The holidays are a busy time, even for under-employed coffee shop habitués like me. So rather than write weekly extended discussions of the more interesting upcoming films on the TCM (Turner Classic Movies) cable TV channel, I’ve created a separate page with my picks for the entire holiday season: particularly good or interesting or important – or just favorite – films, day by day, with very brief notes, hints to the pleasures they offer.
If you’re looking for a classic movie to watch, check out my list – TCM has scheduled some real treasures, both expected and unexpected, for the holidays. Unsurprisingly, the standout day in the schedule is New Year’s Eve – when TCM is showing Cary Grant all day and The Marx Brothers all night.
What a wonderful way to see out the year.
When it comes to specifically holiday movies – films thought of as “Christmas” movies – the TCM vaults hold some good ones and during December they’ll be showing
A Christmas Carol (1938) – earliest sound version of the Dickens story, and still my favorite film version.
The Bishop’s Wife (1947) – One of my favorite Christmas movies. Cary Grant is… Well, I’m not supposed to tell. He plays Dudley, sent to help an over-worked bishop (David Niven).
The Shop Around The Corner (1940) – Ernst Lubitsch directs, James Stewart stars. The movie on which the Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan film You’ve Got Mail was based, but so much better. A romantic comedy, set in Budapest during the holiday season.
The more obvious Christmas movies not showing on TCM during the holidays include:
It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) – George Bailey, “Buffalo Gals” and Zuzu’s petals.
Miracle on 34th Street (1947) – a department store Santa thinks he’s the real thing. Remade a few times, but the original will always be best.
White Christmas (1954) – Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye as a couple of song and dance men who end up at a ski lodge in Vermont, run by their old commander and about to go out of business because of the lack of snow. Isn’t that a weird way to synopsize the movie? Accurate though it is, it doesn’t exactly capture the point and the pleasures of the movie.
Holiday Inn (1942) – Fred Astaire and Bing Crosby
Sound of Music (1965) – another movie that is, as it were, a holiday film by adoption rather than birth.
Scrooged (1988) – an updated version of the Dickens story, with Bill Murray basically being Bill Murray, playing a TV executive who is putting on a Christmas special, but is a real “bah humbug” guy – until he gets visited by three spirits.
I feel like there are more classic holiday movies than that, some that I am forgetting – though it is a bit confusing since we grew up watching Christmas movies on TV alongside Christmas TV shows like “A Charlie Brown Christmas” and “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” and they all tend to get lumped together as “holiday fare.”
And of course there are all the more recent holiday movies, like The Polar Express (wonderful), Elf (not so much), the Jim Carey Grinch (not at all) and the “Santa Clause” series with Tim Allen – which actually gave me some cheesy, supermarket egg nog pleasure, at least the first anyway.
In any case, I’ll try to alert you to showings of any of these movies, and hopefully write a bit about what I like about some of them.
And if you are in the mood to buy rather than rent/record, TCM has assembled four of its holiday movies – including two of the ones above that I particularly like, Shop Around the Corner and the 1938 Christmas Carol – into an omnibus DVD: TCM Greatest Classic Films Collection: Holiday (Christmas in Connecticut 1945 / A Christmas Carol 1938 / The Shop Around the Corner / It Happened on 5th Avenue)