Like many people, one of our many holiday rituals is watching Christmas movies, such as White Christmas, The Miracle on 34th Street, and It’s a Wonderful Life. In the late 1980s, I started collecting classic films on videotapes and eventually DVDs. As technologies changed, I began recording films from Turner Classic Movies and multiple online sources. A treasured section of this ever-growing cinema collection contains more than 50 holiday films. Every year my wife, Barbara, and I start watching these films through Advent to Christmas then New Year’s Day and Epiphany. Along with decorating the house, preparing the holiday feasts and streaming our seasonal iTunes playlists, watching these classic movies has become a standard feature of our extended holiday celebration.
Each year we try to add some “new” films to the list: not something from the Hallmark Channel, mind you, but some old movie that is new to us, and among those oddities we have frequently discovered remarkable films that we return to year after year.
Let me explain a bit about our holiday cinema catalog. Only nine of the 45 films were shot in color, and only five were made after 1960. More than half were released before 1950. While our list contains obvious classics, such as The Bishop’s Wife and Christmas in Connecticut, several have only the barest of holiday connections. For example, is The Thin Man (1934) a Christmas movie? Yes, because in the midst of discovering who killed the thin man, there is a delightful scene of Nick and Nora Charles lounging around the Christmas tree after opening gifts.
Each year one of our pleasures in watching these movies has been recognizing actors in small roles in one film who also appear in another of our favorites. This year, as a challenge, I attempted to create a connected schedule of movies, linking each film by one of the character actors. It took a while, but I was able to connect 34 of the 45 films on this year’s list. The nine outliers are either animated films (such as Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol) or were produced outside of the Hollywood studio system (such as 1951’s A Christmas Carol) or were one of the few modern films to make our list (such as 1983’s A Christmas Story).
As we watch each movie this year, we plan to post a short summary, explain why we love the movie, and point out the character actors who appear in the cast with a short biographical sketch. If you want to follow along, we will post if the film is on TCM’s holiday schedule or other places you can find the film.
So here we go: 2018’s Christmas Cinema Garland. Happy holidays!