14 December 2010

Your Favorite Christmas Movie

The foray into Dickens's The Christmas Carol in the last post put me momentarily out of Advent mode and into thinking about Christmas movies. That story has been made into small and big screen productions so many times it is hard to count them all. I generally have a soft spot for them all, though for some it is only because I recall the other, better versions, while watching them. Even the Muppets did a creditable job with that one.

So, I welcome your choices in the combox and your reasons why. You can tell us why It's a Wonderful Life is anti-Catholic, if you like (or perhaps Communist propaganda). Or you can tell us why you think that movie is a wonderful affirmation of faith.

Does the profanity in The Christmas Story ruin the whole thing? Did Fred Savage steal the whole genre of talky reminiscing?

Some movies just define the Christmas season for those of us raised in front of a television. In fact, feel free to name your favorite TV specials, too. Are you a Rudolph person or a Grinch person? Will commercial TV ever show The Little Drummer Boy again and just how did they get away with it the first time?

Rack your brain, some movies straddle the line on whether they are even Christmas movies at all. While You Were Sleeping is one of my favorites.


Fr. Andrew said...

While you were sleeping? The Sandra Bulluck/Bill Pullman chick flick? Wow.

Rudolph, here. Or the old "Clay-mation Christmas," especially the bell carol.

HSMom said...

Kid-wise: The Polar Express. I just think it is so well-done; it is THE Santa Claus story, causing one to almost believe in a village awaaay up north. (I maintain warm fuzzies for those I grew up with too--Rudolph, et al.)

Bigger people movies: Holiday Inn, followed closely by White Christmas. I love der Bingle's hilarious, what-come-across-as ad-lib lines, especially in scenes with Fred Astaire. And Fred... the man could dance. All of this in a New England Inn in winter. Perfect.

As for the profanity in The Christmas Story--yeah, I have to admit it ruined it for me. Perhaps it was because I didn't see it till just a couple of years ago (read: advanced years!) when I was viewing it to consider it as a family movie with our boys. It took me by surprise and was a definite "no" for my little guys. Haven't cared to see it since.

I love The Little Drummer Boy. :)

thetimman said...

Fr. Andrew, I have a chick, so, what can you do? My personal hero is Joe, Jr.

Anonymous said...

Father, I liked the walruses dancing to "Angels We Have Heard on High", though you are right - the bell carol was great.
I'm still not convinced about _It's a Wonderful Life_, Timman.


Beaver Fever said...

Even if I wanted to go my schedule wouldn't allow it. 4:00, wallow in self pity; 4:30, stare into the abyss; 5:00, solve world hunger, tell no one; 5:30, jazzercize; 6:30, dinner with me - I can't cancel that again; 7:00, wrestle with my self-loathing... I'm booked. Of course, if I bump the loathing to 9, I could still be done in time to lay in bed, stare at the ceiling and slip slowly into madness. But what would I wear?

Anonymous said...

The Christmas story probably does highlight the typical child's experience with profanity (even traditionalists) so is therefore a clever addition to the movie which I do not believe takes away from the movie. Come on people, have we not all dropped the F-bomb at some point in our lives.
Of course young children shouldn't be introduced to that word in that way but does it really ruin the movie for adults?
Isn't that what confession is for:)

Delena said...

Chevy Chase's Christmas Vacation--true story. Uncle Eddie cracks me up every time. "That there's an RV."

I know it has absolutely nothing to do with CHRISTMAS, and that it's got it's racy parts...but that movie still cracks me up.

And I like "Elf."

Alright, time for Timbro3000 to start calling me a modernist heathen.

Prekast said...


Yup, the character of "Joe,Jr." has to have been based on you, BS.
(Before Sharon).

StGuyFawkes said...

For a completely realized artistic acheivement, "The Shop Around the Corner" starring a lissome Margaret Sullivan and a very callow and innocent Jimmy Stewart. The movie was remade twice, once as "The Good Old Summertime" and more recently as "You've Got Mail" with Hanks and Ryan as the pen pal lovers.

