Christmas is coming the goose is getting fat! Please stack the films by the television set.
…Or so the song should go in my house, where some films are more closely associated with the holidays than mistletoe and holly. In fact, there are a few films that are more important to me at Christmas than trees and decorations. Than turkey and stuffing. Than – dare I say it? – Champagne.
Without these films, Christmas doesn’t feel like Christmas to me. Over the years I’ve accumulated them all to make sure I don’t miss out.
There are a few obvious choices, the most predictable of all being, It’s a Wonderful Life. But I don’t care if everyone watches it. The last line makes me cry every year and I named my cat after the youngest Bailey child. I simply cannot imagine Christmas without this movie.
I also insist upon watching the 1947 version of Miracle on 34th Street. The little girl in it is played by a very young Natalie Wood, already preternaturally talented and beautiful. In the film, the “Santa” at the New York department store, Macy’s, may – or may not – be the real thing. When he’s accused of fraud and put on trial, the truth will out. It’s the most New York film EVER. They put Santa in JAIL. I love it.
Then there’s the only film version of A Christmas Carol that I will allow in my house, which is to say, the 1951 film, Scrooge, with Alastair Sim. It has the best Jacob Marley, the best Scrooge, and the best Ghost of Christmas Past in the world. I don’t know why anyone watches any of the others. I really don’t.
I also love The Bells of St Mary (1945) with Bing Crosby playing a hip priest at a Catholic school in New York that is coveted by a property developer, and Ingrid Bergman playing a cool young nun. Unfortunately, my husband (wrongly) thinks it’s boring so I watch it when he’s out. Okay, maybe it is a little boring but I love it anyway. The child actors in it are made of awesome and Ingrid Bergman glows.
Then there are my less common choices. Bell, Book and Candle, a 1958 film in which Jimmy Stewart is spellbound by a witchy Kim Novak and a Siamese cat named Pyewacket that purrs magic. Jack Lemon plays Novak’s cool, jazz-playing, wizard brother. It’s all very ‘50s cool. Novak’s mesmerising eyebrows. Amazing clothes. New York in the snow. What could be better?
Generally I have a rule that goes like this ‘No films made after 1965 will play in my house during Christmas’. I don’t know why, exactly. But I’ve always had the same rule. I guess maybe films made before then were more innocent, and therefore more Christmassy.
However, this year we’ve decided to bend that rule. I want to add Whit Stillman’s 1990 film, Metropolitan, set at Christmas-time in Manhattan during the winter debutante season. A working-class college kid falls in with a group of teens from the city’s moneyed classes. They talk and talk about life and love and Christmas and fairness and philosophy as they attend an array of elegant balls in magnificent end-of-the-‘80s formal clothes. I love this movie more than I can say.
My husband, on the other hand, wants to watch Elf. Which I’m sure will be fine.
So tell me: What films say Christmas to you?
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