Tuesday, 24 December 2013

2013 Holiday Picks! My Old Hollywood Faves

I spoke of some of my favourite Christmas movies on this blog back in 2011. Here are my favourites as I watch through them all this year!

White Christmas (1954)
1) White Christmas (1954): I just saw this on the big screen last night, and this quintessential Christmas musical just never loses its magic. With a wonderful cast, gorgeous Edith Head costumes, classic Irving Berlin tunes, and capable direction by Michael Curtiz, this movie just can't miss. My favourite moments: Rosemary Clooney (in a gorgeous, hip-hugging Edith Head mermaid gown) singing "Love, You Didn't Do Right by Me", Vera-Ellen's rapid tap dance to "Abraham", Bing's beautiful rendition of "White Christmas" at the beginning of the film, and any scene where Danny Kaye's voice cracks! ;) My most favourite may be Vera-Ellen and Danny Kaye's dance to "The Best Things Happen While You're Dancing", choreographed by the one and only Robert Alton.

Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
2) Meet Me in St. Louis (1944): While this perennial Vincente Minnelli classic takes us through all the seasons in the life of a turn-of-the-century St. Louis family, the most memorable scenes are in winter. Especially memorable is when Judy Garland serenades us and introduces us to Martin and Blane's "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas". Who can imagine Christmastime without this holiday standard? And who better to introduce the song to the world than Garland, the greatest songbird. More special to me is the fact that this song was introduced to the world in World War Two. Imagine all those who were fighting and got to hear this over the radio, hearing that "someday soon, we all will be together". Brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it!

Christmas in Connecticut (1945)
3) Christmas in Connecticut (1945): I love Barbara Stanwyck in a comedic role, and this may be one of her best. Teamed up with a great cast including Dennis Morgan, S.Z. "Cuddles" Sakall, Sydney Greenstreet, and Reginald Gardiner, this film has many genuine laugh-out-loud moments. Elizabeth Lane (Stanwyck) is a journalist who pretends to be a gourmet cook, and is forced to make herself look the part when a soldier (Morgan) visits her Connecticut "farm" and her boss (Greenstreet) presides over the events. Hilarity (truly) does ensue, with the supporting cast making all the escapades even more amusing. A wonderful Christmas comedy, with Edith Head (again) providing some beautiful holiday outfits for Stanwyck.

An Affair to Remember (1957)
4) An Affair to Remember (1957): You may be thinking, "What??!" when you see this film on my list. But, to me, it's a perfect holiday romance. Two lovers (Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr), both involved with other people, meet on a cruise and agree to reunite 6 months later at the top of the Empire State Building. Their meeting is interrupted by a tragic accident. It doesn't sound like a Christmas movie, does it? However, the last pivotal scene (which I won't spoil for anyone who hasn't seen it) takes place on Christmas Day. And, the lovers agree to meet 6 months later on New Year's Day. The themes of togetherness and reuniting are actually perfect for the holiday season, and who doesn't love seeing Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr both humourously, and then, tragically, in love? It's one of my all-time favourite romances, and one I always tend to watch around the Christmas season.

Holiday Affair (1949)
5) Holiday Affair (1949): An underseen holiday treat, this adorable comedy features Janet Leigh at her most natural and charming, and Robert Mitchum in a good-guy role. Leigh plays a comparison-shopping widow with a young son, and Mitchum is a sales clerk who gets fired because of Leigh returning a toy train set to his department. It sounds corny (and it is), but Leigh is so believable as a young mother struggling with her identity after losing her husband, and Gordon Gebert is so adorable as her son Timmy, that we can't help but enjoy the ride, and wonder what will happen to these characters. And Mitchum and Leigh falling in love doesn't hurt either! Running at a mere 87 minutes, it's a perfect holiday film to watch when you just want a quick dose of Christmas cheer!

Honourable Mention: These films are also worth a viewing every Christmas!

1) I'll Be Seeing You (1944): An adorable and extremely unique wartime Christmas romance with the wonderful Ginger Rogers and Joseph Cotten.

2) In the Good Old Summertime (1949): Despite the title, this remake of The Shop Around the Corner (1940) with Judy Garland and Van Johnson actually mostly takes place in the winter.

3) The Bishop's Wife (1947): Haven't you always wanted to see Cary Grant play an angel? I thought so! This film is almost too saccharine and corny, but the wonderful cast (Loretta Young, David Niven, Monty Woolley) saves it from becoming that way. Definitely worth a look!

4) Holiday Inn (1942): Fred Astaire dances with fireworks, Bing Crosby introduces "White Christmas" to the world... what more do you want? Delightful film that focusses on many holidays besides Christmas!

And, finally, if you haven't seen Jimmy Stewart in one of his best roles of all time and perhaps the best Christmas movie ever in It's a Wonderful Life (1946), you absolutely must!! Finally, finally, Miracle on 34th Street (1947) is also a perennial classic that all must view at least once!!

Enjoy and let me know your classic Christmas faves!