Saturday, November 26, 2011


DEBORAH CROMBIE: Hooray, it's the Jungle Red Saturday List, and now that Thanksgiving is over, we are of course thinking about Christmas. But just to take the sting out of all the hoopla of shopping, wrapping, mailing, decorating, and sending cards, I thought we should turn our minds to pure, unadulterated pleasure--Christmas movies. I love Christmas movies, unabashedly, and would happily watch them non-stop for a month if I could find the time.

I meant to say limit your choice to one movie, but since I'm going to cheat and put in two, everyone else can, too.

Oh, so many to choose from! But my very close second spot goes to LOVE ACTUALLY, which I will undoubtedly make my husband watch at least once, and he will complain that it's incredibly sappy but watch it anyway, bless him.

#1, however, must go to A Christmas Story. Although this movie debuted in 1983, I didn't see it until my husband introduced me to it in the mid-nineties, and I've been in love with it ever since. It is a writer's movie if ever there was one, adapted from Jean Shepherd's story, "Red Ryder Nails the Hammond Kid," first published in the December, 1965, issue of Playboy Magazine. (How many of you knew that?) Wonderful performances from Darren McGavin, Melinda Dillon, and Peter Billingsly as "Ralphie." (Peter Billingsly, by the way, grew up to be quite dishy. Recognize him without the glasses?)

So, Reds, what are YOUR faves?

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: LOVE, ACTUALLY, is my favorite. Absolutely. NO question, no second thoughts. I play the album all the time--and people say, isn't that a Christmas movie? And I don't care. Second? Ah...I'm stumped. I do like It's a Wonderful Life, especially the dancing on the swimming pool,but --shrugging. Sometimes I think it's creepy. (What can I say? He was going to kill himself, and leave his whole family?) You've Got Mail? How about that? But I don't like the ending.

JAN BROGAN: Miracle on 34th Street, hands down. What better fantasy than one of those shopping mall Santas is the real guy. And it's got to be the version with Natalie Wood as the little girl. Although I am a big fan of A Christmas Story, I still think my second place goes to It's A Wonderful Life - even if I groan a little at the length of it.

RHYS BOWEN: I have so many favorites, including "You'll shoot your eye out!" but every year I don't feel Christmassy until I watch WHITE CHRISTMAS and IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE. (And I also love Scrooge, but that would be cheating to slip another one in, wouldn't it :)

ROSEMARY HARRIS: So mean to make us stick to just two! I love all of the movies mentioned - Albert Finney as Scrooge, so brilliant.(But so was Bill Murray.)
Okay...stop cheating.)

A Christmas Carol - must be the Alistair Sim version and Love Actually. I will probably watch that twice between now and New Year's. "I feel it in my fingers, I feel it in my toes....."

DEBS: Hank and Rosemary, I LOVE the soundtrack to Love Actually. It's stayed at the top of my playlist for years. I wonder what ever happened to that darling girl singer?

ROSEMARY: I had googled her a while ago! Her name is Olivia Olson and she's still singing and still cute as a button. Here's a link to her version of All I Want from Love Actually:

HALLIE EPHRON: You've named all my favorites! Top of the list, I agree with you, Debs: A Christmas Story. Testament to its staying power: I saw in one of the store ads (K-Mart? Target?) that sexy leg and tassel lamp the father lusts after.

For a little less treacle, I like Home for the Holidays. Holly Hunter has to spend the holidays with her family, where she so does NOT want to be. Brilliant turn by Robert Downey Jr. Plus Ernst Lubitsch's The Shop Around the Corner (Margaret Sullavan and James Stewart at their most vulnerable) - watch it back to back with its adaptation You've Got Mail.

LUCY BURDETTE: Sleepless in Seattle, not completely Christmas but the holiday's in there. Going to watch Love Actually again, along with A Christmas Story and Home for the Holidays. thanks for the suggestions!

JAN: Lucy, I think you just cheated :) Watch out for coal in your stocking from my Macy's Santa.

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: I must be the oldies fan in the bunch. Two of my favorites are Christmas in Connecticut (1945) and White Christmas (1954.) The first one has the stunningly fashionable Barbara Stanwick who does what we'd call lifestyle blogging today. Except she's a complete fake who lives in a West Side apartment and who can't cook. Caught out by her publisher's offer to host a wounded vet, she has to scramble to recreate her "perfect" rural lifestyle - complete with husband and baby!

Everyone knows the second. How can you go wrong with Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye and Vera Lynne and the incomparable Rosemary Harris, all harmonizing on "Snow" as they take the train up to Vermont? It has all the hallmarks of the 1950's musical - songs that make no sense, silly romantic mix-ups, and a stage in a barn that's larger than Lincoln Center. I love it.

DEBS: Okay, I'm cheating--how could I have forgotten The Holiday? I love that one,
and would watch it over and over just to see Eli Wallach.

I'm putting Home for the Holidays on my to-watch list, and some of the ones I haven't seen in years, like Christmas in Connecticut and White Christmas.

Sounds like a great alternative to shopping!

So, what about you, readers? No cheating--well, maybe a little... Tell us your faves!


