The turkey is almost gone and Black Friday has passed successfully. That means it is time for us to begin decking the halls!
You know, there is a holy and solemn side of Christmas, there is a commercial and Santa side of Christmas, and there is a Mom-and-Dad/family side of Christmas. They all seem to come together at this time of year and they all seem to be reflected in some of my favorite films.
Here are my Top 10 favorite Christmas-oriented (for the most part) films of all time:
10. Scrooged (1988): This 20th century comedic take on the Dickens classic casts Billy Murray as Francis “Frank” Xavier Cross, a conceited, cynical television programming executive. He has found great success and wealth but only by becoming cold-hearted and cruel. During the hysterical and slapstick chaos, Frank comes to know the true meaning of Christmas -- and pain!
Season’s greetings factor: Â½ candy cane out of 5
9. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989): On a quest for a Christmas tree, we rejoin National Lampoon’s Griswold family as Clark (Chevy Chase) has planned a “good, old-fashioned family Christmas.” Clark outdoes himself with 25,000 lights on the roof, but he can't get the power on. Eventually the lights turn on and they are spectacular, blinding the neighbors and causing a power drain at the local nuclear power plant. In addition to the usual family get-together, the Griswolds have some unexpected visitors. Cousins Eddie and Catherine (Randy Quaid and Miriam Flynn) show up. In spite of all the good intentions and careful planning, Christmas plans go awry and chaos ensues!
Season’s greetings factor: 1 candy cane
8. Lady and the Tramp (1955): This Disney classic begins and ends at Christmas and has always been a family favorite. Lady and the Tramp represented a different kind of storytelling for the Disney artists back when, and it reels out as not only a great animated flick but a darn good movie. A gentle gaze at the class system and the triumph of love at the end makes it a great film with memorable songs. And who doesn’t shed a tear when Trusty is hit by the dog catcher’s wagon in the film’s heart-thumping climax?
Season’s greetings factor: 1 Â½ candy canes
7. The Wizard of Oz (1939): This wonderful film that takes Dorothy Gale over the rainbow to the Land of Oz has absolutely nothing to do with Christmas -- except that for decades (i.e., all of my childhood) CBS programmed this beautiful retelling of the L. Frank Baum story around yuletide. It is forever tied to my Christmas memories of youth, and well so.
Season’s greetings factor: 2 candy canes
6. The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965):This is a 1965 epic film produced and directed by George Stevens retelling of the story of Jesus Christ, from the Nativity through the Resurrection. This film is notable for its large ensemble case and for being the last film appearance of Claude Rains (Invisible Man). While reception at the box office was mixed, I have always found its retelling comforting around this time of year as it plays in TV rebroadcasts.
Season’s greetings factor:2 candy canes
5. White Christmas (1954): This musical wonderland stars Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye and Kentucky’s own Rosemary Clooney, and features the toe-tapping songs of Irving Berlin, including der Bingle’s immortal rendition of White Christmas. On a cold winter’s night, there is nothing like sliding this into the DVD player and munching on some popcorn by a roaring fire. Der Bingle is still the coolest!
Season’s greetings factor: 2 Â½ candy canes
4. Miracle on 34th Street (1947): Starring Maureen O’Hara, John Payne, young Natalie Wood and Edmund Gwenn as the Embodiment of the Christmas Spirit, this is the story of what takes place in New York City following Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, as people are left wondering whether or not a department store Santa might not actually be the real deal. Although remade several times, this original with Gwenn has become a perennial Christmas favorite in the Brewer manse. Santa with popped bubble gum on his beard? Too much!
Season’s greetings factor: 3 candy canes
3. A Christmas Story (1983): Set in the 1940s in mid-America, this whimsical tale of nine-year-old Ralph “Ralphie” Parker and his Christmas quest for a Red Ryder BB gun always brings torrents of laughter. These days shown as a 24-hour marathon on TV, I could watch it continuously (well, almost). While using various schemes to convince his parents to get him this gift, Ralphie of course continually bumps into objections from others saying, “You'll shoot your eye out!” He does, but the funny and warm moments of this film make it a grand treat.
Season’s greetings factor: 4 candy canes
2. A Christmas Carol (1938): I doubt if any Christmas story -- even the Nativity -- has been reproduced more on film than Charles Dickens’ acclaimed A Christmas Carol. Of all the film adaptations – and with pardons to two excellent television versions starring George C. Scott and the immortal Mr. Magoo (voice of Jim Backus) – that of 1938 starring Reginald Owen as Scrooge, Gene Lockhart as Bob Cratchit and Terry Kilburn as Tiny Tim has always been my favorite. The only let-down is that some of the grimmer aspects of the story went completely unmentioned or unseen: The phantoms wailing outside Scrooge's window were not shown, and the two starving children “Want” and “Ignorance,” who hid within the folds of the Ghost of Christmas Present's robe, are absent. Also gone were the thieves who ransack Scrooge's belongings after he “dies.” Still, a ghostly tale for the season.
Season’s greetings factor: 4 Â½ candy canes
1. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946): For many (like me), it would not be Christmas without at least one viewing of Frank Capra’s Christmas card to the audience, It’s a Wonderful Life. Of course, the film stars Jimmy Stewart as George Baily, a man whose imminent suicide on Christmas Eve brings about the intervention of his guardian angel, the no-winged Clarence Odbody (Henry Travers). Clarence shows George all the lives he has touched and the contributions he has made to his community. Really two films in one (life in Bedford Falls and his horrendous romp through Pottersville), there are so many little things that have come from this flick. I discovered this movie late in life and I thought I would bust a gut the first time George uttered the names of his two best friends: Bert and Ernie!
Season’s greetings factor: 5 candy canes!
Those are my favorite Christmas-oriented films of all time. CBN wants to know yours. Start your listing below, and happy holidays!