Forgotten Christmas Movies
By Brian W. Fairbanks
The promise of peace on earth is never fulfilled at Christmas, but everything is possible in Christmas movies. George Bailey is saved from suicide every Christmas Eve, Ebenezer Scrooge always greets Christmas morning as a kinder, gentler man, and Bing Crosby rises from the dead to sing "White Christmas" in black and white (Holiday Inn) and color (White Christmas). Like the sound of reindeer on the rooftop and sleighbells in the snow, Christmas movies are a part of the holiday landscape. It wouldn't really seem like Christmas without It's a Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th Street, but while those classics are among the most heralded Christmas movies, there are other, less popular but still delightful films sure to brighten your holiday season.
1940's Remember the Night is the charming tale of a prosecuting attorney who takes a shoplifter to his family's farm for Christmas because he doubts he can successfully convict her on Christmas Eve and doesn't wish to see her spend the holidays in jail. The shoplifter, a product of a broken home, experiences a Christmas unlike any she's known before. Meanwhile, the prosecutor falls in love with her, making his professional duties all but impossible. Four years later, the film's stars, Fred Macmurray and Barbara Stanwyck, made one of film noir's most cynical couples in Double Indemnity, but here they display a warmth that is as endearing as the Preston Sturges screenplay.
In 1949's Holiday Affair, Janet Leigh is a widowed mother responsible for getting department store clerk Robert Mitchum fired during the Christmas season. Mitchum is soon competing with Wendall Corey for the affections of both Leigh and her son in this modest but effective Christmas romance. It's especially nice to see big, bad Bob Mitchum in such a gentle role, and his tough guy image keeps the sugar coated story from becoming too sweet.
Bob Hope is as synonymous with Christmas as Bing Crosby. In addition to starring in annual holiday TV specials and entertaining the troops, he starred in The Lemon Drop Kid, a delightful but now relatively forgotten 1951 comedy that deserves to be revived every Christmas. In this Damon Runyon story, Hope is a scam artist whose gang poses as Salvation Army sidewalk Santas in order to pay off a debt to a gangster. Like Scrooge, Hope sees the error of his ways by the time the credits roll, but not before providing some big laughs and introducing the classic Christmas carol, "Silver Bells," an Oscar nominee for best song.
All three of these films are available on video and are sure to brighten the holiday season as much as the more famous Christmas movies. Watch them, and, who knows, they may become as much a tradition in your home as It's a Wonderful Life.
© 2001 Paris Woman Journal