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!

Cast: Ginger Roger, Joseph Cotten, Shirley Templer, Spring Byington, Tom Tully

Yes, YouTube movie of the week is finally back. And for the month of December, we’re going to be covering just Christmas movies in this feature. And this is one you’ll definitely want to be watching soon, because it will be discussed in the Christmas podcast.

Ginger Rogers plays Mary Martin, a young woman who’s been sent to prison for manslaughter. She’s granted a furlough to go visit her aunt and uncle for Christmas. On the train, she meets Zach, a soldier who’s been in an institution suffering from post traumatic stress. He, too, has been granted a holiday furlough to see how he can handle the real world. Zach gets off the train with Mary, and the two strike up a relationship, with neither known the truth about each other’s problems.

I’ll Be Seeing You is really one of the most genuine romances I’ve ever seen. Films from this era didn’t really get into dark and deeply flawed characters as their romantic heroes and heroines, and the fact that this one does makes the the love story feel very raw and real. It also develops in a very realistic, convincing way. There’s never a moment where I thought that it felt artificial. Few films depict falling in love so honestly.

It was also one of the first films in the 1940s to ditch the patriotic “America is great and being a soldier and defending your country is awesome!” idea, and really tackle the negative effects war can have on those fighting it. Zach suffers deeply from post traumatic stress, and the film isn’t afraid to actually show that. We aren’t just told he’s been suffering, we see it. His behavior in the beginning of the film alone is extremely indicative of this. And we even get an excellent scene where we see him having an episode/flashback. This came out the year before The Best Years of Our Lives, the quintessential film about the hardships of a returning soldier, and it’s really brave in it depiction of a soldier’s struggles, especially since we were still at war at the time.

The handling of Mary’s character is interesting as well. We eventually learn the circumstances of her “crime”, but in the end it doesn’t matter so much. The way she interacts with her family is a really great part of the film. The clearly love her, but both her uncle and her cousin obviously have a difficult time with her being there from prison. Especially her cousin. While she’s friendly to Mary, the things she does (separating their closet, making sure they use different towels), clearly ostracize Mary. Seeing Barbara eventually learn to understand and accept Mary is a wonderfully developed sub plot.

The acting in the film is exceptional. Both Rogers and Cotten give performances that are among the best of their career. Cotten really gets into Zach’s head, and he seems to really understand the hardship of his Post Traumatic Stress. He’s a troubled, deeply flawed man. Rogers gives Mary so much guilt and shame, and over something she really shouldn’t feel guilty about. They both creat extremely fascinating characters. Shirley Temple, all grown up, gives a very interesting performance. She starts off as a girl who doesn’t seem to have a thought in her head, but as she grows to understand Mary, she develops into a realy young lady.

This is a unique Christmas film. It’s definitely a holiday film, but it doesn’t dwell on Christmas. It has a different story all its own, and that’s what I love so much about it. The Christmas moments are wonderful, but the story is so strong and interestingon its own.

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12, Part 13Part 14, Part 15, Part 16

By Katie Richardson

Ginger Rogers is my favorite actress. She’s mostly remembered today for being Fred Astaire’s dance partner throughout the 1930s. But Rogers had an acting talent that went beyond that. She was a fantastic and graceful dancer, but she should be remembered as so much more. Her range was unbelievable. She could make a fantastic screwball comedy, and then turn around and make a melodrama, giving great performances in both. Rogers stopped dancing with Astaire in 1939 with The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle (they’d re-team just once more, ten years later, for The Barkleys of Broadway) to focus on a career in non-musical films. Almost immediately her talent was recognized and she won an Academy Award for her performance in the 1940 film Kitty Foyle. Unfortunately, though, so many of her sans-Fred films aren’t remembered today. Here are some of the best.

Primrose Path (Gregory La Cava, 1940)

The same year she gave her award winning performance in Kitty Foyle, she gave an even better performance in Primrose Path, as the daughter of a prostitute who tries to escape her life by marrying Joel McCrea. This is one of the most beautiful love stories put out by the studio system. It’s about the importance of honesty in a marriage. It’s surprising that this film got past the Production Code, not just because it featured characters who were clearly prostitutes, but because these characters were sympathetic. Marjorie Rambeau (who received an Oscar nomination for the role) played Rogers’ mother and a basically good woman simply doing what she was taught in order to support her family. Her relationship with Rogers is gentle. She only wants the best for her children. Primrose Path is a really brave film for the time it was made, and it’s just one of the best romance films I’ve ever seen.

Rafter Romance (William A. Seiter, 1933)

Rafter Romance is actually a pre-Fred film. It’s a simple but incredible sweet and pretty funny romance. Rogers and Norman Foster play two people who share an apartment – he lives there during the day, she lives there at night. They never meet, but they still can’t stand each other. Of course, they meet outside of the apartment, not realizing the other is the person they believe they can’t stand, and they fall in love. This is definitely one of the most original romantic comedies of the early 1930s. Rogers is completely charming, and Norman Foster is a good match for her. They’re both just so endlessly cute.

Romance In Manhattan (Stephen Roberts, 1935)

It’s amazing that such a simple romantic dramady can be so moving. Francis Lederer plays an immigrant who is in the country illegally. He’s taken in by Rogers and her kid brother. It’s really as simple as that. The three just try to make a living and stay afloat while Lederer and Rogers fall in love. But it’s such a sincere and genuine romance. It’s made with so much heart from all involved. And it has one of the funniest finales ever.

