I’m not sure what exactly constitutes a Christmas movie. Other than the obvious – It’s a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street, A Christmas Story, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation – there are movies that incorporate Christmas but are not about the holiday, per se. My list of favourites includes some not-so-obviously Christmas movies. Here goes:
- Meet me in St. Louis (1944) with Judy Garland and Mary Astor, directed by Vincente Minelli. The film actually takes place over the course of one year, but the climax of the film takes place at Christmas, and that’s good enough for me. Judy plays the second-oldest daughter in a large St. Louis family that is about to be uprooted to New York. The news wreaks havoc in the household, and on the love-lives of the two oldest daughters.
- In the Good Old Summertime (1949) with Judy Garland, Van Johnson and Buster Keaton. Yes, up to 90% of the movie takes place in the summer, but once again the climax of the story takes place at Christmas. Judy has some lovely musical numbers in this one. Nothing as catchy or memorable as the Wizard of Oz or Meet me in St. Louis, but good songs just the same. You may already know the story: this film is a musical remake of The Shop Around the Corner (1940) with Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullavan; the story was remade again in 1998 as You’ve Got Mail, with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan.
- The Man Who Came to Dinner (1942) with Bette Davis, Monty Woolley and Ann Sheridan. Brilliant script and brilliant acting. I can’t tell you how much I love this movie. It’s one of Davis’ rare comedy roles, and she is wonderful. This may be my favourite Davis movie, after All About Eve. The wonderful Mary Wickes plays the role of Miss Preen, the nurse.
- Desk Set (1957) with Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. Their eighth movie together. Tracy plays a 1950s-era techie hired to computerize the research library at a major TV network. Hepburn is the head librarian. You can see where this is going. Hepburn gets a little drunk during the office Christmas party; hilarity ensues.