Why should anyone care to read about what are my favorite holiday movies? My list can be a conversation starter when the office Christmas party gets boring. Or better yet, three of my all time favorites are playing in December at the Merced Theatre.
So, in no particular order, here is my top ten list:
White Christmas. This Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, and Vera Ellen film about a group of successful entertainers who try to save a retired Army General from financial ruin has been around since 1954. It was on television when I was a child and I don’t believe there’s been a season since when it wasn’t on someplace during the holiday season. The movie inspired a musical that played at the Sonora Playhouse two years ago. The film was screened in “beautiful Technicolor” at the Merced Theatre in early December. My wife and a friend enjoyed it for the first time in a real movie house.
Christmas in Connecticut. Probably my all-time favorite that combines the screwball comedy era with the holiday film genre. Barbara Stanwyck and Dennis Morgan star with wonderful co-starring performances from Sidney Greenstreet, S Z Sakall, and Reginald Gardinier.
Home Alone, II. It’s rare when the sequel is better than the original. Home Alone was a pretty good movie, but the second movie (with the subtitle Lost in New York) tugged at my holiday heartstrings deeper than the first one.
Holiday Inn. With Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire. This is the movie where the song White Christmas was first introduced. Aside from the blackface version of Irving Berlin’s Abraham, the songs deliver and Astaire’s dancing with the firecrackers is worth the price of admission.
The Santa Clause. Tim Allen’s performance of a man who must become the big fat man in the bright red suit worked on many levels, including the struggle divorced parents have managing visits for their children around the holidays.
It’s a Wonderful Life. It never disappoints to see Jimmy Stewart’s George Bailey character sink about a low as one can sink, only to be saved by Clarence the angel who shows what life would have been like had George not been born. This one also made it to the Merced Theatre in early December. I hope it comes back to the Theatre next year and plays closer to the Christmas holiday.
The Bishop’s Wife. I’ll watch just about anything with Cary Grant, but his interpretation of Dudley the angel just captures my soul every year. There are outstanding performances from David Niven who plays the stressed out bishop, and Loretta Young who plays the understanding yet suffering wife. There are also wonderful supporting performances from Elsa Manchester and James Gleason.
Family Man. While not in the same league as It’s a Wonderful Life, this story about a man who wakes up living the life he would have lived had he not chosen career over love is very good. Nicholas Cage is the beleaguered man, Don Cheadle is the angel, and Tea Leoni is the wife. You see a shot of the Twin Towers in New York City in this pre 9-11 movie. This movie is a winner.
A Christmas Story. This retelling of a Jean Sheppard short story based in the 1940’s broke new ground when Turner Broadcasting System (TBS) began airing it over and over during a 24-hour period beginning Christmas Eve. Whether it’s the tongue-on-the-utility-pole scene, the little brother getting bundled up by Mom to go outdoors, or the old man’s struggle with the furnace, I laugh all through the movie every time I see it. It will play at Merced Theatre on Christmas Eve day, but it’s bundled with the direct-to-video sequel and the admission price is doubled from the $5 per person for the other movies being shown this season.
A Christmas Memory. Though not a theatrical release, this 1966 television film with Geraldine Page is loyal to the Truman Capote short story about a young boy raised by aunts in depression era Alabama. Aside from the compelling performances, this is simply a movie that you don’t see at the stores. In the few times I’ve seen it in the past forty-seven years, I’ve never been disappointed. Even though the movie is hard to find, you can look up the Capote short story on line. It’s a beautiful reading experience.
Enjoy any of these movies with family and friends.
Happy Holidays to you.
Steve Newvine lives in Merced