Saturday, December 24, 2011

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Great Christmas Show: The Rest of the 1940s

I'm falling behind in putting together my list of favorite holiday movies. Figured I would. Actually, I've been falling behind in viewing them, too. Gotta get a move on. So today, here are a few more favorites from the 1940s -- probably the Golden Age of the Christmas movie.

Directed and Produced by Frank Capra
Screenplay by Frances Goodrich, Albert Hackett, Jo Swerling, and Frank Capra

Based on "The Greatest Gift," by Philip Van Doren Stern

Starring James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore, Henry Travers, Thomas Mitchell

This is, I suppose, the archetypal Christmas movie. But I was never a big James Stewart fan, so it's really never been one of my favorites, even though I do feel a certain obligation to watch it -- just out of tradition if nothing else. Actually, I've always seen the film as something of a horror epic: I really want George Bailey to get away from Bedford Falls, and live the life he wants to live. Every time I watch the show, I'm rooting for George when he says, "I'm shaking the dust of this crummy little town off my feet and I'm gonna see the world." And every time, he goes right ahead and gives his college money to his brother, marries the boring hometown girl, and takes over the old building and loan, just the same!

Directed by Henry Koster
Screenplay by Leonardo Bercovici and Robert E. Sherwood

From the novel by Robert Nathan

Starring Cary Grant, Loretta Young, David Niven, Monty Woolley, James Gleason, Gladys Cooper, Elsa Lanchester, Sara Haden

I think this is my favorite of all the favorites from the 1940s. And it's one I had never seen until my husband made me watch it after we were married. Now it's one of the two or three films I absolutely must see every holiday season, even though it's rather heavy-handed in the "author's message" department. Not something I'd usually be attracted to, but I think the humor saves it. I love the exchanges between Grant and Niven; and the scene where the very proper Bishop Brougham (Niven) gets stuck in an armchair and can't get out is almost worthy of the Marx Brothers. Great movie. (And there's Monty Woolley again!)

Directed and Produced by Don Hartman
Written by John D. Weaver and Isobel Lennart

Starring Robert Mitchum, Janet Leigh, Wendell Corey, and Gordon Gebert

This is another one of my husband's favorites that I've come to love, too. Well, anything with Robert Mitchum in it is worth watching, right? Although I think the main reason the hubby likes it is that a model train figures prominently in the plot.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday: Memories of Autumn

Now that the winter solstice is almost here, and the trees are mostly bare (where we live anyway), I'm enjoying looking back over the photos we took during the last few months and remembering the really glorious fall we had.

For more Wordless Wednesday offerings,
please visit the website here.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Great Christmas Show: 1944 and 1945

Continuing on with my list of movies I like to watch during the holidays. I'm going through the list by year, and last time I covered 1942 (Holiday Inn and The Man Who Came to Dinner). So today, I've got a few from the mid-40s.

Directed by John Cromwell

Written and Produced by David O. Selznick

Starring Claudette Colbert, Jennifer Jones, Shirley Temple, Joseph Cotten, Monty Woolley, Robert Walker, Hattie McDaniel

Another one that's not, strictly speaking, a Christmas movie -- it was released in July 1944. I'm including this one because it was a huge favorite of mine when I was a kid and used to see it on TV every year. I think I liked it mainly because of Shirley Temple, but also because of the house the family lived in -- for me, growing up in post-war ranch-style suburban sprawl, it seemed like the perfect storybook home. Now that I'm older, I'm more critical -- the movie is almost revoltingly sentimental and preachy, and about an hour too long. But, like all of Selznick's films, it's a gorgeous thing to watch; and Monty Woolley, Hattie McDaniel and Joseph Cotten provide welcome bits of comic relief. It's no longer a film I seek out, but I usually end up watching it (or part of it) every Christmas season.

Directed by Leo McCarey
Written by Leo McCarey and Dudley Nichols

Starring Bing Crosby and Ingrid Bergman

I don't really think of The Bells of St. Mary's as a Christmas movie, although it's come to be associated with the holiday. One of my favorite films in general, I could (and do) watch it any time of year. The scene where Ingrid Bergman, in her nun's habit, teaches one of her young pupils to box is worth the price of admission all by itself.

Directed by Peter Godfrey
Written by Lionel Houser, Adele Comandini, and Aileen Hamilton

Starring Barbara Stanwyck, Dennis Morgan, Sydney Greenstreet, Reginald Gardiner, S.Z. Sakall

Wonderful little film -- if I had to rate the movies on my list, it would be very near the top. It's one of the funniest of all the Christmas films, and I can really identify with the idea of a woman who has no domestic skills whatsoever!