  1. National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, especially for the scene of the dog yakking up the bone under the dinner table, and the whole damn thing shakes. I've lost count of how many times I've rewound that part.

  2. My favorite is "Miracle on 34th Street" (the original). I am one of the few who do not like "It's a Wonderful Life" and "A Christmas Story"

  3. Rosemary Clooney? JS-F. I love those movies!

  4. Rosemary Harris IS incomparable, but she was not even alive when Rosemary Clooney starred in the 1954 movie White Christmas.

    The song "White Christmas" was actually written in 1940, and was sung by Bing Crosby in a movie called Holiday Inn, which came out in 1942. But it's best known for being part of the movie with the same name.

    I didn't know The Christmas Story started out as an article! Interesting bit of trivia.

    My favorite Christmas show isn't a movie at all, it's the ballet the Nutcracker. You can keep any version whatsoever of A Christmas Carol. Ugh.

    Saving this blog for future reference on Netflix nights. Thanks!

  5. I've never been into traditional holiday flicks. I prefer funny and slightly twisted, like "Home for the Holidays" as mentioned, and "About A Boy" with Hugh Grant & Toni Collette. Cheating with more than two, but I also like rom-coms too, especially "Sleepless in Seattle", that kind of thing.

  6. Lethal Weapon. Nothing says "Christmas" like coke busts in a Christmas tree lot. :) Or a theme of redemption - a man who doesn't care if he lives or dies finally realizing he wants to live.

  7. White Christmas, hands down. I always cry toward the end when the general walks into the room, and everyone stands. (sniff)

    Now, I'm going to make every one of you jealous. The Captiva Library on Captiva Island was very small, and we'd run it often with just one person when I was manager there. One day, I was alone, and Jean Shepherd came in. He proceeded to sit down, and spend an hour spinning stories, kicking out ideas, just for me! It was the only time I ever met him, and it was pure magic. I loved that job at Captiva. You never knew who would walk in the door.

  8. Christmas in Connecticut! Because Barbara Stanwick really shines and who doesn't love Felix Bassenak! And the Bishop's Wife, because I always loved Lorretta Young and David Niven. But Cary Grant fairly twinkles.

  9. Lesa, I am SO jealous!I would love to have met Jean Shepherd....

  10. "Love, Actually" gets my vote, with its interwoven human stories (and great actors). It makes me laugh and tear up every year.

  11. More, more, more...thank you Karen, I was not alive when that movie was made, but I do a mean version of Sisters (lord help the mister...)
    We haven't mentioned any animated films so I'm going to add my two faves The Snowman (LOVE the music and the images are so beautiful) and a Charlie Brown Christmas.

  12. AnnOxford..I love The Bishop's Wife, too. Have you ever seen The Preacher's Wife..remake with Denzel Washington and Whitney Houston? Not bad.

  13. "Sisters"--so do I, Rosemary!

    Duet, next year at Bouchercon. You and me, sister!

  14. Julia, how did I miss Christmas in Connecticut?? Of to find that IMMEDIATELY! What a gift..thank you!

  15. Lesa, I am swooning!!

    And Rosemary ,we must do a duet.. (but lord help the si-ter, who..)

  16. White Christmas (always cry)Charlie Brown Christmas, Frosty the snowman and Miracle on 34th, The Bishop's Wife, Twas the Night Before Christmas, are my fave classic, growing up movies.
    More Current - The Christmas List, Comfort and Joy, The Santa Clause, Elf, Borrowed Hearts

  17. The Holiday - AND - One Magic Christmas. Which is a total doom and gloom story until the end. I LOVE it.

  18. "A Christmas Carol" (the George C. Scott version -- though if I could pick three movies, I'd add the Patrick Stewart version as well.) And the delightful "A Child's Christmas in Wales", a made-for-television version of the Dylan Thomas story/poem, with Denholm Eliot as the grandfather telling the story. Magical.

  19. Love Actually top choice. I also like While You Were Sleeping, a romantic comedy with Andra Bullock that's actually more about falling in love with a family. But our family tradition is to watch the whole A&E Pride & Prejudice (with Colin Firth as Darcy) each Christmas, ever since my youngest son was bedridden after surgery one Christmas and received it as a gift.

  20. Awww..Linda. That's lovely..xoxo to your whole family..

  21. Thanks, Hank, and right back at you. Also, I see I left a typo in that comment. While You Were Sleeping stars Sandra Bullock--I have no idea who Andra Bullock is, though he sounds... interesting. ;-)

  22. Many of my choices as favorite Christmas movie have been listed. I love, love, love The Bishop's Wife with Cary Grant and Loretta Young. I even like the re-make The Preacher's Wife with Denzel Washington. My absolute favorite version of The Christmas Carol is The Muppets Christmas Carol. My family watches it every year - several times during the holidays. One of my favorite songs the Kermit sings is "One More Sleep Till Christmas" and that has become a standard "phrase" for any thing we are looking forward to...One more sleep till vacation, one more sleep till payday, .... lol

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  24. We have a family tradition of watching Christmas movies over the week leading up to the holiday. I would have to say my favorites are Elf, Home Alone, and Rudolf. Here is list and complete run down of my top 11 Christmas movies