Friday, December 01, 2006

tcm for the holidays

If you would’ve told me when I was younger that there would be channels solely devoted to one genre, one type of entertainment, one thing, I would have called you a liar. And not just any liar, but a dirty one. And when I was really young I might have even made up a rhyme about what kind of liar you were and recited it in a sing-song voice. Fortunately we know better now. Cable and satellite television has afforded us the opportunity to be able to zero in on an interest like say, travel, and watch a bunch of shows about travel. Classic film fans have few such channels to choose from, but to me one channel is the “go-to” channel for classic films: Turner Classic Movies. I really enjoy TCM and the fact that they appreciate that casual and serious classic film fans can appreciate the history, depth and meaning of these films as well as enjoy the stories, the glamour, the humor and the characters. Series such as Cartoon Alley, Private Screenings, The Essentials and Festival of Shorts in addition to running great classic films, shorts, cartoons, and first rate work by host Robert Osborne make TCM a haven for the classic film fan.

Christmas time is no exception. In fact this whole month, TCM has a bunch of great offerings in the holiday spirit. And since we normally offer our TCM picks every week, we though we would present our guide to Turner Classic Movies for this month so you can be aware of the great films that you can enjoy with your family (or by yourself in the middle of the night with that Christmas fudge you made for everyone at the office. It's OK- we won't tell, besides isn't everyone looking a little pudgy anyway? Oh sure, go ahead and justify your actions. Oh, how the mighty have fallen! Hand me a piece of that fudge.) At the end of the guide we've included our picks for Holiday movies that you must see, but aren't in the TCM line up this year.

We’ll provide a look at each film and the airtimes and dates during the month of December. We’ll also provide a Christmas Quotient for each film:
Total Christmas: This is the total package. It’s all about Christmas.
Romantic Christmas: A romance set during Christmas. Could be a romantic comedy or it could be about discovering or rediscovering love amplified by the spirit of Christmas.
Christmas as Backdrop: Sometimes a film is not overtly about Christmas, but is set during Christmas time and the spirit of Christmas affects some of the characters.
The Redemptive Power of Christmas: The true meaning of Christmas has the power to heal, to redeem and to renew. Some films just really illustrate this idea.
Consider this an early gift from The Shelf- our one stop guide to TCM for the holidays!

The films: (all times are EST, check local listings)

White Christmas- Airs: Dec. 1, 8pm; Dec.26: 6am
This is the one of the most famous, and best loved of Christmas films. It kind of forms a "Christmas Trifecta" with Miracle on 34th Street and It's a Wonderful Life. I grew up watching it every year. I have to say that as far as films go, Holiday Inn is a better film, but this one has sentimental and emotional stuff going for it that make it a holiday must. The soundtrack is superb and hearing Bing, Danny and Rosemary is a real Christmas treat. True Confessions: I think when I saw it, when I was about 9, was when I first feel in love with Rosemary Clooney. OK- confession time over.
Christmas Quotient: Total Christmas.'s White Christmas. What more do you need?

Holiday Affair- Airs: Dec 2, 8:30pm; Dec 8, 8pm, Dec 24, 4:30am
This film is a 1949 romantic comedy starring Robert Mitchum and Janet Leigh. I have to admit that I have never seen it, but it's one that is on my list to see this year. Mitchum plays a recently hired shop clerk who lets a single mother return her son’s train set that she can’t afford, and loses his job as a result. Sheesh, apparently Returns Department policies have always been strict. Mitchum turns around and buys the train set and gives it to her, resulting in romantic stuff.
Christmas Quotient: Romantic Christmas

