Wednesday, December 24th, 2008


Hot damn, I love Christmas. The snow, the lights, the songs, the presents. Especially the presents.

I got the best gift last night at about 6 pm when our power, which had been out since Friday, came back on. But that’s not classic movie related, so let’s move on.

I happen to be getting the one thing I wanted most this year, the Murnau, Borzage, and Fox DVD set with a bazillion movies and books. I know I’m getting. It’s the only thing I asked for. And I ordered it myself. With my mom’s credit card. So, technically it’s a present from her. That I bought myself.

The DVD set might be the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. From Murnau, it has Sunrise and City Girl. From Borzage, it has Seventh Heaven, Street Angel, Lazybones, Lucky Star, They Had to See Paris, Liliom, Song o’ My Heart, Bad Girl, After Tomorrow, Young America. It also has a documentary. And on those DVDs is also a reconstruction of Murnau’s 4 Devils and the surviving footage of Borzage’s The River. AND it comes with two books. My god.

Really, that’s all I want. I know I’m getting other stuff, because my mom has the guilt thing where she thinks we need to have a bazillion presents under the tree. But that’s all I want.

But…. in the hypothetical Christmas list…. I got one wish this year already when TCM finally aired Man’s Castle. Now I want it on DVD. Special edition DVD. With extras and commentaries (hey… I could do the commentary… just sayin’….) Maybe a Criterion release….

Christmas is also about more than presents. It’s also about Christmas movies. I adore Christmas movies. There are the old favorites. A Christmas Story, Muppet Christmas Carol. But there are those lesser known pieces of lovely.

We discussed Bachelor Mother on the Christmas podcast. Ginger Rogers give an excellent performance opposite David Niven and an adorable baby. It draws some parallels to the story of the virgin birth, so it’s kind of a Christmas movie more in theme then in time setting (though it does take place during the holiday season).

Another Ginger Rogers Christmas movie, I’ll Be Seeing You, is a little darker in tone, but it’s a really beautiful movie. Rogers plays a convict on furlough for Christmas, and Joseph Cotten plays a soldier suffering from post traumatic stress. They meet, and mend their broken spirits together over the holiday season.

Finally, I love the hell out of the Barbara Stanwyck/Fred MacMurray film Remember the Night. It is technically a comedy, but like I’ll Be Seeing You, it’s more serious in tone. Stanwyck and MacMurray shared such steamy chemistry in Double Indemnity, and their chemistry translates very sweetly to this film.

So, if you have time tonight and tomorrow, seek these movies out. They’re really great for the holiday season. Have a great Christmas!

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Truth be told, my primary Christmas wish this year is for the Denver Broncos to make the playoffs. But in keeping within the obscure classics theme on this site, I have another which is more appropriate. Being a huge fan of Max Ophuls’ The Earrings of Madame de… (1953), I’ve eagerly awaited a proper R1 release of the great director’s rare attempt at a film noir: The Reckless Moment (1949). I’ve heard nothing but good things about the picture and I’m dying to give it a go. Ophuls’ movie stars James Mason and Joan Bennett, two icons of cinema and they’re both among my favorite actors. Reckless marks Bennett’s first matriarch role following a career defined by intriguing single women characters. I wish Sony would get it together and satisfy my request.

I would be lying if I named any picture other than It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) as my favorite Christmas-themed movie. Stewart’s performance is incredible and the scenes between him and Gloria Grahame are splendid. A beautiful story for any time of year, it never fails to lift my spirits when I’m down.

Two other choices that are not so obvious are Christmas in Connecticut (1945) and Holiday Affair (1949). The former is a screwball comedy starring the great Barbara Stanwyck — Babs is my favorite actress) — and the latter is a sweet romance I’ve only recently discovered. The film stars the always fascinating Robert Mitchum and an uber gorgeous Janet Leigh. She’s never looked better on the silver screen. It’s only recently been released on dvd so you won’t have to wait to see it aired on TCM. Give it a spin this holiday season.

By James White

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