Well, we’ve nearly made it to another Christmas. In the life of an ultra-enthusiastic classic film fan, this time of year rules. I’ve got my stack of DVDs, but I get most excited about checking out Turner Classic Movie’s holiday lineup each year. Within this list you will find photos, commentary, and video clips linked for optional viewing.
ONE Directorial Debut:
À bout de souffle (Breathless) – 1960, dir. Jean-Luc Godard
Judy Holliday and Jack Lemmon
Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall
THREE Foreign Films:
Une femme est une femme (A Woman is A Woman) – 1961 [France]
Les Parapluies de Cherbourg (The Umbrellas of Cherbourg)- 1963 [France]
[Two brief notes: This film was shot in beautiful color and the sets and costumes are vividly colorful. Also, the dialogue is entirely sung. Click here to listen to the soundtrack; it’s gorgeous. There are no subtitles with this audio, but I encourage you to listen anyway.]
Sommaren med Monika (Summer with Monika) – 1953 [Sweden]
To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
(click here to hear the suite)
Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
(click here to hear the soundtrack)
The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
(Click here to hear parts of the score)
Gone With the Wind (1939)
(click here to hear the musical score suite)
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954) – Not considered to be a western in most cases, but it can be argued. It’s a Western musical!
Oklahoma! (1955) – See commentary on 7BF7B.
Dances With Wolves (1990)
The Wind (1928)
[I feel I should note that this genre of classic film is probably the only one that I’ve barely touched, which is probably pretty obvious from the list. A new year’s resolution: Watch more Westerns!]
SIX Dance Routines:
Be sure to click on the links to watch these musical numbers I’ve shared. They are well worth a view (or fifty).
By a Waterfall : Footlight Parade (1933) – choreographed by legendary Busby Berkeley. It’s a water ballet (just like the next one is) but I think it’s fair game! This one features one of my favorites (Ruby Keeler), Dick Powell, and a bevy of chorus girls. It’s tough to choose just one of his musical numbers to list. I’d list all of his Pre-Code Warner Bros. numbers if I could.
Gene Kelly’s roller-skate tap dance in It’s Always Fair Weather (1955) : This one will always put you in a good mood. Whether you’re actually in love in real life or not, you will be for 4+ minutes when you watch this.
Esther Williams in Million Dollar Mermaid (1952): This water ballet was choreographed by Busby Berkeley and performed by actress/swimming star Esther Williams and many other swimmers. Any time Esthers jumps into a pool, you can be guaranteed a fun time.
A Lot of Livin’ To Do: Bye Bye Birdie (1963) – fun choreography, amazing early ’60s youth fashion, and a catchy beat. Plus, I’m in love with Ann-Margret’s pink frilly outfit. Anyone else?
All God’s Chillun Got Rhythm : A Day at the Races (1937) – This one is amazing. Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers, a group of extremely talented dancers, get a musical feature in the middle of a Marx Brothers movie. The coolest part is that they’re all African Americans. This is the same group who rocked the heck out of a Lindy hop number in Hellzapoppin’ (1941).
All That Jazz (1979) finale: This one’s kind of life changing – no pun intended. Bob Fosse, who directed Cabaret (1972) –one that’s become a favorite of mine — does wonders with this film. The ending of the film really intrigued me. I was stunned.
The Thin Man (1934)
Is there anything wrong with this film? I don’t think so. William Powell and Myrna Loy charm audiences of all decades as Nick and Nora Charles, a married couple who balance solving crimes + downing martinis + flirting with each other perfectly. They’re a couple who have a passion for the finer things in life – including alcohol and each other. Nick and Nora taught 1930s audiences that marriage really can be fun and sexy.
It Happened One Night (1934)
This is where the chick-flick really began. We, the audience, get to hop on a bus with Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert and watch a bickering roadside romance brew. Tear down the Walls of Jericho!
Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933)
Talk about a fun movie – this one has it all. It’s Pre-Code, which means that the content was a bit more risqué than anything filmed after 1934. There are innovative and captivating musical numbers choreographed by Busby Berkeley, romance, and highbrow hi-jinks carried out by a strong ensemble of women, portrayed by Joan Blondell, Ruby Keeler, Ginger Rogers, and Aline MacMahon.
Animal Crackers (1930)
Although this is not one of the Marx Brothers’ most popular or well-known films, Animal Crackers may be their zaniest. It was their second film – in the days that they were still headquartered at Paramount. Their Paramount films are extra fun because they avoided contrived plots, unlike some of their films made at MGM after they began there in 1935.
Ball of Fire (1941)
Dorky meets sexy in this Howard Hawks-directed film starring Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck. Cooper portrays Bertram Potts, an English professor who is working with a group of other professors to create an encyclopedia of human knowledge. When the men decide to scrap their original idea and begin working on an encyclopedia of modern slang, Potts meets his match in nightclub singer Sugarpuss O’Shea (Stanwyck). Lots of laughs and sexual tension ensue. This is an amazing movie. If you’re a fan of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, you’ll really love it.
Safety Last! (1923)
One of the finest silent comedies ever. It’s available on Blu-ray and DVD. There are also a couple of full versions of this film uploaded on YouTube.