Nothing can match the old world Austrian-Hungarian empire feel of the film. There is nothing particulary Catholic about it but the Culture of Christmas descends with every flake of snow that shrouds the film in magic. Jimmy and Margaret play young Hungarian shop workers who fall in love with each other as pen pals without either knowing that their romantic object is the jerk giving them misery around the cash register.

The ending outdoes anything in romantic comedy and reminds us of an older world of decency.

Jane Chantal said...

Wrt recent movies, I echo HSMom's praise of "The Polar Express". It was a difficult Christmas for me the year it was in the theaters, and its beauty and wonder were a gift that brought unlooked-for joy. I never tire of seeing it (and listening to it -- the music is enchanting, too).

Another pleasant aspect of "The Polar Express" is that it features an intact, married family, with the delightful bonus -- briefly observable in the closing sequence -- of the obvious pregnancy of the mother. Very cool!

My all-time favorite Christmas movie, however, is 1946's "The [Episcopalian] Bishop's Wife". It is so endearing, and at times so theologically profound but with a wonderfully light touch, that I have to give it a glowing mention.

Btw, although probably not intended that way, the predicament of the clergy couple at the center of the action is a gentle hint that married bishops are (hello!) a bad idea. It literally took divine intervention to keep this couple's marriage from buckling under the strain of the demands of that life -- although I expect that few viewers "got" that at the time. A lot of married clergy would figure it out right away :-)

It's a wonderful movie with a wonderful cast -- Cary Grant, David Niven, Loretta Young among others -- and full of Christmas-y sights, sounds and sentiments.

Honorable mention from the same era: "Holiday Affair" (would be more aptly entitled "Holiday Romance") starring Robert Mitchum and Janet Leigh. Think the lyrics to "Silver Bells"!

And a shout-out to "The Night of the Hunter", another Mitchum flick that not only features a very affecting Christmas denouement, but is one of the scariest movies ever made.

Methodist Jim said...

It never seemed like Christmas-time in our house until the night Rudolph appeared on television.

And, a big Methodist shout-out to It's a Wonderful Life for featuring "Hark the Herald Angels Sing," which was written by Charles Wesley.

thetimman said...

JaneC, I second the praise for The Bishop's Wife. Cary Grant always seemed the epitome of smooth to me.

Anonymous said...

The Bells of St. Marys
Going My Way
Amahl and the Night Visitors
Joyeux Noel
Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol (available on Youtube)
An American Christmas Carol (Fonzie does Scrooge, better than the original and also available on Youtube)
Meet Me in St. Louis
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
There was also a TV movie with Jason Robards called A Christmas to Remember, haven't seen it for years but it moved me very deeply at the time.

X said...

Hey that Bells of St. Mary's et. al. was me.

Anonymous said...

Charlie Brown Christmas ... How can you beat Linus reciting the Nativity Gospel?

Anonymous said...

It's a Wonderful Life is my favorite movie of all time. We watch it together as a family every year during Advent.

We like Christmas Carol too, George C. Scott or Patrick Stewart.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes, I think I've seen all the "classic standards" so many times that they don't evoke much in me anymore. That said,

--I echo the enjoyment of "Polar Express" Our children love it too.
--Bells of StM
--Meet Me in STL
--Wonderful Life, I dunno any more. So many cable movies mimic this plot any more--not as well of course.
--I absolutely despise Dickens. I don't enjoy the harsh realism, the preachiness, and the anti-capitalism. My huz and kids love MaGoo's version. The Muppets' was good too. Both used similar script as the adult live action versions. The depth of the meaning of the story is coming through eventually, but meh...

Kate said...

There are so many good ones, it's hard to list them all. It's a Wonderful Life has always been a Christmas tradition in my house as well as various versions of A Christmas Carol. The favorite being the one with Reginald Owen. It diverges quite a bit from the book, but still a good movie with great actors.
I agree with StGuyFawkes, The Shop Around the Corner is good movie as well, although Margaret Sullivan gets on my nerves a little.
More recently I've incorporated the Hallmark movies The Christmas Shoes and Silent Night in my yearly Christmas movie routine.
And of course I have to see Ernest Saves Christmas at least once around Christmas-time.
I absolutely detest The Christmas Story. I've never seen the whole movie, but what little I have seen, I just wish I could get a BB gun and shoot the kid. He bugs big time.

