I’m Dreaming of a Black & White Christmas

As much as I love our contemporary corny Holiday cinematic fare (and I do love it, as I discussed here) there is a soft spot in my heart for some of the Christmas films of yore. Do I like It’s A Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th Street? Of course. But it seems like some of my favorites are often overlooked. These are great flicks, even if you don’t celebrate Christmas. They’re funny, sad, charming and full of heart.

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The Shop Around the Corner (belcourt.org)

The Shop Around the Corner (1940) This movie was later remade several times, as You’ve Got Mail, In the Good Old Summertime, and the Broadway musical, She Loves Me. The original film stars James Stewart as Alfred Kralik, a salesman in Budapest. He has been corresponding anonymously with a woman he met via an ad in the newspaper. When Klara Novik (Maureen Sullivan) comes into the store looking for work, Alfred tells her that they’re not hiring. Then his boss hires her a few minutes later.  The two coworkers disagree and argue constantly. Meanwhile, Alfred makes plans with his mystery pen pal to finally meet. See where this is going?

[Trailer][Streaming][DVD]

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Remember the Night (immortalephemera.com)

Remember The Night (1940) In this film, Lee Leander (played by Barbara Stanwyck) is arrested for shoplifting. Her trial begins just before Christmas, but the prosecutor, John Sargent (played by Fred MacMurry) doesn’t want a jury filled with the forgiving Christmas spirit or one that’s anxious to get home to their families, so he gets the proceedings postponed until after the holiday. He does feel guilty about that move so he posts Lee’s bail so that she can at least spend Christmas with her family.  As it turns out, they’re both headed in the same direction, so John ends up giving Lee a ride, and yes, they end up falling in love. It’s got a bit of comedy, a bit of drama and a lot of heart. Check it out if you want a warmhearted film.

[Trailer] [DVD]

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The  Man Who Came To Dinner (flickersintime.com)

The Man Who Came To Dinner (1942) While on a speaking tour in Ohio, arrogant radio personality, Sheridan Whiteside (Monty Woolley),  is scheduled to dine with the prominent Stanley family. When he slips on the ice and breaks his hip, he must recover at the Stanley house over the holiday season, along with his assistant, Maggie (Bette Davis). He soon comes to dominate the lives of the Stanley family, and pretty much everyone else who enters their house. It’s a zany screwball comedy that’s great for a holiday laugh.

[Trailer][DVD]

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I’ll Be Seeing You (imdb.com)

I’ll Be Seeing You (1944)  Mary (Ginger Rogers) is on an eight day furlough from prison so that she can spend Christmas with her aunt and uncle in Pine Hill. Zach (Joseph Cotten) is a soldier suffering from shell shock who has been given a ten day leave from the military hospital to re-acclimate him to every day life. They meet on the train to Pine Hill and hit it off, planning to meet up later. But the holiday will eventually be over. What happens when they tell one another the truth about who they are and where they come from?

[Trailer] [DVD]

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Christmas in Connecticut (hookedonhouses.net)

Christmas in Connecticut (1945) Elizabeth (Barbara Stanwyck) is a successful expert of marriage, cooking and homemaking (sort of like a 1940’s Martha Stewart). When her publisher arranges for her to host a war hero at her Connecticut home for Christmas, it should be simple. Except that Elizabeth is actually single, can’t cook and lives in an apartment in New York City. But with a little help, a lot of planning, and perhaps a bit of luck, she might just pull it off… This is screwball comedy at it’s most charming.

[Trailer][Streaming][DVD]

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It Happened on Fifth Ave (scera.org)

It Happened on Fifth Ave (1947) Every Christmas,  Aloysius T. McKeever moves into a mansion on Fifth ave, while the owners are away for the winter. Every year he invites his fellow homeless friends, in from the cold. But this year, Mary O’Conner comes home from vacation unexpectedly after she has a fight with her boyfriend. Then her father, pretending to be homeless wrangles an invitation to spend Christmas in his own house! There’s lots of pretending and some mistaken identity but it’s all in good fun.

[Trailer][Streaming][DVD]

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Holiday Affair (yesweekley.com)

Holiday Affair (1949) Connie Ennis (Janet Leigh) is a war widow who is working as a comparative shopper for a department store to support herself and her six year old son, Timmy. She buys an expensive toy train set, and Timmy is thrilled when he sneaks a peak and thinks it’s his Christmas present. When he learns that she bought it for work, he’s disappointed, but keeps a stiff upper lip. When Connie returns the train the next day, Steve (Robert Mitchum) a clerk at the store ID’s her as a comparative shopper and is about to report her to the store detective, when he learns that she’s a war widow with a child to support. Against his better judgement he keeps quiet and refunds her money. The gesture costs him his job, but he becomes acquainted with Connie and Timmy. This is a light romantic comedy, that doesn’t have any big twists, but it’s charming and emotionally satisfying.