The Shop around the Corner- Airs: Dec 10, 12pm; Dec 22, 8pm
This is the original film with James Stewart on which the Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan starrer You’ve Got Mail was based. It’s a sweet comedy and as a similar premise. Two store employees who can’t seem to get along, have unknowingly fallen in love with each other through their secret pen pal relationship. Stewart figures it out and at first is disappointed, but soon realizes his feelings are very real. His problem is how to reveal himself to her, without her animosity for him ruining their chances together. The movie takes place during the Christmas season, and the wonderful characters in the store have their own problems and stories. Eventually love and the true Christmas spirit prevails not just in the couples relationship, but also problems that have affected the store and its staff.
Christmas Quotient: Romantic Christmas. This is a delightful little film and a wonderful performance from Frank Morgan who plays the Shop owner and from James Stewart. If you’ve seen You’ve Got Mail, you owe it to yourself to see this one. (Trivia: It was also made into a summertime musical called, In the Good Old Summertime starring Van Johnson and Judy Garland)

Meet Me in St. Louis- Airs: Dec 11, 6pm; Dec 23, 12am; Dec 25, 2:30pm
Judy Garland and a very talented cast stars in this musical film from the famous Arthur Freed unit at MGM. Directed by Vincent Minnelli, Meet Me in St. Louis is about a family at the turn of the 20th century faced with the prospect of having to leave their beloved home when the father is offered a job in New York City. Set against the backdrop of the 1904 St. Louis world fair, this film really conveys the small town feel of that time, and the importance of family sticking together no matter what.
Christmas Quotient: Christmas as Backdrop. Judy Garland originates the classic Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas in the film.

A Christmas Story- Airs: Dec 15, 8pm; Dec 17, 4pm
I would have to say this film is perhaps my personal favorite Christmas film. That is saying a lot from someone who loves Christmas films. Director Bob Clark worked closely with author and monologists Jean Shepherd (who also narrates) to really capture the essence of Christmas in all it’s nostalgia, cynicism, complexities and it’s potential for magic for a kid. It’s become a perennial favorite and with good reason. It somehow manages to be warm, funny, cynical, and wonderful all without being cheesy. Pretty much enshrined “You’ll shoot your eye out” as the most quoted line heard during Christmas time. One of my most favorite scenes: The ending at the Chinese restaurant. I know it’s not PC, but I don’t care. Hearing Chinese waiters sing “Deck the Halls” is hilarious. Read our take on it from last year.
Christmas Quotient: Total Christmas. Even though it was set several decades before my time as a kid, it still conveys all the excitement, manipulation, planning, disappointment, horrors and highs that go along with being a kid at Christmas.

Little Women- Airs: Dec 15, 9:45pm; Dec 23, 8pm; Dec 24, 6pm; Dec 25, 12:15pm
The version of Little Women starring June Allyson, Margaret O’Brien, Elizabeth Taylor and Janet Leigh airs on Dec. 15th. The Katherine Hepburn/Joan Bennett airs Dec. 23rd and 24th. Set during the Civil War years, a woman and her daughters keep the homefires burning while the father is at war. The story really is one of young women growing up, finding love and finding their place in the world.
Christmas Quotient: Christmas as Backdrop.

Remember the Nigh- Airs: Dec 17, 8pm
Our friend Sallie over at OTR Experience recommend this film, which I have never seen before. Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray star in this film about a prosecutor, John Sargent (MacMurray), who is assigned the trial of a women, Lee Leander (Stanwyck),who is accused of shoplifting. Since it is right before Christmas, John fears his chances of getting a conviction around the holidays, so he postpones the trial. Then he feels sorry for Lee and arranges to have her spend the holiday at his home, where (of course) they fall in love.
Christmas Quotient: It seems to me we have a Romantic Christmas theme kinda going here, coupled with the Redemptive Power of Christmas theme.

Love Finds Andy Hardy- Airs: Dec 23, 10pm
Andy Hardy’s girlfriend has gone to visit her grandmother for Christmas, which puts a damper on his plans to take her to the country club Christmas party. Meanwhile Andy’s buddy, Beezy, has asked him to escort his girlfriend while he’s away for Christmas. Beezy’s girlfriend soon falls for Andy. Typical Hardy complications.
Christmas Quotient: Christmas as Backdrop and Christmas Romance.

