By Mina Anne Chudilowsky
Movies and television have been a part of my Christmas holidays traditions forever. I’d view these with my family, and then friends, and then on my own.
“Auntie Mame” gets you in the mood when Mame (Rosalind Russell) works at the department store at Christmas time, gets fired, and then goes home and sings, “We need a little Christmas right this very minute...”
Or remember Judy Garland singing, “Have yourself a merry little Christmas” to a young Margaret O’Brien in “Meet Me in St. Louis”? And how about little Natalie Wood who didn’t believe in Santa Claus in “Miracle on 34th Street”?
To me, the traditional old movies are the best. Of course “It’s a Wonderful Life” is a perennial favorite. By now though, some of the scenes bore me and I can’t wait for Clarence Oddbody A.S.C. to show up. I enjoy seeing the marquee on the theater in Bedford Falls that says “Bells of St. Mary’s” on it. I also like that Clarence is reading “Tom Sawyer” and leaves the book for Jimmy Stewart’s character – George Bailey. I also like the origin of Bert and Ernie.
I love “The Bishop’s Wife” starring Cary Grant, Loretta Young and David Niven. I have seen the more recent remake starring Whitney Houston and Denzel Washington, and wile they are both delightful to watch, I prefer the Carey Grant black and white version.
“The Bells of St. Mary’s” used to always appear on TV at Christmas and we’d watch it faithfully. Sometimes, even “Going My Way” would be shown and tears would well up when “Tura Lura Lura” was sung to Barry Fitzgerald’s character.
We grew up singing along to Bing Crosby’s Christmas carols on 78 rpm records, especially when decorating the Christmas tree.
“Holiday Inn” was shown during the holidays and you’d see and hear Bing Crosby sing “White Christmas” for the first time as this movie introduced that song to us. Then there is the movie “White Christmas” which was in color and starred Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney, Danny Kaye and Vera Ellen. You’d sing “Sisters,” “Snow,” and “White Christmas” along with the cast.
“A Christmas Carol” is always shown on some channel with Marley’s ghost dragging his chains and Ebenezer Scrooge saying, “Bah humbug.” There are many version of this story including the animated one starring Mickey Mouse, and a favorite is the one starring the Muppets.
There are movies and stage productions of “The Nutcracker Ballet” and the best one, in my opinion, stars Mikhail Baryshnikov with his gravity-defying leaps as the nutcracker/prince.
Sometimes you can see a “Sing Along Messiah” and it’s fun to sing along, but it is so much more fun to go to an actual “Sing Along Messiah” and be a part of the audience who sings the chorus.
Music and variety shows used to put on Christmas-themed programs like Mitch Miller, Andy Williams, Bing Crosby, Perry Como, etc. Now, if a pop singer or country singer sings Christmas songs, he or she will stylize them and they are hardly recognizable.
There are more recent movies shown at Christmas like “Elf,” “The Santa Claus,” “Home Alone,” Chevy Chase’s Christmas movie, Jamie Lee Curtis’ movie about a last minute Christmas celebration, etc. but none of them compare to the older movies.
PBS will show Peter, Paul and Mary Christmas and Hanukkah programs, and they’re wonderful.
There are many cartoon and claymation Christmas programs shown each year. I find most of them insipid, amateurish and boring. The two that I will watch every year are “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” and “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” The Grinch’s heart grows three sizes and he rushes down to Whoville to celebrate Christmas, and Linus tells Charlie Brown – and us – the real reason we celebrate Christmas.
To me, nothing compares to these two animated stories and the old black and white Christmas movies although the movie version of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” starring Jim Carrey is also fun to watch.