StGuyFawkes said...

"A Christmas Story", made into a t.v. movie by Bob Clark renders the famous Jean Shepherd story about the nine year old who wants nothing more than a "Red Ryder BB Gun". It's hard to find this movie but the story is great; it involves great tricks in the kingdom of kid-dom like putting some younger runt's tongue on a lamp pole to freeze fix him to the metal. It's big funny. The recurring motif: the mom says no to the bb gun because "YOU'LL SHOOT YOUR EYE OUT!!!"

Anonymous said...

What a great thread. Happy Advent everyone!

Anonymous said...

Yes, "A Christmas Story" is great. StGuy, the movie is all over the place at stores. I think TBS or TNT ? show it for 24 hours starting CHristmas Eve or so....My huz, who dislikes Obama more than I do, revels in a darned Chia Obama. I consider it his leggy lamp that I might knock over one day!

timbro3000 said...


you are a modernist heathen.

StGuyFawkes said...

Dear Delena and (timbro3000),

"Christmas Vacation" definitely makes the cut. It carries forward one noble element in the Christmas genre, which is to make the Christmas family, a family in trouble, which of course evokes memories the Holy Family's troubles on the first Christmas.

Eddie's family is homeless and Clark gets stiffed out of his bonus by the local Herod, and the
holiday is adrift in chaos.

My favorite line is Clark's who tries to explain Eddie's felony kidnapping of Clark's boss by telling the police

Clark: "....and my cousin Eddie, whose heart is bigger than his brain....."

Eddie: "Thank-uh-yah Clark-uh.."

Anonymous said...


You are the only person that I have heard share my contempt for Dickens. Thank you. Christmas Carol is his most tolerable, if just because of the happy ending. The rest of his genre, however, is maudlin anti-capitalism masquerading as good literature.

Delena said...

Timbro--You never let me down.

StGuyFawkes--You have made me feel a lot better for being the only one to write down such a crude movie. ;-) I DO like how the whole film is about Clark wanting to be with family and have a great Christmas when nothing is going right for him.

Clark: Can I refill your eggnog for you? Get you something to eat? Drive you out to the middle of nowhere and leave you for dead?

Eddie: Naw, I'm doing just fine, Clark.

ATW said...

Movie: "It's a Wonderful Life."

TV: Rudolf, Claymation (California Raisen) Christmas, Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol.

StGuyFawkes said...


I don't think the movie is crude at all. It hits squarely one element of Christmas we all have to endure: the relatives from hell who can only be charitably described as occasions of sin, and I mean the sin of anger.

Anonymous said...

Before the "Revolution" (i.e. the Sixties), several regulars appeared on television around Christmastime that publicly reaffirmed the values of the Church within our culture, if not specifically treating the feast of Christmas, and these remain Christmastime favorites for me. (By the way, I advocate replacing the expression "holiday time" with "Christmastime," as a front line defense against the growing public attacks against our values.) They are: "Going My Way," "The Bells of St. Mary's," "Come to the Stable," "All Mine to Give," and "Marcellino Pan y Vida."

Anonymous said...

Number one on our list:
"The Best Christmas Pageant Ever"

Number two is:
"A Christmas Story"

Hard to imagine that I would ever agree with Mrguyfawkes!


Anonymous said...

Anon at 16:29....Oh, I've found a soul-mate! I think we might find more kindred spirits at National Review.

I find Tiny Tim to be quite sanctimonious in his line about how all the people in church see him and feel bad about disabled people like him...I don't recall the words, but it was about inducing guilt in others.

Oh, yes, 'The Bishop's Wife' is quite wonderful too! The remake (Preacher's Wife) with Whitney Houston and Courtney B Vance (we liked him on L&O) was decent, but of course a bit more modern--not too modern. When Whitney was a star.