Christmas in Connecticut- Airs: Dec 9, 12pm; Dec 24, 10:30pm
Barbara Stanwyck stars in this romantic comedy as a popular Martha Stewart-esque writer, but who really needs help even boiling water. Little does she know that her publisher has invited himself and a recently returned war veteran over to her Connecticut home for Christmas. Also features Sydney Greenstreet as her publisher and Dennis Morgan as the war vet, who is decidedly a big fan. I first saw this film a couple of years ago on TCM and I picked it up as part of the Warner's Classic Holiday Collection Box Set.
Being a Barbara Stanwyck fan, it’s understandable that I would love this film, but my unbiased opinion is that it is a very warm, funny film besides.
Christmas Quotient: Romantic Christmas. Sleigh rides, hostess over her head in preparing for Christmas guests… we can all relate to that.

A Christmas Carol- Airs: Dec 23, 2pm; Dec 25, 6:15am
I think A Christmas Carol has been made, remade, and reimagined more than any other story. This is the 1938 version with Reginald Owen and Gene and Katherine Lockhart. Though perhaps not as loved as the 1951 Allistair Sims version, this an excellent film and Reginald Owen does a great job as Scrooge. Tiny Tim is a little overbearing though, but that’s just me. Tiny Tim is one of those characters that can’t be done with too much melodrama or saccharine sweetness. I have to admit I’ve always liked the Muppets Christmas Carol as well. That’s the great thing about A Christmas Carol, there are plenty to choose from.
Christmas Quotient: Total Christmas and the Redemptive Power of Christmas. This is the original Christmas tale of redemption and the power that the real meaning of Christmas has to change us all for the better.

The Man Who Came to Dinner- Airs: Dec 23, 2am; Dec 25, 9am
Sheridan Whiteside, an eccentric and acid-tongued radio lecturer, slips on the ice on his way into the home of a prominent Ohio family. As is confined to a wheelchair and to their home he tries to solve what he perceives to be their many problems.
Christmas Quotient: Christmas as Backdrop

Boys Town- Airs: Dec 24, 9:15am
Father Flanagan starts "Boys' Town" after hearing a convict's story about his terrible childhood. Believing he can make a difference he takes in boys who otherwise would stay on the street and head towards a life of crime. Included in this bunch of boys is Whitey Marsh (Mickey Rooney) who seems the toughest nut that Father Flanagan will have to crack.
Christmas Quotient: Christmas as Backdrop.

King of Kings- Airs: Dec 24, 3pm
Maybe you watch this film at Easter, I don’t know. But for me it’s hard to have a list of Christmas movies without a movie about the King of kings.
Christmas Quotient: Do you really need to ask?

The Bishop’s Wife- Airs: Dec 25, 8pm
This is a true Christmas classic, and in many ways truly touches upon the Christmas spirit, the importance of family and love more than most other films. Cary Grant is an angel assigned to help a young Bishop realize his most important dream, which the Bishop believes is to build a grand church. However, the Bishop, in his quest, has forgotten his roots and has neglected his family. Although the angel has discovered he has feelings for the Bishop’s wife, he helps the Bishop truly see what is really important- not just to him, but to his family and to God. We reviewed this film last Christmas season, which you can read by clicking here.
Christmas Quotient: Total Christmas. More than you know.

A few more Christmas as Backdrop flicks
I Remember Mama Airs: Dec. 24: 8pm
Bachelor Mother: Airs: Dec. 25, 7:30am
Tenth Avenue Angel- Airs: Dec.25, 11am
Susan Slept Here- Airs: Dec. 25, 4:30pm
Bundle of Joy- Airs: Dec. 25, 6:15pm

These films aren't on the TCM lineup this December, but are available on DVD, so you must go out and get them and watch them! We demand it. OK, maybe demand is too strong. Pretty please....
Holiday Inn (You can read more about the Special Edition in a recent roundup)
Miracle on 34th Street (AMC -many times. Also a look at the recent Special Edition DVD from a recent roundup and from friend Laura at Miscellaneous Musings.)
March of the Wooden Soldiers
Going My Way
The Bells of St. Marys (AMC- Dec. 12)
Its a Wonderful Life (NBC- Dec. 16th) Read Wolf's classic take on this film from last year.
Christmas Vacation (Sorry I know it's more of a modern classic, but classic nonetheless)

