My Top 10 Christmas Movies:
1. It's A Wonderful Life (1946) ... when I was a kid, my dad talked about this great movie he'd seen a long time ago about a man visited by his guardian angel; I don't even think he knew the title of the movie. It was NEVER on television. Then, in the mid-1970s, they showed it at the Marple Theatre at 417 E. Douglas. My dad took me; I was nine years old, we sat in the balcony, I had a root beer, and we watched this movie I'd never heard of and never seen. It blew me away. The movie was so ignored that its copyright expired. But then cable television came on the scene, and America rediscovered and resurrected this film from the scrap heap. It's really hard to believe that 35 years ago, hardly anyone had ever heard of this movie. I can't watch it without crying. The movie was nominated for five Oscars -- but didn't win any. It got steamrolled, as did about everything else at the '47 Oscars, by "The Best Years of Our Lives". I know, America and the world were in a different place and mindset at that time, which accounts for much of that. "The Best Years of Our Lives" was certainly timely, but "It's A Wonderful Life" will be forever timeless. I would vote for Jimmy Stewart as "Best Actor" in '46, and I would vote for "It's A Wonderful Life" as Best Picture, ahead of some of my other favorites from that year: "Notorious", "Song of the South", "Gilda", and "The Razor's Edge".
2. The Bishop's Wife (1947) ... Cary Grant is an angel, sent to help an uptight bishop (David Niven) and his wife, played by Loretta Young, who won an Oscar that same year for another movie ("The Farmer's Daughter"). And you've got Monty Woolley in a great character part. This movie has a charming script, and is always enjoyable. It got nominated for Best Picture and Best Director, both losing to "Gentleman's Agreement"; boo! -- I disagree. I love the scene where Cary Grant decorates the Christmas tree!
3. Miracle on 34th Street (1947) ... I just watched this movie last week at The Orpheum Theatre downtown; what a treat to get to watch this great movie with a crowd of people! Lots of really funny moments, and a few teary-eyed interludes too. What a great great script -- deservedly winning Oscars for Best Writing--original story, and Best Writing--screenplay. Maureen O'Hara and Natalie Wood are wonderful. Edmund Gwenn has the role of a lifetime as Kris Kringle, and rightfully won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. This movie, along with "The Bishop's Wife", also got nominated for Best Picture, both losing to "Gentleman's Agreement"; boo! -- (see above). And I may be the only person in the world who actually likes the 1973 remake also, with Sebastian Cabot as Mr. Kringle.
4. Holiday Inn (1942) ... Bing Crosby singing, Fred Astaire dancing, Irving Berlin music -- wow! Irving Berlin won the Oscar for "White Christmas" (no-brainer), and he also got an Oscar nomination for Best Writing--original story! Irving Berlin got nine Oscar nominations in his life, but this was his only win. This movie is ultra-entertaining. And why didn't we see Marjorie Reynolds in more movies? She was smokin'!
5. A Christmas Story (1983) ... Another movie that was nearly forgotten. Apparently, the movie company executives screened this movie, thought it WASN'T funny, and shelved it. I think actor Darren McGavin had to partially fund distributing this movie, just so it could make it on to movie screens. Of course, once it did, movie-goers loved it. There was no Hollywood marketing campaign for this movie -- just word of mouth. That's how I heard about it. I was in high school at the time, and a friend of mine told me about this obscure Christmas movie out in the theaters that was a riot! He was right. Perfect casting; every scene in this movie works.
6. Holiday Affair (1949) ... Great opening and closing credits with toy trains, a key part of the story. Will widow & single mom Janet Leigh choose a safe fiance, or take a chance on a rogue (Robert Mitchum)? There's a courtroom scene with Harry Morgan as the judge that is very funny.
7. A Boyfriend for Christmas (2004) ... This movie has three really great things going for it: (1) Kelli Williams is absolutely radiant; can she be MY girlfriend for Christmas?; (2) Charles Durning as Santa Claus; (3) Martin Mull in a supporting role.
8. White Christmas (1954) ... Bing Crosby singing, Danny Kaye clowning, Irving Berlin music, and Rosemary Clooney is stunning. And it's directed by Michael Curtiz, who also directed "Casablanca"! Sure it's schmaltz, but it's entertaining -- and I'm wiping away a tear at the end.
9. Yes, Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus (1991) ... fleshing out the story behind the famous letter written by the little girl in 1897. Charles Bronson (of all people) gives a very touching performance as the man who wrote the editorial, Francis P. Church. Richard Thomas plays Virginia's father.
10. Bad Santa (2003) ... This list can't be all sugar-plummy -- I had to get a little subversive, and here it is. If you're in the right mood, this dark comedy is spot on. And there is some melancholy: both Bernie Mac and John Ritter are already gone.