By Raquel Stecher, classic film blogger
It’s that time of year! As the days get colder, all I want to do is snuggle up in a warm blanket with a hot drink and a good holiday movie. Some of the best Christmas movies can be found in the decade of the 1940s. Let’s take a look at five gems from this era.
Frank Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life wasn’t intended to be a Christmas movie. In fact, the film was a flop upon release.
Today, it’s not only a beloved holiday classic, but it’s also considered one of the best movies of all time. The film stars Jimmy Stewart in the memorable role of George Bailey. This was Stewart’s first film role after serving in the Army Air Corps during WWII. There are also memorable performances by Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore, Beulah Bondi, Gloria Grahame, Frank Albertson and Henry Travers as Clarence the angel.
Themes of kindness, sympathy and giving to others speak to the spirit of the holidays. I dare you to watch this movie and not shed a tear during the final scene. It’s nearly impossible! It’s a Wonderful Life plays every year on TV but if you don’t want to wait you can always rent it from DVD Netflix.
This quintessential classic is an essential part of the holidays. Edmund Gwenn stars as Kris Kringle, a Macy’s department store Santa Claus who claims he’s the real thing. Also in the film are Maureen O’Hara, John Payne, Natalie Wood and Gene Lockhart.
Miracle was a huge hit when it came out. This heart-warming story resonated with audiences in 1947 and for generations to come. It single-handedly made the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade a national tradition. In fact, the parade is now televised nationally because of the film.
Based on an original story, it went on to become a best-selling book and was adapted several times, including a remake released in 1994, available on DVD Netflix. You can rent the original Miracle on 34th Street in the colorized version or in black and white.
Endlessly watchable, Vincente Minnelli’s Meet Me in St. Louis is a family classic. You can’t help but fall in love with the Smith clan especially Esther (Judy Garland) and Tootie (Margaret O’Brien). The movie evokes a sense of nostalgia not only for a bygone era but also for the romanticized idyllic family. The songs in this movie are so delightful that you’ll want to sing along.
Did you know that Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas was written for this movie? It went on to become a standard Christmas song played every season. But Judy Garland’s rendition of the song this movie is the one you’ll want to hear. Watch Meet Me in St. Louis with your family or by yourself at home in your holiday pajamas (so you can belt out the songs with no one to judge you!).
This hilarious Warner Bros. comedy is my favorite Christmas movie of all time. I can’t help but chuckle when I watch the antics of Barbara Stanwyck, S.Z. Sakall, Sydney Greenstreet, Dennis Morgan and the crew of Christmas in Connecticut. Stanwyck plays a writer for a woman’s magazine. She pretends to be Elizabeth Lane, an accomplished cook who lives in a bucolic Connecticut home complete with husband and child. All of this is a ruse she has to keep up when the head of the magazine invites a soldier to her “home."
Set at the very end of WWII, this light-hearted comedy is so much fun to watch you’ll want to have it on repeat. It’s full of funny gags as well as tender-hearted moments. It’ll charm your holiday socks off.
If you’re dreaming of a white Christmas, book a stay at the Holiday Inn. Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire and Marjorie Reynolds star in this show business music chockfull of Irving Berlin songs. It celebrates all the holidays of the year with a song to match it. This movie was so popular the well-known hotel chain Holiday Inn was named after it.
Berlin’s ballad White Christmas, now a holiday standard, grew in popularity over the years and inspired the 1954 musical which is also available to rent on DVD Netflix.
Raquel Stecher has been writing about classic films for the past decade on her blog Out of the Past. She attends the TCM Classic Film Festival as well as other events where old movie fanatics get together to geek out. Raquel has been a devoted DVD Netflix member since 2002! Follow her on her blog Out of the Past, or find her on Twitter @Quellelove and @ClassicFilmRead, Facebook, and Instagram.