Three “New” Christmas Movies

After all these years, would you believe that I’m still finding new (to me) Christmas movies courtesy of TCM?

This year there were three of them: Sun Valley Serenade, I’ll Be Seeing You, and Holiday. I can’t swear that I’ve never seen Holiday (after all, Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant!), but I don’t remember it so must have been really young if I did see it before.

Sun Valley Serenade (1941). IMDB logline: When Phil Corey’s band arrives at the Idaho ski resort its pianist Ted Scott is smitten with a Norwegian refugee he has sponsored, Karen Benson. When soloist Vivian Dawn quits, Karen stages an ice show as a substitute.

The best thing about this film besides seeing Sonja Henie ice skate (she plays Karen) is seeing Glenn Miller (Phil Corey) and his band. The film is beyond predictable, and Henie is an athlete not an actor, but I’m glad I saw it.

I’ll Be Seeing You (1944). IMDB logline: A soldier suffering from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) meets a young woman on Christmas furlough from prison and their mutual loneliness blossoms into romance.

Though unlikely to replace my favorites (including Christmas in Connecticut, The Bishop’s Wife, It’s A Wonderful Life, Meet John Doe, and A Christmas Story), I will watch I’ll Be Seeing You Again because Ginger Rogers and Joseph Cotten are great together. The film is surprisingly touching and captures the darker mood of the WWII era particularly well.

Holiday (1938). IMDB logline: A young man falls in love with a girl from a rich family. His unorthodox plan to go on holiday for the early years of his life is met with skepticism by everyone except for his fiancée’s eccentric sister and long suffering brother.

George Cukor directs Cary Grant (he’s so young!) and Katharine Hepburn in this film two years before The Philadelphia Story, and this should be reason enough to watch it. I was also taken by how relevant this commentary on the very rich seems amid current discourse on the lack of connection and empathy the 1%-ers feel for the rest of us. I will definitely watch Holiday again.

The image I’ll close on is a provocative publicity still of Joseph Cotten and Ginger Rogers. I felt so moved by Cotten’s performance in I’ll Be Seeing You that I watched The Magnificent Ambersons” last night to prolong the feeling. If I didn’t have so much work to do, I might dip into The Third Man today. Gotta love Joseph Cotten.

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6 Responses to Three “New” Christmas Movies

  1. Jack McKinney says:

    Haven’t seen the others, but I am a huge fan of ‘Holiday’. If I didn’t think I would get stoned by an angry mob of cinephiles, I might even admit that I prefer it to ‘Philadelphia Story’ (much in the same way that I actually like ‘Key Largo’ a little more than ‘Casablanca’). But I will definitely have to seek out the other two, especially ‘I’ll Be Seeing You’.

  2. mdalton4 says:

    It struck me as funny (in a bad way) how very topical Holiday remains, maybe more now than ever because of the widening income gap.

  3. Jack McKinney says:

    I find a lot of the best films from the Golden era are that way. Every time I watch a Wilder film (or even more, a Sturges flick) I am fascinated by how timeless the situations are. The best stories are always relevant. Conversely, I am saddened by how often I watch part of a recent (last 5-10 years) movie while flipping channels and find that it has aged immeasurably in a very short time. I can’t remember what I watched part of on cable last week but I was shocked by how outdated everything about it seemed, from the dialogue to the references to the racial commentary. I wish I could remember what it was. But past all that, you have the occasional film that seems weirdly prescient or one that changes dramatically in a short period of time depending on the viewer and the current state of the world. For instance, I wonder what Aaron Sorkin made of the recent 60 Minutes kerfuffel given that the major arc of last season was about the entire news department being duped by a military source who claimed that he had scandalous information about a military attack. Talk about life copying art. I also think about a movie like ‘V for Vendetta’ which at the time was a very obvious liberal commentary on the W administration and I’ve often wondered if its lukewarm box office performance was due in some part to poor word of mount (and outright objection) from conservatives. Jump 8 years forward, though, and conservative viewers could potentially relate to the film as a rallying cry against the Obama administration and what they view as the start of a totalitarian government bent on stamping out individual rights. I don’t know that ‘V’ will have the shelf life of, say, ‘Sullivan’s Travels’, but there is little doubt that the very best films resonate through the ages and have the potential to mean new things to new viewers.

  4. mdalton4 says:

    Spot on, Jack. I also thought the past season of The Newsroom was better because there was less of the Sorkin speechifying! Sullivan’s Travels is such a gem…

  5. Jack McKinney says:

    I definitely agree on the overall quality, but I actually thought there could have been a bit more Sorkin quip to the dialogue. I didn’t need any additional long soapbox monologues, but I felt like it was lacking some of the crackle sharp banter that made Sports Night and West Wing (and even Studio 60) so enjoyable. Mostly it seemed to me that the scandal arc and Maggie Africa arc became a weight as the season wore on and so much time and energy was required to keep those storylines moving that there just wasn’t anything left for side tangents which made everything feel a little linear and cumbersome. That said, anything that keeps Sorkin away from having to create increasingly ridiculous and absurdly convenient connections to real world news events is a step in the right direction. By the end of the first season I was reminded of the girl in Ferris Bueller’s homeroom whenever the news gang lucked into a contact close to a developing story (My best friend’s sister’s boyfriend’s brother’s girlfriend heard from this guy who knows this kid who’s going with the girl who saw Ferris pass out at 31 Flavors last night). Not a comparison that a fairly serious show should be comfortable with.

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