David M. Riley

My Favorite Christmas Movie

I’ve been through them all.  Miracle on 34th Street, Christmas in ConnecticutHoliday Affair, The Lemon Drop Kid, White Christmas, Bad Santa , and Die Hard 2 (Bruce Willis fighting some terrorists taking over air traffic control at a Washington DC airport on Christmas eve, what more could you ask for?), and I’ve loved them all.  Something about Christmas movies that touches my sentimental heart.

I was an early convert to It’s A Wonderful Life.  The movie was a flop when it was released in 1946 and forgotten until the mid-70’s when PBS discovered it was in the public domain and began showing it each holiday season. I think I watched that first year, and since I am a fan of both Jimmy Stewart and Frank Capra, and because it’s a great film, it became a favorite.

My favorite these days, though, is Remember the Night is a little gem of a romantic comedy that lingered in obscurity until Turner Classic Movies started showing it a few years ago.  A wonderful Christmas movie.

From 1940 with Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray, just four years before the two stars would team up again to play illicit lovers who kill Stanwyck’s husband in the film noir classic, Double Indemnity, this movie, written by Preston Sturges, is as traditional and sentimental as you can get.  And great fun.

The story involves Stanwyck getting arrested during the Christmas holidays for shoplifting.  MacMurray, the Assistant District Attorney, prosecutes her.  The trial starts just before Christmas, but is postponed and MacMurray posts Stanwyck’s bail so she won’t spend Christmas in jail.  He’s going back home to Indiana for the holiday, and when he learns that she is a fellow Hoosier, he offers give her a lift . . . the rest is pure 1940’s hokum at its best, elevated to, in my opinion, classic status owing to the talent and watchability of the two stars.  Also in the film is  is Beulah Bondi (aka Ma Bailey), and Sterling Holloway.

A word or two about Mr. Sterling Price Holloway Jr. (1905 – 1992):  He was an American character actor and voice over actor who appeared in over 100 films and 40 television shows.  He known for his distinctive tenor voice, and was the original voice of the title character in Walt Disney’s Winnie the Pooh.  He also had a wonderful singing voice that you’ll hear in the clip below.

Do yourself a favor and catch this delightful warm-hearted movie when TCM airs it on Dec. 22 at 10PM Eastern, 7PM Pacific,

Here is a clip from Remember the Night, with Stanwyck, Biondi, and Holloway who sings a very old song very beautifully.