Friday, December 17, 2010

For the Weekend: More Christmas Classics

Christmas is just a week away, and there are still so many great films to talk about before then.  So today I've chosen a few more great classics from the '40s that will surely brighten your holiday.

First up is the lighthearted romantic comedy "Christmas in Connecticut" (1945).  Starring Barbara Stanwyck, Dennis Morgan, Sydney Greenstreet, and S.Z. Sakall, it tells the story of a sailor who, after being lost at sea for 18 days, is asked to join the great homemaker Elizabeth Lane (the Martha Stewart of her time) for Christmas.  The only problem is that Ms. Lane is a fake.  Her husband, baby, farm, cooking skills are all from her imagination.  In a crazed effort not lose her job from her magazine editor finding out the truth, she pretends to have it all with the help of friends, only to fall in love with the sailor in the process.  "Christmas in Connecticut" was originally offered to Bette Davis, but she turned it down.  Second-pick Stanwyck gladly accepted the role, as it was a refreshing change of pace from her last film, the dark "Double Indemnity" (1944).  Pure Christmas delight.

Next up is the sentimental Christmas staple "Miracle on 34th Street" (1947).  This classic story tells the tale of a Macy's department store Santa Claus who believes he's the real deal.  Edmund Gwenn plays the infamous Kris Kringle in an Oscar-winning performance, with Maureen O'Hara, John Payne, and an 8-year-old Natalie Wood starring along with him.  The film starts out with the famous Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, which are all shots of the real 1946 parade.  Gwenn actually got to play the coveted Santa role for the parade, including the speech on the Macy's marquee after the parade's end and the reveal of the store's Nutcracker window display.  However, with all the Christmas aspects, studio head Darryl F. Zanuck insisted on releasing the picture in May because he felt more people went to the movies in May than December.  Therefore the publicity department had to work extra hard to hide all the Christmas elements of the story for marketing.  Check out the Christmas-less trailer below:

And finally, it's the Judy Garland romance "In the Good Old Summertime" (1949).  Now, don't be fooled by the title.  This is actually a musical remake of the classic Christmas film "The Shop Around the Corner" (1940).  Garland and Van Johnson star as two pen pals in love, only they don't know each other's real identity - coworkers that cannot stand each other.  Originally, this remake was supposed to star Frank Sinatra and June Allyson.  However, Sinatra passed on the project and Allyson became pregnant before production finally began, so Johnson and Garland stepped in.  Things were very stressful between Garland and MGM at this time though.  This ended up being her second to last film for the studio before they canceled her contract.  However, it was a pleasant and easy filming process for her.  Studio head Louis B. Mayer later asked Johnson how they managed to get her through it all so smoothly.  Johnson simply said, "We made her feel wanted."  Simple, understandable, kind.

Get your yuletide spirit pumping with all these great films.  All three are on DVD, but "In the Good Old Summertime" is also airing on TCM tonight (12/17) at 9:30pm EST and Christmas Eve at 4pm EST.  Have a great weekend, everyone!  Be back Monday with another holiday classic.

(Post-tidbit:  Liza Minnelli made her big-screen debut in "In the Good Old Summertime."  She is the little girl holding Van Johnson and her mother Judy Garland's hands at the end of the film.  However, it was the final MGM film for the great Buster Keaton, who started with them way back in the '20s.)

1 comment:

  1. They need to remake Shop Around The Corner again, this time with text messages or facebook. Another great entry. I need to get TCM!