Christmas, for many, is the most wonderful time of the year, so I’ve taken it upon myself to suggest three Christmas classics to introduce yourself to (or re-watch) in this very special holiday. Without any further ado, and in no particular order…
- White Christmas (1954) by Michael Curtiz
In this lovely film, two ex soldiers Bob (Bing Crosby) and Phil (Danny Kaye) decide to form a sing and dance duo after returning to the States following the war, and they manage to establish their own production company. By pretending to be her brother, ex-sergeant ‘freckle-faced’ Haynes, who was part of the same division as Bob and Phil during the war and is played by Vera Ellen, writes them a letter to gain their help. In doing so however, she also lies to her sister Betty (Rosemary Clooney) who is completely in the dark about Judy’s cunning expedient. Once Bob and Phil go to the sisters’ show, they are impressed by their talents and beauty, and they eventually help them to get a train ticket to Vermont where the sisters are to perform during the holidays. In the end, they all travel together to get to Vermont and stay at the Columbia Inn, but when they arrive there is no snow in “The winter playground of America” and worse yet, no customers – the Inn actually seems ready to be shut down. Bob and Phil quickly learn that the Inn’s owner is their former army General Thomas F. Waverly (Dean Jagger) and they decide to help him regain some custom. In the midst of it all, the four main characters fall in love and successfully manage to help their old army comrade bring his business back on track, all the while reinforcing how important and respected he is in the eyes of those who served with him.
This film conveys a very heartwarming message – and a very appropriate one to the atmosphere of Christmas – as it shows loyalty, solidarity and friendship, all exemplified by the kind and gratuitous acts the two protagonists perform towards their former General but also towards the sisters. The soundtrack features the famous hit ‘White Christmas’, which was first performed by Crosby in the film ‘Holiday Inn’ (1942) by Mark Sandrich.
2. The Miracle on 34th Street (the 20th Century Fox Hour) (1955) by Robert Stevenson
Kris Kringle (Thomas Mitchell) is hired by Macy’s to work as Santa Claus in their store in New York and it soon becomes apparent that he believes himself to be the real Father Christmas. Doris Walker (Teresa Wright) also works in the store; she doesn’t believe in Santa, is skeptical about the holidays in general and worries about allowing her daughter Susan (Sandy Dasher) to believe in anything that she can’t actually see or touch. Her policy is to believe in reality: cold, hard, facts. After several occurrences come to prove that Kringle is Santa Claus, Doris eventually believes him, finding help in Fred Gaily (Macdonald Carey) – who is secretly in love with her – when Kringle is fired from his job and in need of a home. Despite the tribulations, Kringle is officially believed to be Santa by the end of the film and Susan gets her Christmas wish of a new home. The lovely Santa also helps matters with Susan’s family and helps Fred and Doris to finally get together. This film, which was a remake of the original 1947 version, embodies all the good sentiments Christmas should bring and in a way ‘redeems’ the skeptical Doris, leaving everyone happy and joyful.
3. Mickey’s Christmas Carol (1983) by Burny Mattinson
This is, to me, the more traditional version of a popular Christmas tale that all people and especially children should know. I remember watching this 1983 version when I was a child and simply loving it. It is an adaptation – entirely animated – of Charles Dickens’ novella “A Christmas Carol” about Ebenezer Scrooge: a curt, old man that hates everything related to Christmas. In this version, Mickey Mouse and Scrooge McDuck portray Bob Cratchit and Ebenezer Scrooge respectively, with voice actors Wayne Allwine and Alan Young lending their voices to the characters.
Scrooge shuns everyone on Christmas eve and refuses his nephew’s invitation to have dinner with his family. As a result of this, he heads for a night alone before receiving a visit from his late business partner Marley, who warns him about the consequences of his behaviour. Afterwards, three spirits visit him: the ghost of Christmas past, the ghost of Christmas present and the ghost of Christmas future. As a consequence of these visits, and of what the spirits show him, Scrooge repents his ways and vows to make amends. It is a hopeful message of redemption that never gets old, tied up in a wonderful piece of Disney animation that makes it perhaps the most family friendly of all of these fantastically family friendly films.
I'm particularly passionate about British and German cinema, and I'm a sucker for a good old war film.