[Trailer] [Streaming][DVD]

What’s your favorite holiday film fare? What do you think of these choices?

I wish all the best this season, whatever you may celebrate in December, and in life.

What I’ve Learned From Watching Hallmark Christmas Movies

It’s hard to say why we love these movies. They’re all slight variations on the same theme. Someone with difficulties in their personal or professional life learns about What’s Really Important thanks to some holiday magic (which may or may not be literal magic). They’re uniformly cheesy and often feature bad acting and/or cringe-worthy screenwriting. But starting on Black Friday and continuing through the month of December, I can’t get enough. I think the reason they appeal is because they’re so predictable. I can’t count on much in this world. Even fictional escapes come with their own stress (what if things don’t play out the way I want them to? I’m invested dammit!)  But with these movies, I know exactly how things will play out. I can sit back and enjoy. If I’m in a snarky mood I can mock them. If not I can just go along with it.

For the purpose of this list, I will be considering both Hallmark Christmas movies and Hallmark style Christmas movies (films not made by the Hallmark channel but still channeling the same mood. Often said films are made by Lifetime, Netflix, Ion, etc)

  • Europe is filled with tiny countries that no one’s heard of. English is the primary language in all of these countries, and most accents there sound British. Each of these countries has a handsome prince, looking for a quirky American to marry.
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    from buzzfeed

  • Small town coffee shops are frequently filled with confused city girls who can’t order their fancy latte and are trying to figure out how to drink plain old coffee with milk. The same thing happens at small town diners when the city dweller tries to order an egg white omelette and gluten free toast.
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    from whatsfilming.ca

  • Only real Christmas trees are acceptable. A fake Christmas tree marks the owner as a soulless monster. If you know someone with a fake tree, the best thing to do is run away fast.
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    from outsourcemarketing.com

  • Cell phones can also be indicative of the lack of a soul. But there is some gray area: sometimes people with cell phones aren’t truly soulless, but just misguided and confused about priorities. These people can sometimes be saved, usually by a quaint Christmas celebration.  The same cannot be said of fake tree buyers.
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    hallmarkmoviesandmysteries.com

  • Children love to set up romances between the adults in their lives. In fact, that’s pretty much the reason that children exist
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    from hallmarkmoviesandmysteries.com

  • All children are adorably precocious. There is no other kind of child.
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    from vulture.com

  • Mistaken identity is very common. Outright lies about identity are totally forgivable, no matter how far they go.
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    from tvinsider.com

  • If a guy truly loves you, he will propose marriage after knowing you for two weeks (maximum).
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    from fangirlish.com

  • It always snows on Christmas eve. No matter where you are. Florida? Australia? Mexico? The Sahara? It doesn’t matter. On Christmas Eve it will snow. I promise.
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    from southernliving.com

    Do you like these silly holiday movies? Any favorites?

A Few Things I’ve Learned/Grown to Love

A lot of the things that I love have been instinctive, day one, passions for me- stories, chocolate, snow… Something inside me screams “yes!” to all of it. But there are other things that I’ve grown into over time.

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  • Nonfiction– Fiction will always be my first love (I can’t abide too much of the real world!) but as an adult, I’ve also embraced several forms of nonfiction. I like memoirs and biographies of people whose lives interest me for whatever reason. I like some history books as well. My nonfiction reading tends to veer toward narrative nonfiction. You can’t keep me away from stories too much!
  • Exercise– I used to hate working out. While I’m not exactly a gym rat now, I do sometimes enjoy a low impact cardio workout or some yoga or pilates. I find it’s a good way to de-stress when I’ve got too much nervous energy to do something more “relaxing”
  • Naps– I hated naptime in preschool. Now I wonder what I was thinking! How could I not have suspected that a whole life lay ahead of me, full of days of school and work where I would be cranky and tired and need a nap but not be able to take one?
  • Tea– I used to think it was just kind of “blah”. Now I can barely go a day without it. I think the change had something to do with discovering the fact that tea was more involved than a bag of Lipton, and that I could make it just to my liking.
  • Coffee– Or more specifically iced coffee. For some reason, I still haven’t learned to love hot coffee. So usually I just drink iced coffee in the summer.
  • The Holiday Season– As a little kid it was somewhat stressful because I was afraid of Santa (what? he’s  a creepy old man who breaks into people’s houses?!) and hated rehearsing for the inevitable holiday concert at school. Once I got over, that I quickly learned to embrace the cheesy holiday movies, family, decorations, music, and festivity that seems to start with Thanksgiving and end with the New Year and a fresh start.
  • Rain– At some point, I realized that a lot of my favorite activities take place indoors and that sometimes there’s nothing better than curling up with a good book and some tea on a rainy afternoon. I love the sound it makes as it hits my windowpane. It makes me feel like the world has taken a shower and is now clean!