When Harry Met Sally… (1989)

We almost always end our holiday film watching with this delightful comedy, because it is the “newest” movie on our cinema garland. Can you believe it’s 30 years old?  It’s also one of only six color films on our list: the others are Comfort & Joy (which usually starts the garland), White Christmas, and a few first-timers this year: Fitzwilly, Bundle of Joy and Pocketful of Miracles.

This year, as we organized our watch list around character actors, it is again appropriate to end with When Harry Met Sally … since it has no character links to any of the other films on the list but still has several nice supporting performances.

Even though it is a “modern” film, this is still a good, old-fashioned movie.  There is a reverence for old films (the repeated references to Casablanca, for example, and even one to The Lady Vanishes) and for classic jazz. The charming “documentary” clips of other loving couples who recall how they fell in love also cement the old-fashioned feeling.  It is a solid, clever script that features the best performances ever by Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal.


Harry and Sally first meet traveling from Chicago to New York in 1977.  They hate each other.  They accidentally meet again five years later and annoy each other.  And five years after that they fatefully meet again and slowly become good friends, fall in love, then out of love, and then on New Year’s Eve fall in love for good.


There are some lovely Christmas scenes in Manhattan, including the Rockefeller Center tree, and the film concludes on New Year’s Eve.  The themes are love and surprising reversals, which certainly connect to the essence of Christmas.


Carrie Fisher (Marie) was the daughter of Eddie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, who starred in Bundle of Joy. Carrie was best known as Princess Leia in the early Star Wars films, but she also appeared in Shampoo (1975) and The Blues Brothers (1980).

Bruno Kirby (Jess) played the young Clemenza in The Godfather: Part II (1974).

Estelle Reiner (café customer) was the mother of director Rob Reiner. She appeared in the Mel Brooks-Anne Bancroft re-make of To Be or Not to Be (1983).  She was a respected jazz singer on radio as a teenager and in clubs in Los Angeles in the 1960s.


I couldn’t find a single direct connection to Fred Astaire, but the spirit is there, and the sound track includes “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off,” the classic Gershwin tune that Astaire and Rogers sing and skate to in Central Park in Shall We Dance.


Beyond the classic love story between Harry and Sally, this is also a love letter to Manhattan, with scenes shot all around that wonderful town.


Look for it to be scheduled later this year on Turner Classic Movies or other channels, as the film celebrates its 30th anniversary.

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