Enjoy some great Christmas classics this Holiday season. We hope this guide helps.
And stay tuned for some great stuff coming up next week including:
A review of the upcoming Forbidden Hollywood, Vol. 1 DVD set from Warner's and TCM. Trust me, it's a great set- it will make a perfect gift for the serious classic film fan.
A profile and a review of an upcoming interview with legendary filmmaker, Stanley Donen.
A Christmas Animated classics guide (much like this TCM guide)
All this and our regular Weekly fan favorites like the Media Roundup, Christmas cartoon and the premiere of the weekly Christmas Candy review.
See you then!

Oh, I know it's a penny here and a penny there, but look at me. I worked myself up from nothing to a state of extreme poverty.

What a Christmas! Ho, ho, what a Christmas!


Laura said...

I thoroughly enjoyed this Christmas roundup! For me it doesn't get any better than WHITE CHRISTMAS or THE BISHOP'S WIFE at Christmas.

I am also very fond of that 1938 MGM version of A CHRISTMAS CAROL. I like that it's told very succintly and isn't too scary for the little ones. :) For a more detailed telling, the George C. Scott TV version is really good. And I've got a soft spot for MICKEY'S CHRISTMAS CAROL from Disney!

You have a treat in store with HOLIDAY AFFAIR. I just discovered this one myself two or three years ago. I found it quite original (especially given the year it was made) and really liked it.

A film I just discovered this year that's a combination of Romantic Christmas/Christmas as Backdrop/Redemptive Power of Christmas: I'LL BE SEEING YOU (1944) with Ginger Rogers and Joseph Cotten. She's been in jail for manslaughter and is paroled a few days for Christmas. He's a soldier suffering from something like Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. Two somewhat messed-up people find each other while enjoying Christmas with her relatives, including Shirley Temple and Spring Byington. It sounds somewhat akin to REMEMBER THE NIGHT. I confess I don't care for Stanwyck, but the plot description made me curious -- I'm going to check that one out. Always nice to find a "new" Christmas movie.

As a dedicated WALTONS fan I also recommend THE HOMECOMING which is available on DVD. I'd say that one is pretty close to Total Christmas for me. :)

Merry Christmas! Laura

J.C. Loophole said...

Thanks for your comments Laura-
I'll have to check out I'll Be Seeing you also. I have heard of it, but I've never seen it. I love Ginger Rogers, so that should be another no brainer.
I also really like the George C. Scott version of A Christmas Carol as well. In fact, I believe it's one of the most faithful to the original source. Edward Woodward is also really good as a different kind of Ghost of Christmas past. For any Blackadder fans (like myself) A Blackadder Christmas Carol is a must.
I've gotta tell you- one film that I've grown to love more and more since I first saw it last year is Christmas in Connecticut. It's warm and funny and it's nice to see Sydney Greenstreet in a comedic role where he isn't the heavy- no pun intended.

RoninKengo said...

What no Die Hard?!

That's a Christmas classic.


Anonymous said...

This was great!
I hope you do one for animated specials! Your articles on animated specials in your archives are excellent!

Anonymous said...

Found your site throught senses working overtime. I really liked the TCM reviews. Hope to see more - I'll keep checking it out.

Anonymous said...

I've started my holiday posts! I hope you'll stop by and check it out. Let me know when you are ready to do our joint post- I'm looking forward to it!

Sallie Neal said...

"I've started my holiday posts! I hope you'll stop by and check it out. Let me know when you are ready to do our joint post- I'm looking forward to it!"

Sorry, that was me!

Anonymous said...

I adore In the Good Ol' Summertime, but I classify it as a Christmas Romance as well.


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