Let’s talk Christmas movies!

First the old reliables — WHITE CHRISTMAS (1954) helped fill some time when I wanted to watch something but not pay close attention — I know the plot so I could visualize things from the dialogue and then look up whenever a dance number got going. Probably the least Christmassy of Christmas movies (the plot wouldn’t change much if it were July 4) but as I’ve mentioned before, a lot of Christmas movies aren’t very Christmassy. “Let’s just say we’re doing it for an old pal in the Army.”

This year watching CHRISTMAS IN CONNECTICUT (1945) had me wondering if a gender-flipped remake would work better than straight (they already remade it once, without catching the original’s charm). Instead of Barbara Stanwyck passing herself off as a fake perfect homemaker and mother in her columns (she can’t cook and doesn’t have any kids), we have a shy nerd who writes Virile Manly Man columns; instead of Dennis Morgan as a WW II veteran, we have a female vet. But regardless, the original is always a delight to rewatch; with Sidney Greenstreet, Una O’Connor and S.Z. Sakall among the backup cast. “I’m the type who does kiss married women — and I like it!’

CHASING CHRISTMAS (2005) has apparently made the cut to Christmas perennial, as Leslie Jordan’s burnout Christmas Past (“I’ve been doing this for 2,000 years and it hasn’t made the world any nicer.”) snaps while trying to de-Scrooge Tom Arnold, leaving the latter stranded in his own childhood and at risk of erasing himself from reality if he doesn’t make it home before Christmas. A fun riff on the story. “Dickens was one of our ‘clients’ — he wrote that book even though we specifically told him not to tell anyone.”

Alastair Sim’s A CHRISTMAS CAROL (1951) remains my favorite Realistic Scrooge with Sim realizing almost from the first how badly he’s screwed up his life but worrying he’s too old and set in his miserly ways to change. With a cast that includes Michael Horden Ernest Thesiger, Hermione Baddely and Patrick Macnee, this is always a pleasure to see again. “If ever my heart has changed towards you, it will be because my heart has ceased to beat.”

Seymour Hicks plays a very grouchy, irascible SCROOGE (1935) in an adaptation that runs little over an hour; to economize on time this drops Scrooge’s lonely childhood and gives us one Christmas Past scene, where his fiancee learns what a hard, grasping man she’s married. Surprisingly this also spends several minutes on the Lord Mayor’s feast, contrasting it with Scrooge’s lonely isolation. Not a favorite, but quite watchable. “Mr. Cratchitt, it’s obvious to me that my needs and your needs are not the same.”

MR. MAGOO’S CHRISTMAS CAROL is an animated TV special in which Magoo performs the Scrooge role on Broadway, unleashing chaos on stage due to his short-sightedness. The production of A Christmas Carol itself is quite winning, with some genuinely good songs. “Guineas and threepence and tuppence and bob/Give them away and nobody will rob — you.”

And the new stuff— Michael Horden plays Ebenezer himself in a 1977 CHRISTMAS CAROL, competently acted but nowhere up to the best. Part of the problem is that the cast is small, so we don’t get the Victorian crowd scenes I’ve come to expect.  “Would you so soon compel me to put out the light that I would give?”

CHRISTMAS CRUSH (2019) has potential in its premise. A woman makes a Christmas wish for her neighbor’s love, but when the spell instead zaps her new neighbor on the other side of her apartment, she has to cope with the man’s unwanted attention. To make matters worse he’s engaged and the guy she really wants despises her for tearing the couple apart. The execution of this Christmas rom-com was only adequate, tnough, and I doubt it will make the annual viewing roster. “I’m doing seasonal temp jobs to pay for a wedding I’m never going to have.”

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