Star of Midnight (Stephen Roberts, 1935)

Star of Midnight is my favorite Thin Man knockoff. It’s central mystery is really very interesting, and it has a certain “strange” feeling that I think sets it apart from other screwball mysteries. Powell stars in this (and he’s great, as always) with Rogers as his much younger and very eager love interest. She goes after everything with determination and vigor, whether it’s trying to solve the case or trying to get Powell to marry her. I really wish these two had made more movies together. They were a perfect fit.

Vivacious Lady (George Stevens, 1938)

Vivacious Lady is a sweet romantic comedy made great by the brilliant pairing of Ginger Rogers and James Stewart. They both had an “everyman” feel to them, which made them an incredibly relatable couple. You want so badly for them to be happy together because they’re so normal and remind you of yourself. I also like that it’s not really a movie about two people falling in love. They get married early on in the film. The movie is about them trying to break the news to his family, and staying together while they do it. It’s just an adorable movie.

Bachelor Mother (Garson Kanin, 1939)

This is one of Rogers’ very best performances. She plays a woman who has to raise an orphaned baby she finds on her own because nobody believes it’s not hers. In the meantime, she begins to fall in love with David Niven, her boss’s son who takes an interest in caring for the baby as well. This movie is so great because, in addition to the great romance between Rogers and Niven, it’s wonderful to watch Rogers’ love for the baby, that’s not even hers, grow. It’s one of the most interesting and beautiful relationships in film.

5th Avenue Girl (Gregory La Cava, 1939)

5th Avenue Girl is such a good movie because it has so much going for it. First would be the relationship between Rogers and Walter Connolly. Connolly plays a wealthy man who is ignored by his family, she when he meets Rogers on a park bench he takes her in and the two pretend they’re having an affair in the hopes that the family will finally pay attention to what he’s doing. Rogers and Connolly bond and form a really nice father/daughter relationship that’s the heart of the movie. But the movie has three love stories going on. Throughout the film, Connolly and his wife eventually find their way back to each other. Connolly’s daughter is in love with the chauffer, who seems to be something of a communist. The best love story, though, you don’t realize is there until about halfway through the movie. Rogers and Connolly’s son, Tim Holt, fall in love. It’s a strangely done romance, I’m not even sure I can really describe it, but it’s a really strong film all together.

Tom, Dick, and Harry (Garson Kanin, 1941)

Rogers played a character in Tom, Dick, and Harry who was a little… simpler than most of her other characters. She dreams of romance and love, but can’t choose between three different guys: the regular guy who’s working his way up to management at a local store, the millionaire, and the poor guy. The best part about this movie is that each of the guys has their pros and their cons, and you really have no idea who she’ll choose in the end. She gives a really adorable performance, and this movie is just cute.

Tales of Manhattan (Julian Duvivier, 1942)

In this series of loosely connected vignettes, Ginger Rogers has one of the best stories. It’s a little, short, self contained story about Rogers finding out her fiancee is a cad and realizing his pal, Henry Fonda, is perfect for her. It’s short, sweet, and funny. And Rogers and Fonda are SO good together. Watching this, it’s hard to believe they never made any other films together. They were such a good pairing.

I’ll Be Seeing You (William Dieterle, 1944)

This movie is SO amazing. While there were a lot of movies being made to show how awesome soldiers were and to spread patriotic propaganda during the war, I’ll Be Seeing You was one of the first films to really take a look at the negative effects the war was having on the soldiers. This movie gives us two incredibly flawed, complicated, and damaged characters and allows them to fall in love. It’s just such a beautiful movie. You really didn’t see movies and characters like this too much in classic film.

By Katie Richardson

By Katie Richardson

Once I finish my Frank Borzage project over at Rotten Tomatoes (I’ve been procrastinating so badly. I work all day tomorrow, and if we’re slow enough, I’m just going to sit down and write as many of the final 8 essays as I can before close), I want to do a list of my favorite romantic pairings in classic film. I did a similar list a few years ago, but that was about the actors and their chemistry, not the characters and their stories, which what I want to focus on mostly for this upcoming list. I’ve been working on it, but I’ve been having a tough time with it. Here are some ones that I really like and will definitely hope for find room for on the list from some obscure classics. And I’d love any input from you guys on this topic.

Bill and Trina – Man’s Castle

Of course, the couple from my favorite movie. I could write a book on the relationship between Bill and Trina. I recently posted a small essay about Trina as a heroine that covered a good deal of their dynamic. Maybe once I finish the Borzage thread, and before I start the couples list, I’ll do an essay about Bill’s side of the relationship.

Letty and Mr. Sherwood – Beauty for Sale

The age difference, the class difference, the fact that he’s married – it all makes for a great love story between two people who meet by chance, become friends, and fall in love, all while knowing they can’t be together. It all leads up to a really rewarding and lovely finale.

Zack and Mary – I’ll Be Seeing You

The war changed the way a lot of romantic dramas were done. I’ll Be Seeing You was one of the first films to really deal with the negative effects the war had on the boys who were coming home. The relationship between Zack and Mary overcomes all the emotional damage that they’ve both endured.

Larry and Blondie – Blondie of the Follies

I have a big soft spot for these kinds of romances. Two characters who obviously love each other so much, but have a hard time being together because the relationship isn’t really in either of their natures and they’re never on the same page at the same time.