See more Holidailies Posts:
The Great Christmas Show, Day One

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Diaries of Yesteryear

Much as I try to guard against it, end-of-year nostalgia is beginning to set in around here. I was doing OK until last night when the hubby spent a couple of hours showing me all the photos we've taken of our holiday decorations over the past decade or so, and reminiscing about where we bought them, when we put them up, and how each arrangement differed from year to year. Yes, he can be a little maddening, but he's cute and he can open jars and hang pictures, so I'm keeping him. And, to be honest, I welcomed any distraction during that Cowboys game we were suffering through.

Actually, though, I always experience a little holiday nostalgia myself every year, without any prompting. Getting out all the old ornaments really brings back memories -- both happy and painful, I'm afraid. I love it, but it really defeats my determination to live in the here and now, as much as possible.

Well, that really doesn't have much to do with today's post, except that it's all part and parcel of this nostalgia bug that seems to be going around here. But I've also been sorting through all my old diaries, journals, and planners -- getting ready to write a post for my (mostly neglected) Supply Cabinet Chronicles blog. And that really has brought back some memories -- again, both happy and not so happy. But the planners themselves are part of the happy!

I used these appointment-book type planners as daily diaries all through high school and my early college days. Later on, as life got more complicated, I switched to book-length journals to hold all my secret thoughts and random musings. As a teen, though, I didn't have a lot of time (or the patience) to sit down and write a lengthy journal entry -- I just wanted to remember who took me to the prom and when the next book report was due. Those were the days, huh?

(And notice all those lovely shades of blue?)

The Scribbles line of appointment books from Hallmark were always my favorites. I thought I had several of these, but could only find two -- for 1965 and 1967.

And this one from 1964 is sort of unique, and the only one I have like it -- long and narrow, with an ice-blue vinyl cover decorated with darker blue butterflies.

It's also unique in that it represents the first time a certain guy named Michael made an appearance in my diary. I've hung onto the diary and the guy for more than forty years now!

And here's what I'm using now. Definitely not as interesting, but much more practical. And it does have a lovely blue cover.

Blue Monday is hosted weekly by Smiling Sally.
To see more offerings, or to participate yourself, please head on over to her blog.

See more Holidailies Posts:
The Great Christmas Show, Day One

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Great Christmas Show: 1942

Today I'm continuing with my list of favorite Christmas movies and TV shows -- I started it here with a post about the 1965 Charlie Brown Christmas special. I'm trying to keep the list in chronological order as much as possible, so today I've got two black & white films from 1942. (A year that's very special in my book, since it's the year my parents got married!)

Directed and Produced by Mark Sandrich
Written by Irving Berlin, Elmer Rice, and Claude Binyon

Music by Irving Berlin
Starring Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire, Marjorie Reynolds, Virginia Dale, Walter Abel, and Louise Beavers

In Holiday Inn, former musical-act partners Jim Hardy (Crosby) and Ted Hanover (Astaire) battle for the affection of lovely singer Linda Mason (Reynolds). Hardy falls in love with the beautiful performer and persuades her to come to work at the country inn he's opening, but his ex-buddy Hanover wants her to be his new dance partner. The setting for most of the film is Jim's supper club, Holiday Inn, which is only open on holidays (get it?) -- and that schtick provides the excuse for lots of big production numbers.

OK, this isn't really a Christmas movie exclusively -- it's about all the holidays throughout the year. But it introduced us to one of the iconic holiday songs, Irving Berlin's "White Christmas," and I always watch it at some point during the season.

It's schmaltzy and some of the musical numbers and dialogue probably wouldn't make it into a movie filmed in these politically correct times, but it's still fun to watch Crosby and Astaire going through their paces back when they were at the top of their game.

Directed by William Keighley
Written by Julius J. Epstein and Philip Epstein

From the play by Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman

Starring Monty Woolley, Bette Davis, Ann Sheridan, Jimmy Durante, Billie Burke, and Reginald Gardiner

When the world's most famous (and most obnoxious) theater critic, Sheridan Whiteside (Woolley) slips on the front steps of a provincial Ohio businessman's home and breaks his hip, he and his eccentric entourage take over the house indefinitely.

Again, technically this isn't really a Christmas movie, although it does take place over the Christmas holiday. And it wasn't one of my favorites until a few years ago when my husband got hooked on it and added it to his "must see" list for the holidays. Now I'm a fan, too. And oddly enough, Monty Woolley is one of the co-stars in at least three of my favorite Christmas movies (besides this one, he appears in The Bishop's Wife and Since You Went Away).

See another Holidailies Post:
The Great Christmas Show, Day One

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Saturday Snapshot: Underneath the Christmas Tree

...with a group of Hallmark ornaments.

(Click on photos to enlarge.)

Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Alyce of At Home With Books, and as she says: "To participate in the Saturday Snapshot meme post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken then leave a direct link to your post in the Mister Linky. Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don't post random photos that you find online."

Yesterday's Holidailies Post:
The Great Christmas Show, Day One