Tuesday, December 21, 2010

If you don't want to see the same old movies this Christmas, consider these....

Über-blogger Ken Levine, a former rock 'n' roll DJ who wrote for M*A*S*H, Cheers, Fraiser, The Simpsons and so many other shows, and who still has found time to broadcast major league baseball games for the Seattle Mariners and the Baltimore Orioles (and now does post-game work for the Dodgers), makes his Christmas movie recommendations this morning.

Among Levine's recommendations was "Bachelor Mother," starring Ginger Rogers and David Niven. You might have to stop the DVD periodically to explain the cultural issues involved to the 'young people,' though: See, Ginger Rogers takes in a foundling -- in a time when single mothers moved to new towns and claimed widowhood. David Niven is the son of the plutocrat who owns the store where Ginger is, and isn't, employed. And David's father, played by Charles Coburn, gets some very wrong ideas about Ginger and the foundling and his own son. But it all works out in the end.

Levine's post got me thinking about other Christmas movies you may want to check out over the holidays.

Let's stay with David Niven for a moment and go with "The Bishop's Wife" -- one of my wife's favorites.

I'm looking forward to seeing "Christmas in Connecticut" in the next few days, too. Barbara Stanwyck and Dennis Morgan are billed as the stars, but S.Z. "Cuddles" Sakall steals the show. (Again, though, there are a few cultural issues that may have to be explained to the kiddies....)

Sakall also played Otto Oberkugen in the Van Johnson-Judy Garland musical "In the Good Old Summertime." Like the later "You've Got Mail," "Summertime" was a sort-of, semi-remake of a movie set at Christmas in Hungary, "The Shop Around the Corner." I'll be looking for that Jimmy Stewart movie in the next week or so, too.

I'd boycotted that other Jimmy Stewart Christmas movie for several years, finally breaking down a week ago or so, and weeping all the way through it just like I used to. But if you're looking for a Frank Capra Holiday-themed movie that doesn't have Henry Travers as an "angel, second class," consider "Meet John Doe," starring Gary Cooper and the aforementioned Barbara Stanwyck. Of course, it's a tad dark.


And if your imagination is still running with Jimmy Stewart down the main street of Bedford Falls but you can't bring yourself to watch that movie again, try the movie that was advertised on the marquee of the theater in the little town that Lionel Barrymore couldn't control after all: "The Bells of St. Mary's."

"The Bells of St. Mary's" isn't exactly a Christmas movie, although the Christmas pageant rehearsal is a highlight. And it gives me a chance to tie Henry Travers back in. (A lot to explain to the young people here, though, too: These days young people, even young Catholics, don't have a lot of experience of nuns. And, of course, no nun ever looked like Ingrid Bergman.)

And you can't mention this Leo McCarey classic without mentioning "Going My Way." ("Bells" is usually thought of as the sequel to "Going My Way," but IMDb says "The Bells of St. Mary's" was actually written first: In order to borrow Bing Crosby from Paramount for "Bells," RKO had to allow Leo McCarey to write and direct "Going My Way", based on the same character.) "Going My Way" is often shown at Christmas and provides a Bing Crosby alternative for those tired of "White Christmas" or even "Holiday Inn."

There are a couple more movies that come to mind that I haven't seen in a long, long time: I'm looking for "A Bell for Adano" and "We're No Angels" and if anyone knows when either of these will be on, I have space on the DVR.

Can you suggest any other Christmas movies that might be slightly off the beaten path?

Related: Holiday movie favorites: An Unscientific Survey. Yes, there is some overlap between the lists.

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