The Women (1939)
This movie is the ultimate cat-fight comedy. Norma Shearer portrays Mary Haines, a woman who, through nail salon gossip, finds out that her husband is cheating on her. Her friends (some of them are true “frenemies”) get tangled up in the gossip and their own drama. Add in Joan Crawford as Mr. Haines’s ‘side chick’ and scene stealer Rosalind Russell and you’ve got one of the finest comedies ever created.
EIGHT Films Noir:
White Heat (1949)
Gun Crazy (1950)
The Big Sleep (1945)
Strangers on a Train (1951)
Leave Her to Heaven (1945)
Double Indemnity (1944)
Sunset Boulevard (1950)
NINE Inspiring Movies:
The Sound of Music (1965): A young nun who sings, dances, and becomes a governess to a large family – This may be the most generic summary for the film, but just about everyone knows how it goes. This one never gets old for me.
Dead Poets Society (1989): Okay, I know this one is considered to be modern in classic film reference, but this one is too great to keep off this list. It’s a classic.
You Can’t Take it With You (1938): This is another Frank Capra classic filled with social commentary. I love, love, love its message. This story revolves around the courtship between the son (Jimmy Stewart) of a wealthy and stuck up family and the daughter (Jean Arthur) of a poor, kind, and eccentric family.
Stage Door (1937): A group of aspiring actresses reside in a boardinghouse share their dreams and fears with each other and the audience in this tearjerker. This is a great story that illustrates the importance of female friendships and the bonds they can create. It boasts an awesome ensemble cast, including Katharine Hepburn, Ginger Rogers, Lucille Ball, a very young Ann Miller, Eve Arden, and Adolphe Menjou.
Sullivan’s Travels (1941): A popular film director (Joel McCrea) goes on the road to experience life as a hobo in order to make his next film a great one. He finds out some important life lessons along the way.
Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927): This is not only one of the greatest silent films ever created; it’s one of the best films ever created. In a nutshell, it teaches us that the power of love and forgiveness must prevail over all. Click here to watch the entire film on Youtube.
Pollyanna (1960): A young girl (Hayley Mills, adorable as ever) takes a dreary turn-of-the-century town by storm and teaches all of its citizens how to be happy and kind to each other. It will never leave you in a bad mood – I can promise you that.
Fiddler on the Roof (1971): The three oldest daughters of a poor Jewish family living in turn-of-the-century Russia follow their hearts (against their father’s will) and find love on their own.The results – and the musical soundtrack – are magical.
The Best Years of Our Lives (1946): This is a movie that I wish everyone would watch. It revolves around three men who served during World War II and their experiences upon returning to civilian life. Each has his own experiences with returning to loved ones. This one is a tearjerker and it’s worth every minute of viewing time.
Vivien Leigh in Gone With the Wind (1939)
Barbara Stanwyck in Stella Dallas (1937)
Eleanor Parker in Caged (1950)
Judy Garland in A Star is Born (1954)
The principal cast of The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
[Yeah, I couldn’t choose between them – They were all that good]
Rosalind Russell in Auntie Mame (1958): I honestly hope I can be as cool as Auntie Mame when I grow older.
Liza Minnelli in Cabaret (1972)
James Cagney in White Heat (1949)
Spencer Tracy in Inherit the Wind (1960)
Natalie Wood in Splendor in the Grass (1961)
ELEVEN Movies for Children
Meet Me in St. Louis (1944): Ahhh, my favorite movie of all time. I grew up watching this one all the time with my Grandma. Many consider this film as a Christmas movie (as I do now, even though I mostly consider it a year-round film) but I used to watch it religiously all year long. I will always be madly in love with this movie.
Pollyanna (1960): I mentioned this one in the “Nine Inspiring Movies” section. I grew up with this one, too. I love it just as I did when I was a little girl. Hayley Mills is everything.
Swiss Family Robinson (1960): One of the coolest adventure movies ever – a childhood highlight.
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954): Another great adventure story.
Mary Poppins (1964): Does this one need any explaining?
The Wizard of Oz (1939): Does this one need any explaining, either?
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971): This one may get a bit dark in places (Well, really just the trippy boat scene) but it’s one of the coolest movies you can watch as a kid, teen, or adult.
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968): This movie will probably give you the creeps, but it somehow works really well as a children’s film. The soundtrack is extremely fun, too.
Peter Pan (1952): I think most of us watched this one growing up (no pun intended). No further explanation needed!
Anne of Green Gables (1985): This one veers on the modern side, but I can’t not include it. I grew up on the Canadian “Anne” miniseries. It’s one of the most spectacular films you will ever watch.
Sherlock Jr. (1924): Every kid should be treated to a silent comedy. I think Buster Keaton is the best choice, too. This one’s a fun movie that I think children would appreciate.
Atticus Finch – To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
Mahatma Gandhi – Gandhi (1982)
Marty – Marty (1955)
Mr. Chips and Katherine – Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939)
Lou Gehrig – The Pride of the Yankees (1942)
Spartacus – Spartacus (1960)
Cal Trask – East of Eden (1955)
Susy Hendrix – Wait Until Dark (1967)
Nick and Nora Charles – The Thin Man (1934)
Johnny Case – Holiday (1938)
Lily Powers – Baby Face (1933)
Jefferson Smith –Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)
This challenge was created by Aurora over at aurorasginjoint.com – Even though it’s Christmas Eve, I still challenge you to pass this on in your own way and on your own time!
Happy Holidays —