Turner Classic Movies will be devoting the first four Thursdays of December to Christmas movies, starting tomorrow night, December 3rd.
TCM will be showing a nice mix of old favorites, recent rediscoveries, and a couple fun "thinking outside the box" choices. Several of the movies mentioned below have repeat airings on Christmas Day or at other times during the month.
The Christmas Classics festival kicks off on the 3rd with the 1938 A CHRISTMAS CAROL, produced by MGM with Reginald Owen as Scrooge. Gene, Kathleen, and June Lockhart star as Mr. and Mrs. Cratchit and their daughter Belinda, with Terry Kilburn as Tiny Tim and Ann Rutherford a lovely Ghost of Christmas Past. Although I think the 1984 George C. Scott production is overall the finest CHRISTMAS CAROL, the sweet, short MGM version is my favorite.
The wonderful 1949 MGM version of LITTLE WOMEN, with its attractive cast and candybox color, also airs that night, followed by Margaret O'Brien's 1948 TENTH AVENUE ANGEL (I love Margaret, but this is one of her sappiest films); John Wayne in 3 GODFATHERS (1948); HELL'S HEROES (1930); and BUSH CHRISTMAS (1947), an Australian film.
Thursday, December 10th is the TCM premiere of IT HAPPENED ON FIFTH AVENUE (1947), which I've never seen.
After that comes Dick Van Dyke in FITZWILLY (1967), which is also new to me but is a favorite of my children. They've waited years to see it again, and I'll be taping them a copy they can keep!
LOVE FINDS ANDY HARDY (1938), SUSAN SLEPT HERE (1954), and the original LITTLE WOMEN (1933) finish the night. This version of LITTLE WOMEN, starring Katharine Hepburn as Jo, is perfection itself. If you watch both this and the 1949 remake, notice how much of the script and main theme music was used again in '49. The films also share the same costume designer, Walter Plunkett.
December 17th starts with CHRISTMAS IN CONNECTICUT (1945), followed by HOLIDAY AFFAIR (1950). I just saw HOLIDAY AFFAIR for the first time a few years ago and loved it. It's the story of a young war widow (Janet Leigh) with a little boy, who struggles between choosing security (Wendell Corey) or deep but uncertain romance (Robert Mitchum). The performances of the three leads are excellent in a realistic film about relationships and life choices.
TCM then comes up with an original idea for the Christmas schedule, the 1946 romantic comedy NEVER SAY GOODBYE. This movie about a divorced couple reuniting ends with Errol Flynn running around in a Santa Claus costume during a very funny Christmas Eve sequence.
Also shown that night are PERIOD OF ADJUSTMENT (1962) and BEYOND TOMORROW (1940), which I reviewed last December.
Christmas Eve focuses on Robert Osborne's picks, starting with REMEMBER THE NIGHT (1940). This film has found a new audience over the last few years thanks to TCM showing the film; they've just released it on DVD. This movie can also be seen on TCM on December 6th.
The night continues with an unusual choice, CHRISTMAS IN JULY (1940), which is set in...July!
Next is CHICKEN EVERY SUNDAY (1948) with Dan Dailey, Celeste Holm, and Natalie Wood, and then one of my favorite movies of all time, MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS (1944). The Christmas Eve dance in particular is absolutely magical.
The last two films of Christmas Eve are IN THE GOOD OLD SUMMERTIME (1949) and the film it remade, THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER (1940). Although it's not being shown on TCM, YOU'VE GOT MAIL (1998), another version of the same story, has some nice Christmas scenes and is available on DVD.
Titles I recommend for Christmastime viewing which aren't being shown on TCM and are less well known than some more traditional choices: Barbara Stanwyck's MY REPUTATION (1946), which is partially set at Christmas; Ginger Rogers and Joseph Cotten in I'LL BE SEEING YOU (1944), which I haven't seen in a few years and plan to watch soon; and SINCE YOU WENT AWAY (1944) with Claudette Colbert and a great cast. All of these are available on DVD.
BACHELOR MOTHER (1939), with Ginger Rogers and David Niven, takes place between Christmas Eve and New Year's Day. It makes a great New Year's Eve movie. It's only available on VHS.
Additionally, COME TO THE STABLE (1949) is not set at Christmas, yet it has a distinctly "Christmas" feel to it. It's perfect viewing for this time of year. It's been released on VHS.
Of course, you can't go wrong with HOLIDAY INN (1942), THE MAN WHO CAME TO DINNER (1942) (showing on TCM on December 19th and 25th), MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET (1947), THE BISHOP'S WIFE (1947), or especially WHITE CHRISTMAS (1954)!
Happy Advent and Merry Christmas!