By Jessica Pickens
When it comes to Christmas films, we often have our old standbys—films like White Christmas (1954), A Miracle on 34th Street (1947), or “It’s a Wonderful Life” (1946). These are all wonderful films, but, if you’re like me, you are always searching for holiday films you haven’t seen before.
I love finding films that are off the beaten path or a little bit forgotten. Here are a few often overlooked Christmas films available to rent….
“Love Finds Andy Hardy” is part of the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film series, Andy Hardy, which starred Mickey Rooney. The films follow teenage Andy Hardy as he gets into troubles and often has to have man-to-man talks with his father, Judge Hardy, played by Lewis Stone. This was the fourth film out of 16 which were released from 1937 to 1958, and it’s the first Andy Hardy film to feature Judy Garland. This film takes place at Christmas, and the holiday doesn’t come without crisis for the Hardy family. Mrs. Hardy (Fay Holden) has to leave her family to take care of her sick mother, and Andy is (of course) facing girl problems:
His steady girlfriend Polly Benedict (Ann Rutherford) is going away for the holidays leaving Andy without a date for the Christmas dance
Andy Hardy agrees to take his friend’s girlfriend, Cynthia Potter, (Lana Turner) to a dance so that she won’t go on other dates.
Betsy Jenkins (Judy Garland) comes to town, looking more grown-up than Andy remembered her looking in the past.
The Hardys don’t think Mrs. Hardy will be home for Christmas, but it all works out in the end.
Sometimes titled “Beyond Christmas,” this is a heartwarming holiday film, that is also a little sad. Three elderly bachelors — played by Harry Carey, C. Aubrey Smith, Charles Winninger — are friends and all live together. Every Christmas they drink Tom and Jerry’s (a traditional holiday cocktail) and nothing more. But one year, the men have a wild hare and decide to do something different—why not invite strangers off the street for Christmas dinner?
The strangers are Jean Parker and Richard Carlson, who meet for the first time once they are invited inside and fall in love. The three older men unfortunately die in a plane crash shortly after Christmas. Though they are gone, their ghosts attempt to help the young couple through their troubles.
“On Moonlight Bay” seems to be Warner Bros. response to “Meet Me in St. Louis” (1944). Starting in 1916, the film looks at a year in the life of the Winfield family and is broken down by season. The films starts when the family moves to a new neighborhood hoping to refine their tomboy daughter Marjorie (Doris Day). Marjorie falls in love with college student William Sherman (Gordon MacRae), whose has college ideas have him saying he doesn’t believe in marriage and that banks are parasites. Her parents (Leon Ames and Rosemary DeCamp) don’t approve of all of William’s ideas.
While the film doesn’t take place completely at Christmas time, the climax is set during the holiday season. Doris Day also sings the lovely song “Merry Christmas to All.”
“We’re No Angels” isn’t quite like most Christmas films. In this black comedy, Humphrey Bogart, Aldo Ray, and Peter Ustinov are convicts who escape from prison on Devil’s Island early on Christmas Eve. They are able to blend in and go to a local shop where they offer to fix the roof. While on the roof, they observe the plight of a family: the shop owner (Leo G. Carroll) and his wife (Joan Bennett) are not making much of a profit from the store, which is owned by Carroll’s cousin Andre (Basil Rathbone). The couple is concerned about the repercussions they will face when it is discovered that business is so bad. The couple’s daughter (Gloria Talbott) is in love with Andre’s nephew, and pines for him.
Observing that the family is in “their own kind of prison,” the three men become unlikely guardian angels, doing anything to help the family and also helping them have a nice Christmas.
Jessica Pickens is a North Carolina-based writer. She has a degree in print journalism and now works in public relations. Outside of work, she writes about pre-1968 films at CometOverHollywood.com with a special interest in musicals, films released in 1939, and World War II-era films. You can follow her Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.