It’s nearly the end of this year and like everyone else, I’m exhausted. I pondered for days wondering what to dedicate my final written piece of this year and for ‘Now That’s What I Call Kino’, before eventually deciding to do a good old fashioned list. So to finish this year, here are five essential Classic Christmas films you should watch over the holidays.
It’s a Wonderful Life (1946, Dir. Frank Capra)
Sometimes the obvious choice is the right choice. Initially receiving mixed reviews and a disappointing box office, it became a Christmas classic after being placed into the public domain. If you’re unaware of the story, it follows the character of George Bailey (James Stewart) in the small town of Bedford Falls. George gives up his dreams and aspirations to constantly help others, but when a mistake from an employee could possibly mean jail time and bankruptcy for himself, he contemplates suicide. His guardian angel Clarence (Henry Travers) comes to show him what life would be like if he was never born, thus teaching him the effect he has had on others. It’s a Wonderful Life is the definition of an essential Christmas watch.
Miracle on 34th Street (1947, Dir. George Seaton)
Before the 90s remake featuring Richard Attenborough, the original Miracle on 34th Street tackles the same court case of Santa Claus. Played by Edmund Gwenn, Kris Kringle is to be institutionalised as insane before a young lawyer decides to defend him as the real thing. It’s had countless remakes and Broadway adaptations of this beloved Christmas story. The highlight has to be a young Natalie Wood playing child Susan Walker, a disbeliever of Father Christmas who soon comes around the better she gets to know the man.
White Christmas (1954, Dir. Michael Curtiz)
Filmed in glorious technicolour and the first feature to be released in VistaVision (a process that used finer-grained standard 35mm prints), White Christmas is a part of film history. The film follows Bob Wallace (Bing Crosby) and Phil Davis (Danny Kaye) – two soldiers in WWII who entertain their division. They later become big Broadway stars and welcome a favour from their old Mess Sergeant when he asks to view his sisters’ act. Becoming romantically involved with Betty (Rosemary Clooney) and Judy Haynes (Vera-Ellen), this group team up to save a failing inn of their former commanding general.
Holiday Affair (1949, Dir. Don Hartman)
Starring Golden Age A-Listers Robert Mitchum and Janet Leigh, this light romantic comedy follows a young widow torn between her long time steady suitor and Mitchum’s drifter. Whilst not doing well during its initial release, it has become a somewhat minor holiday classic thanks to Turner Classic Movies airing the film over the Christmas period. A fan of classic movies and especially 1940s Hollywood will find great interest in seeing Robert Mitchum ditch his dark and mysterious noir and western roles for the comedic love interest in this enjoyable affair.
The Shop Around the Corner (1940, Dir. Ernst Lubitsch)
Another James Stewart classic comes in the form of this 1940 romantic comedy. Set in Budapest and based upon the play Parfumerie, Stewart plays Alfred Kalik – a top employee at a gift shop who can’t stand his colleague Klara Novak, (Margaret Sullivan) but little does the other know that they are falling in love with one another through accidentally being each other’s anonymous pen pal. Although not directly a Christmas movie in the traditional sense, the scenery and imagery is still reminiscent of the holiday period.
There are many choices of great movies to watch this holiday season, and if you’re thinking of expanding your watches with a classic, any of these five would be a great choice.