A Christmas Carol 1938 An adaptation of Charles Dickens’ novella. Directed by Edwin L. Marin. Starring Reginald Owen with Leo G. Carroll as Marley’s ghost. The first and still the best. You know the story, ghosts of Christmas past, present and future teach Mr. Scrooge to open his heart. Rent on Amazon Prime.
Beyond Christmas 1940 Directed by A. Edward Sutherland. An understated charmer. Three rich,old men each throw a wallet out the window into the street containing $10 and a business card. Strangers ring the bell, become holiday dinner guests, then friends. When the trio of Samaritans die in a plane crash, they haunt the old mansion and help their newfound friends from beyond. Free with Amazon Prime.
Christmas in Connecticut 1945 Directed by Peter Godfrey. Elizabeth Lane (Barbara Stanwyck) is a lifestyle writer who can do none of the domestic things for which she’s famous. A Christmas publicity stunt hosting returning war hero Jefferson Jones (Dennis Morgan) requires hiring not only a cook and decorator but also an instant family. Romantic as well as practical mix-ups follow. Rent on Amazon Prime.
It’s a Wonderful Life 1946 based on the short story and booklet The Greatest Gift by Philip Van Doren Stern. Directed by Frank Capra. Considered one of the best of all time. When George Bailey (James Stewart) contemplates suicide on Christmas Eve, he’s stopped by sweet, bumbling angel Clarence Odbody (Henry Travers) who shows him hometown Bedford Falls as it would have been without George’s participation. With Lionel Barrymore as the villain. Free with Amazon Prime.
It Happened on Fifth Avenue 1947 Directed by Roy Del Ruth. Tender and droll. Hobo Aloysius T. McKeever (Victor Moore) annually squats in the mansion of rich Michael J. O’Connor (Charles Ruggles) when the latter goes to his Virginia estate. This year he takes in several strangers, including, unknown to him, O’Connor’s daughter. Almost everyone’s lives change radically in the short time they’re together. Rent on Amazon Prime.
Miracle on 34th Street 1947 Directed by George Seaton. Again, the original remains the best. Between Christmas and New Year’s, Macy’s Santa (Edmund Gwenn) upends tradition, tries to convince cynical store employee Doris (Maureen O’Hara) that Santa exists, offers to grant her daughter Susan (Natalie Wood) a rather large wish, is arrested for being unstable and has to prove he’s the real Santa in court. There’s a romance too of course. Rent on Amazon Prime.
The Bishop’s Wife 1948 Adapted from the Robert Nathan novel. Directed by Henry Koster. An entirely lovely film with just enough magic. Bishop Henry Brougham (David Niven) is neglecting wife Julia (Loretta Young), his daughter, and his principles while agonizing over raising money for a cathedral dedicated to the husband of a rich congregant (Gladys Cooper.) When he asks God for help, he’s sent Dudley (Cary Grant), an angel who epitomizes Christmas Spirit, but irritates Henry-not the least because he’s keeping company with Julia. Also with splendid turns by Monty Wooley and James Gleason. Free with Amazon Prime.
White Christmas 1954 Directed by Michael Curtiz. Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Vera Ellen, Rosemary Clooney and Irving Berlin songs buoy this musical where two teams of entertainers come together at a failing Vermont inn run by the men’s ex-army commander. Romance, singing, dancing, and rescue of the inn. Rent on Amazon Prime.
The Man in the Santa Claus Suit 1979 Directed by Corey Allen. Fred Astaire in his last television appearance. For very different reasons, a fugitive tramp, a lonely schoolteacher and a divorced father all purchase Santa Claus suits from a costume shop run by Fred Astaire aka Santa. Three O’Henryish stories are told. Happy endings. Free on YouTube.
A Christmas Story 1983 From popular writing of humorist Jean Shepherd, to popular film, this one makes a great transition. Ralphie Parker (Peter Billingsley), dreaming of his ideal Christmas gift, a “Red Ryder air rifle.” Dogged by a bully, at odds with his cranky dad (Darren McGavin), comforted by his doting mother (Melinda Dillon), Ralphie struggles to make it to Christmas Day with his glasses and his hopes intact. Charming.
The Santa Clause 1994 Directed by John Pasquin. Much better than it looks. When toy salesman Scott Calvin (Tim Allen) accidentally causes Santa to fall from his roof on Christmas Eve, all that’s left is a suit and card with instructions to finish the route.“The reindeer know what to do.” Scott and his son Charlie (Eric Lloyd) do just that ending up in the North Pole. The problem is Scott doesn’t want the job, but the job (actively) wants him upending his life. His divorced wife, work situation, and son need to believe. Rent on Amazon Prime.
Love Actually has become a holiday classic. A star-studded cast show love and connection in a multitude of forms, most uplifting. Bill Nighy has a terrific turn as an old rocker whose career is ignominiously revived. Hugh Grant in his darling days depicts tender attraction across class and expectation. Laura Linney and Emma Thompson are poignantly hurt. Colin Firth pursues a woman with whom he can barely communicate to joyful resolution…at during the holidays.
The Man Who Invented Christmas 2017 based on the book by Les Standiford. Directed by Bharat Nalluri. Young Charles Dickens (Dan Stevens) has unpaid bills and writers’ block. This is a theoretical backstory of how he was inspired to write A Christmas Carol. The author interacts with his irresponsible father, John (Jonathan Pryce), Scrooge (Christopher Plummer), and a helpful housemaid (Anna Murphy). Genial and evocative. Rent on Amazon Prime.
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