderful movie about family and the value and importance of life.

 

Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is about to start when a whiskered old man (Edmund Gwenn) finds the man to play Santa Claus drunk, behind the float. He goes to Doris Walker (Maureen O’hara), the no-nonsense director of the parade, who quickly convinces the man to take his place. He does the job so well that he is hired to be Macy’s main Santa actor. All goes well until she discovers that the man calls himself Kris Kringle and claims to be the actual Santa Claus. Ms. Walker does not like this, as she has trained herself and her daughter Susan (Natalie Wood) to always dutifully reject all notions or ideas of the slightest fantasies. But everyone, especially Susan, begin to notice odd, special things about the man and his determination to spread the true spirit of Christmas despite all the rampant, successful commercialism surrounding him. However, after an unfortunate incident with the store phycologist, he finds himself in a mental hospital, where Doris’ friend and lawyer, Fred Gaily (John Payne) must work to prove that he is indeed the real Santa Claus. This is a great movie about friendship and love, and that sometimes miracles do happen.

 

Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)

Starring Judy Garland, this is a wonderful movie that demonstrates the value and importance of family.  It’s the year before the 1904 Saint Louis World Fair, and the Smith girls’ father, Alonzo Smith (Leon Ames) is going to move the family to New York, much to the reluctance of the rest of the family. Despite this, they still manage to have a good Christmas, and also learn about the lessons of life and love. It’s a great film, with many classic songs, such as “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”

 

Holiday Inn (1942)

Though I’ve never personally watched this movie, I’ve heard many great things about it, so I decided to include it. A wonderful musical romance, this movie stars Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire, and is full of lots of great dancing and singing. It’s a complicated romance musical, where Jim Hardy (Bing Crosby) decides to move to Connecticut and spend the rest of his life relaxing lazily on the farm with his fiancee Lila Dixon (Virginia Dale). But dancer Fred Hanover (Fred Astaire) takes her away to continue their showbiz career. Life on the farm doesn’t suit Jim, and he quickly tires of it, so he decides to turn the barn into a nightclub that is only open on holidays. This is a great movie with tons of classic songs for all the holidays, and a great tale of love and life.

 

The Bishop’s Wife (1947)

A newly appointed Bishop, Henry Brougham (David Niven), is unsuccessfully trying to raise funds for the building of a new cathedral. He is becoming stressed and preoccupied with his new duties and prays for help when an angel named Dudley (Cary Grant) appears and tells him he’s an assistant, and will be there until he is no longer needed. He hasn’t had much time for his wife Julia (Loretta Young), so Dudley keeps her company, however Henry is getting a little jealous, and feels as though Dudley is there to replace him. Ms. Hamilton, the main contributor to the cathedral fund, won’t help until her numerous conditions are met, but Dudley has his own way to make her cooperate though, and is able to ensure that everyone has a wonderful Christmas, especially Henry and Julia.

 

Christmas In Connecticut (1945)

In her popular Smart Housekeeping article, Journalist Elizabeth Lane describes herself as a hard working farm woman in Connecticut, raising her children, and an amazing cook. In reality though, she is none of this. She’s a single woman living in a squished New York apartment building, barely even able to boil water. But when her boss decides to come bring a U.S. Navy officer to stay with her at her farm for the winter, she’s in a bit of a tight squeeze. She is able to go to a long time proposing man’s farm in Connecticut and pose as his wife, however when the officer arrives, he’s very attractive, and the everything going on is leaving her boss completely bewildered. A hilarious tale, Christmas in Connecticut is definitely worth seeing.
These are great movies that really bring across the messages of family, love, and the holiday season. Happy movie watching!

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