Easy on the Christmas

Heading into the holiday weekend, it’s easy to feel a bit burned out on Christmas before it even gets here. But since so many of us will have time to kill with the family coming up, here are some suggestions for crowd-pleasing holiday appropriate movies to watch. Each of these provide the same fuzzy yuletide feeling as an old school classic like the original Miracle on 34th Street, without beating you over the head quite so much with the whole Christmas thing.

The Bells of St. Mary’s (1945)

st-marys.jpgThe joy of this movie is in watching the great actors Bing Crosby and Ingrid Bergman play off of each other. She’s the nun in charge of a run-down school on the verge of being closed, he’s the pastor assigned to help her, but they don’t exactly see eye to eye. The movie’s perpetually associated with Christmas films, and though there is a scene of students putting on a holiday pageant, it’s mostly because of the overall tone. If nothing else, see it for the priceless scene involving Bergman in her nun get-up teaching a kid to box.

The Trouble with Angels (1966)

Hmm, another movie with nuns. The last feature directed by Ida Lupino (one of the first commercially successful female directors), the movie follows the two biggest troublemakers at a Catholic girls boarding school as they spend three years coming up with every possible way to drive the Mother Superior (the always fantastic Rosalind Russell) out of her freaking mind. One of the girls is played by Hayley Mills, a.k.a. Susan and Sharon from the original version of The Parent Trap. I was a huge fan of this movie as a kid and when I watched it again recently it was still very entertaining. Again, only a few scenes directly involve the Christmas holidays, but they’re key ones.

Christmas in Connecticut (1945)

Don’t be fooled by the title on this one. They could have just as easily called it Thanksgiving in Connecticut or Easter in Connecticut, changed a line or two, thrown out the tree, and had the same movie. Barbara Stanwyck plays a Martha Stewart sort of magazine columnist whose publisher has no idea she’s a complete sham who never had the farm, husband, baby or cooking skills she brags about in the magazine. The adorable Dennis Morgan is a Navy sailor who was rescued after weeks lost at sea, and the publisher decides it would be a great publicity stunt to have him spend Christmas at that famous Connecticut farm everyone loves to read about so much. As you might imagine, hijinx ensue. It’s a cute movie with a silly plot made better by some funny performances, including Sydney Greenstreet as the pompous publisher.

Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)

st-louis.jpgThis musical follows the adventures of the Smith family’s four daughters in 1903, as St. Louis is preparing to host the World’s Fair. Several months pass over the course of the movie and a key part focuses on Halloween, but it’s remembered for the climactic Christmas sequence because of Judy Garland’s definitive performance of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”

Holiday Inn (1942)

Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire run an inn that’s only open on holidays, where they put on elaborate musical numbers to entertain the guests. This works great until they both fall for the woman who’s the star of their shows. The scene in which they sing “White Christmas” was the debut for that song. Since you get to listen to Bing sing and watch Fred dance, this movie is crazy entertaining, but beware the one very unfortunate part: a blackface number in honor of Lincoln for the President’s Day holiday. We all know it’s hard to avoid the racism in old movies, but skip this one to avoid some very non-Christmasy bad feelings. You won’t miss any crucial plot details.

We’re No Angels (1955)

no-angels.jpgEasily the weirdest movie on this list, Humphrey Bogart, Aldo Ray, and Peter Ustinov play criminals who’ve escaped from Devil’s Island on Christmas Eve and are hoping not to be noticed in a French colonial town before they can board a ship for Paris. They plan to rob a general store, but end up becoming attached to the financially-strapped family that runs the place and decide to help them instead. Of course, the only way they can come up with to do this is to kill the evil old rich uncle who owns the place. With their pet poisonous snake, Adolph. But not before they cook and serve Christmas dinner. And wash the dishes.

That’s my gift to you: six rental options to make your grandma happy. If you’re feeling ambitious, go for the Bing Crosby double feature. Grandmas love Bing, and you should too.


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