It’s probably no surprise to those who follow this blog that my favorite Christmas movies were made in the 1940’s. Some are known by everyone and others are less familiar to anyone who’s not an old movie buff like me.
Everyone has seen Holiday Inn. If you haven’t seen it, you should. It’s a feel good musical where Broadway performers open an inn in Connecticut with a holiday theme. They put on special musical shows on various holidays while the main characters lead complicated love lives. The 1942 film introduced the famous Christmas song by Bing Crosby “White Christmas.”
Another fun Christmas movie, Christmas in Connecticut, stars Barbara Stanwick as a writer for a home magazine who pretends to be a great cook and homemaker with a husband and baby. When her publisher invites himself to spend Christmas with her at her Connecticut farm, Stanwick must scramble to create her fictional image. To complicate things further the publisher invites a soldier recovering from wounds to join them at the farm. Released in 1945 this film is still a joy to watch with characters like Sidney Greenstreet, Dennis Morgan and SZ Sakall adding to the fun.
For something a little different try 3 Godfathers from 1948. A lesser known John Wayne western tells the story of three outlaws on the run who come across a woman stranded in the desert having a baby. The three are named as the baby’s Godfathers by its dying mother and must get the child to safety in New Jerusalem. You guessed it. It’s Christmas time. This heart-wrenching tale is well worth your time.
Other favorites of mine include The Bishop’s Wife (1947) with Cary Grant as an angel sent to help David Niven, a troubled Bishop, and his wife, Loretta Young. Or watch the feel-good It Happened on 5th Avenue (1947) where a good-natured bum sneaks into a New York mansion closed up for the winter, then invites friends including ex-servicemen, who can’t find housing for their families, to stay in the house with him. High-jinx ensue. Holiday Affair, from 1949, is a Christmas love story between Robert Mitchum and Janet Leigh. In The Shop Around the Corner, released in 1940, two co-workers correspond with a pen pal, not knowing they are writing to each other. The fun romance between Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullivan inspired the later movie You’ve Got Mail. A little known but touching Christmas movie is I’ll Be Seeing You from 1944. It stars Ginger Rogers, on a furlough from prison, and Joseph Cotton, a soldier on leave from a military hospital suffering from shell shock. They spend Christmas together trying to be normal and not let the other know of their problems.
My absolute favorite Christmas movie of all time is It’s a Wonderful Life with Jimmy Stewart. The first film Stewart made after his service in the 8th Air Force in World War II depicts a man in a small town who always wanted to go places and do things. Instead he’s stuck running his family business. When financial troubles arise, Stewart’s character wishes he’d never been born. That’s when an angel-in-training is sent to help him. The angel shows him what the town would have been like without him and Stewart realizes what a wonderful life he’s had. Many scenes in the 1946 film show Stewart’s real anguish as he deals with what we now call PTSD. This film is guaranteed to warm your heart and make you appreciate your life.
Have a Merry Christmas and a wonderful holiday season by staying home and watching old movies