Top 5 Christmas on Screen
It’s Beginning to Look a lot Like Christmas…
By Sarah Katherine Mergel
Yesterday, as I watching the snow fall peacefully over my mom’s backyard, I really began to think about the fact that Christmas will be here before I know it. What I wanted to do most, in light of all that snow, was bury myself under a blanket with a cup of hot chocolate and watch some of my favorite Christmas movies. I did not want to make my way to the airport and hope that I would make it home in time to give my last final exam. In any event, I thought I would diverge from this month’s history commentary to share with you a list of my favorite holiday movies (the ones I would have watched if I could). If you have not already seen these you should definitely check them out-they may just get you in the holiday spirit.
- You might call this a top-five list, if not for the fact that two movies have tied for the fifth slot. While I am not a huge fan of Charles Dickens’ classic Christmas story, I cannot help but love A Muppet Christmas Carol (1992). Perhaps it is a life-long affinity for the Muppets, but I find this rendition of Scrooge’s holiday-time redemption a worthwhile view. Somehow, Gonzo as Charles Dickens and Kermit the Frog as Bob Cratchit singing their way through the story makes it a little more interesting. My second choice coming in at number five a Christmas might not even be considered a Christmas movie per se, but nevertheless Meet Me in St. Louis (1944) has some very touching holiday moments. The movie tells the tale of the Smith family, who all year long await the arrival of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition World’s Fair in the spring 1904. During the winter vignette, the family faces the reality that they must soon leave their beloved St. Louis for New York City. Two reasons make this movie a keeper for me. One, it has a semi-historical setting-after all it was at the St. Louis World’s Fair brought us the ice cream cone. Two, Judy Garland’s rendition of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” sung to comfort her co-star Margaret O’Brien is one of my favorite Christmas songs.
- Coming in at number four on my list is Home Alone (1990). When I first saw it, I thought it was a funny and it still amuses me when I come across it on TV. Macaulay Culkin as Kevin McCallister, the movie’s protagonist, can at times be a bit over the top. But his antics fighting off the Wet Bandits, played by Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern, keep you wondering what all of them will do next. Throughout the course of the movie, Kevin discovers that he does in fact need his family who he thought me made disappear. And of course, his family realizes that they need him too. If nothing else, it provides a comical take on the Christmas spirit.
- When I first saw A Christmas Story (1983), my pick for number three, I did not really think it was all that funny. Perhaps, I was too young to appreciate its humor. The more I watch this film, the more I enjoy it. Many other people seem to have had the same reaction, because the movie has become increasingly popular over time. As adults, most of us can remember that one present we wanted more than anything else as a child. Like Ralphie Parker hoping for a Red Ryder BB Gun, we pined for that one gift and wished above all that Santa (or our parents) would deliver what we most longed for. The movie has some great family anecdotes that remind me of some of the more comical events during my own family’s past Christmas celebrations as well.
- My runner-up is A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965). This TV special appeals not only because I like the Peanuts, but because I cannot resist the earnestness of Charlie Brown and his forlorn Christmas tree. If any of you are of the age where you or someone you knew had a shiny aluminum Christmas tree-the kind Lucy wanted Charlie to buy for the pageant-you really have to appreciate Charlie’s bold choice. Each year, like Charlie Brown, I look for the true meaning of the holiday, beyond the hustle and the bustle of shopping, wrapping presents, and generally rushing to get things done in time. Of course, in addition to the story itself, I love composer Vince Guaraldi’s setting of some of my favorite Christmas songs.
- Topping my list of favorite Christmas movies is White ChristmasHoliday Inn (1942) is the better Christmas film to showcase Berlin’s wonderful tunes, but I would disagree. White Christmas seems more like a Christmas story to me because buried in it is a message about the meaning of true friendship and the holiday spirit. I like the humor too-in part because Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye make a good on screen pair in this movie. One of my favorite scenes in the movie is Crosby and Kaye lip-syncing to the song “Sisters.” Kaye makes that scene. His facial expressions are perfect. Finally, one of my favorite movie lines of all time, “forty-five minutes all to myself” comes from White Christmas. The solution Danny Kaye proposes to have some time alone-marry off Bing Crosby-might not be my solution, but sometimes I really do wish I had more time to relax. When I am overwhelmed with work, that line comes to mind. (1954). As a fan of Hollywood musicals from the 1930s to the 1950s, it is no wonder that this Christmas tale set to the music of Irving Berlin ranks highest on my list. Now some people will tell you that
I suspect that you too have your favorite holiday movie. Hopefully you will find the time this season to relax and enjoy it. If you have extra time, be sure to check out one of my favorites too and let me know what you think.
Sarah Katherine Mergel, Ph.D., specializes in American political and intellectual history since the Civil War. Her primary area of research is the rise of modern conservatism and its effects on political developments, cultural trends, social issues, and international relations.
Image: National Christmas Tree, 1978. Courtesy National Archives & Records Administration.