Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Classic Movie Man’s Favorite Christmas Movies: 2018 Edition

Another Christmas season is upon us and I’ve put together some more Christmas movies for your enjoyment. Not every choice can be considered a Christmas movie, but each feature the holiday prominently. One of the choices takes place almost entirely at a Christmas office party. I hope you enjoy these films and have a wonderful holiday season.

Lon McCallister, Charlotte Greenwood and Walter Brennan celebrate Christmas in
Home in Indiana

Home in Indiana—1944 is set in the world of harness racing. It also featured the official film debuts of popular female 20th Century-Fox stars: Jeanne Crain and June Haver. Crain plays Charlotte “Char” Bruce, the tomboy daughter of horse trainer Jed Bruce (Ward Bond). Haver plays Christopher “Cri-Cri” Boole, spoiled daughter of track owner Goodall Boole (Charles Dingle). Char is sweet and good-natured. Cri-Cri is a self-centered flirt who although friends with Char, looks down on her because she isn’t rich. The plot heats up a bit when J. F. “Thunder” (Walter Brennan) and Penny Bolt’s (Charlotte Greenwood) nephew “Sparke” Thornton (Lon McCallister) comes to live with them. Char is attracted to Sparke, but he considers her one of the boys. Cri-Cri has a steady boyfriend, but flirts shamelessly with Sparke, leading him to suspect she likes him. A key scene take place during Christmas when Sparke visits Cri-Cri presenting her with a present. Cri-Cri pretends to like Sparke’s gift. When she’s alone with Char, Cri-Cri reveals what she really thinks. It’s at this point that we know that Char is desperate for Sparke to notice her and in the end he does.

Backstory: The film played in theaters throughout Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky before it went into wide release. The Academy nominated the movie for its color cinematography. April Love, a musical version of Home in Indiana was made in 1957 starring Pat Boone and Shirley Jones.

John Garfield and Eleanor Parker beside the fallen Christmas tree in
Pride of the Marines

The Pride of the Marines—1945 is based on the true story of Al Schmid, a Marine who was blinded during the battle of Guadalcanal. John Garfield plays Schmid who proposes marriage to Ruth Hartley (Eleanor Parker), his long-time girlfriend before he goes off to war. After he’s blinded and discharged from the Marines, Al’s friend and G.I. buddy Diamond (Dane Clark) tricks him into going home to Philadelphia during the Christmas holidays. Ruth who has never doubted her devotion to Al is desperately trying to convey this to him, but he’s too proud to admit he might have to depend on his friends and family more than he would have if he could see. The Christmas scene gets very dramatic and is a turning point in the film. Al argues with Ruth and quickly gets up to leave, but he crashes into the Christmas tree, knocking it to the ground. The film features great performances from Garfield, Parker, and Clark. Director Delmer Daves and Producer Jerry Wald turned out an entertainment that holds up well as both entertainment and a history of what life was like for disabled veterans of World War II and the families that loved them.

Backstory: John Garfield met Al Schmid during his rehabilitation before a movie was ever planned.

Joan Bennett does some Christmas shopping before things begin to unravel in
The Reckless Moment

The Reckless Moment—1949 is an underrated film noir classic, directed by German-born Max Ophuls. During the Christmas holidays, while her husband is away on business, Lucia Harper (Joan Bennett) discovers that her 17-year-old daughter, Bea (Geraldine Brooks) is having an affair with a sleazy criminal, Ted Darby (Shepperd Strudwick). To protect her daughter, Lucia confronts Ted. She orders him to stop seeing Bea, but Ted will only do so if she pays him off. Lucia refuses and tells Bea about her meeting with Ted, which leads to a terrible argument between mother and daughter. Bea and Ted meet and things do not go well. After the meeting, Ted accidentally injures himself, which eventually leads to his death by a jetty near the Harper’s house. When Lucia discovers the body, she thinks Bea is responsible for Ted’s death so she takes the body and hides it in a swamp. The body is discovered by the police which puts more pressure on Lucia to shield her daughter. Another criminal, Martin Donnelly (James Mason) is in possession of the letters that Bea wrote to Ted. If Lucia doesn’t come up with $5000, Martin will pass the letters along to the police, which could lead to Bea being charged with murder. Lucia is half crazed with keeping this situation from her family, while she prepares for Christmas! The irony of these horrible situations taking place during the Christmas holidays cannot be ignored. What should be a happy peaceful time for the Harper family turns into a nightmare for Lucia. Things take a strange twist when Martin begins to fall in love with Lucia, which in an odd way makes things turn out for the best. Are you dying to see this movie now?

Backstory: This was James Mason’s third American film. Joan Bennett was married to the producer, Walter Wanger, from 1940 until 1965. Included among the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, edited by Steven Schneider.

Nancy Kwan, Joyce Blair, Victor Spinetti, and Terry-Thomas during the height of
the office Christmas party in The Wild Affair

The Wild Affair (1965) is a little-known film from the swinging 60s! Almost the entire movie takes place at an office Christmas party—like they don’t have anymore—at a fancy cosmetics company in London. Filmed in 1963, but not released until 1965, the movie fell through the cracks. It stars Nancy Kwan as Marjorie Lee, a young office assistant who is about to be married and is having some doubts about her romantic choices. When she looks in the mirror, she sees her alter ego, Sandra, a sexier version of herself staring back at her. Sandra encourages Marjorie to let herself go and mix it up with as many men as possible before she settles down to a life of ironing and housekeeping. Marjorie’s last day at work just happens to land on the date for the office Christmas party and just the place for our heroine to perhaps have a last fling before the wedding. As the workday begins, Marjorie is romanced by an overseas salesman and just about every male in her office, especially at the party when the alcohol starts flowing. The makeup artist at Marjorie’s company makes her over in what he calls the “vampire look.” When Marjorie looks in the mirror, she sees Sandra, her sexier self. At first she’s startled, but then decides to go with it. Kwan is terrific as Marjorie and she is dressed by designer Mary Quant and given an iconic hairstyle by the soon-to-be famous Vidal Sassoon. Will Marjorie have a fling at the office party or will she remain true to her fiance? The film features great support from a British cast that includes Terry-Thomas as the adulterous head of the cosmetics company.

Backstory: The release of the movie was held up for over a year, which pretty much doomed it to obscurity. Had it been released in 1963, it would have been cutting edge, but when released in 1965, its edge had worn off. Vidal Sasson’s short cut on Kwan caused a sensation when she was pictured in the U.K. edition of Vogue.

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