handsome, beautifully-illustrated, and affordable entry in Turner Classic
Movies’ series of books on film history, genres, and trivia, comes just in time
for the holidays. Christmas in the
Movies—30 Classics to Celebrate the Season offers a selection of excellent
choices in chronological order. Author Arnold, a film historian and TCM
commentator, provides enough background, offscreen anecdotes, and justification
for his picks to satisfy the most critical movie buff.
Christmas in the
to tick all the obvious suspects (Holiday
Inn; It’s a Wonderful Life; Miracle on 34th Street, White
Christmas; A Christmas Story; The Nightmare Before Christmas), but
Arnold also throws a spotlight on some lesser-known gems such as Remember the Night (1940), with a
screenplay by Preston Sturges—although I’d haggle that the Sturges’-helmed
piece, Christmas in July (also 1940)
might be a better option. Other worthy entries include The Man Who Came to Dinner (1942), 3 Godfathers (1948—yes, a John Ford western!), The Lion in Winter (1968—Christmas in medieval England with Henry
II and Eleanor!), Gremlins (1984), and
Die Hard (1988—yes, this action flick
is certainly a Christmas movie!).
is particularly gratifying that Arnold chose the 1951 Scrooge (released as A
Christmas Carol in the U.S.) with Alistair Sim in the titular role. Arnold
is quite correct that this is the
definitive adaptation of Charles Dickens’ classic tale, as there have been “far
too many to count.”
film’s discussion ends with a “Holiday Moment” sidebar. Here, Arnold highlights
a specific bit from the picture that epitomizes the selection as one of the
great Christmas movies. For example, the Holiday Moment from Meet Me in St. Louis (1944) is Judy
Garland’s iconic rendering of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” Arnold
provides the lyrics of the song the way Garland sang it, juxtaposed with the
original lyrics, which were oddly much darker and cynical.
book or list that deems to choose a finite number of movies to represent a
specific genre or theme will invariably incite calls of “But what about ___?”
Perhaps one neglected title that brings out the Christmas spirit for James Bond
fans is the 1969 On Her Majesty’s Secret
Service, which had a Christmas song (“Do You Know How Christmas Trees Are
Grown?”), Christmas morning at Blofeld’s hideaway, and 007’s proposal to his
future bride on Christmas Eve!
minor quibble aside, Christmas in the
Movies is comprehensive, informative, and fun. It might well be the perfect
gift this season for the movie lover in your family!