Monday, December 23, 2013
Movie Monday: The "Not Your Normal Christmas Movie" Edition
Yes, I know. It's almost Christmas. I wasn't going to do this, because I mostly don't like Christmas movies. But, you know, I was in a store earlier today (no, not Christmas shopping - I needed toilet paper), and found myself singing along to the Christmas music they were playing. So, here are a few movies that have something to do with Christmas. Maybe not much, but you get what you get, and I despise movies like "It's a Wonderful Life".
I wasn't aware of the existence of "It Happened on Fifth Avenue" (1947) until I saw it a few weeks ago on The Hallmark Channel (I think) as part of a package of Christmas-themed movies they began showing in November. I don't even know that I would really call it a Christmas movie, except that it extolls extending all those Christmas-like good things like reaching out and helping one another, and that the story resolves around the Christmas holiday. The story revolves around a hobo who takes up residence in a boarded-up mansion on Fifth Avenue in New York City and ends up taking in several people who have nowhere else to go (including, it turns out, the rebellious daughter of the rich man who owns the home). After the usual convolutions, which I will not describe here because I don't want to spoil the film for any of you who might decide to watch it, a happy ending ensues for all.
It's kind of a sappy movie as only a 1940s movie can be, but it kept me watching. The film stars Don DeFore, Charles Ruggles, Ann Harding, Gale Storm, and Victor Moore. This clip contains a scene from the beginning of the movie and shows how one of the less-than-legal residents of the mansion ends up homeless before meeting the man who has made a habit of squatting in the mansion:
Another movie that isn't really, exactly an Christmas movie but takes place around the holiday season is "Bachelor Mother" (1939), which stars Ginger Rogers as a department-store salesgirl who loses her job at the end of the Christmas rush. She rescues an abandoned baby, is mistakenly assumed to be the baby's mother, after which a whole series of mistaken identities and the complications that arise lead to an eventual happy ending. The film also stars David Niven and Charles Coburn, and is a sweet little comedy with a Christmas connection, making it perfect for viewing this time of year. Here's the trailer from the film's original release:
"Bachelor Mother" was remade as "Bundle of Joy" in 1956, starring Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher. With those two in the film, of course they made it into a musical, which I don't really think served the story that well, but that might just be me. Otherwise, you can see from the trailer, the story from the 1939 movie, and even some of the lines, were kept pretty much intact:
A more recent movie that, while not a Christmas movie takes place during the Christmas season and takes advantage of that, is 1987's "Lethal Weapon". Yeah, I know. Mel Gibson. But this film was made before the extent of his...issues...were known. It's a good action movie, though. And, hey, how often do you find a good Christmas-connected action flick? It also stars Danny Glover, which is a good thing.
Another movie that really has nothing to do with Christmas, although a child's Christmas gift provides the central mystery of the film's story, is the 1941 classic "Citizen Kane" which, of course, starred Orson Welles. I'm not going to argue, as some do, that this is the best movie ever made, because I don't really think it is. However, it is very, very good, and if you haven't seen it, you should. In case you haven't, I won't clue you in about the gift. Here's the trailer from the time of the film's original release. It really doesn't tell you much about the movie, but I think that was the whole point:
And here's a scene from the movie, to give a little bit of a better hint about it:
I wrote a little bit about "The Lion In Winter" last week, in connection with the death of Peter O'Toole, one of its stars. What I didn't mention is that the movie takes place during the holiday season and shows the holiday reunion of a dysfunctional family in the 1100s probably wasn't all that different than Christmas with your own dysfunctional family today, except that the father of that dysfunctional family was the king, and so the dysfunction assumes a whole other level of consequence. Again, "The Lion in Winter" is a good movie, and if you haven't seen it you should.