Christmas movie time comes but once a year – and it seems to me that some of my favourite Christmas movies boast some very stylish characters, some of whom have influenced me over the, ahem, decades.. In The Bishop’s Wife (1947), Loretta Young (above) is not really a fashionplate, but I have always covetted her black ankle boots and, one year, my Christmas wish came true when I stumbled across a pair in the Office sale – immediately after seeing that lovely Christmas movie on the big screen at the Glasgow Film Theatre. Another festive favourite is The Man Who Came To Dinner (1942) which is not only gloriously funny, but also boasts some covetable ensembles sported by Ann Sheridan (below) who played a Hollywood movie star. I’ll be looking at her – and Bette Davis’s – wardrobe from that film in another post but here’s a publicity shot of one of her Orry-Kelly outfits.A movie which is often forgotten about in the festive film roll call is the deliciously stylish Bell, Book and Candle (1958) which shows off a modern day Manhattan witch’s simple, sexy and elegant wardrobe to delightful effect. Kim Novak slinks around memorably in a selection of Jean Louis clothes, while working her magic on unsuspecting James Stewart. Like Bell, Book and Candle, The Thin Man (1934) isn’t usually included in festive movie round-ups – its status as an influential screwball comedy, and as the first in one of the most successful series of Hollywood films of the 1930s, tends to take precedence – but it is set around the Christmas holidays. Myrna Loy appears in a number of wonderfully chic outfits by the British costume designer Dolly Tree. Her jaunty tartan get-up is immortalised in this lovely sketch.
Tag Archives: The Man Who Came to Dinner
Strangely for something with as much sentimental potential as Christmas, there is only a handful of really classic Christmas movies. Yet, every year, this buff draws up a list of Christmas movies to watch in the run-up to the big day – and every year she fails miserably to get through them all.
The viewing itinerary usually kicks off with a little-known 1945 comedy called The Cheaters, which is getting a rare screening on Channel 4 this weekend. With a screwball cast that includes the elephantine Eugene Pallette and the twittery Billie Burke (best remembered as Glinda from The Wizard of Oz), it’s about a family of hard-up socialites who – in order to impress their daughter’s rich suitor – take in the down-and-out Joseph Schildkraut over Christmas, and learn a thing or two about dignity from him.
The Cheaters makes a nice double bill with Christmas in Connecticut (pictured), another rarely shown 1945 comedy, this time about a sophisticated magazine columnist (Barbara Stanwyck) forced to live up to her phoney reputation as a Nigella-style domestic goddess when her editor decides to spend the holidays at her country cottage.
Continuing the unwelcome guest theme, The Man Who Came to Dinner (1941) is one I always manage to squeeze in to the viewing schedule. A gloriously funny comedy, it stars Monty Woolley as the obnoxious “idol of the airwaves” Sheridan Whiteside (a character based on the humorist Alexander Woollcott) who, during a lecture tour, breaks his leg and has to spend his recovery – and Christmas – at the home of the unlucky mid-west family outside whose house he slipped.
“Christmas may be postponed this year,” says one gossip column reporting the accident which has left the Stanley family confined to the upstairs quarters of their own home. The snazzy script, packed with one-liners, is a joy and the performances – by Billie Burke (again), Bette Davis, chic glamourpuss Ann Sheridan (my Christmas style icon), the wonderful character actress Mary Wickes and Jimmy Durante (playing a character based on Harpo Marx) – are as sparkling as a glass of Christmas bubbly.
Versions – live and animated – of A Christmas Carol abound, but the most atmospheric and haunting of all is the 1951 British classic, Scrooge, with the peerless Scots actor Alastair Sim gloriously dour as the miser who claims that “Christmas is a humbug” until he is visited by three spirits on Christmas Eve and realises that friendship and love are worth more than money.
Wash that one down with the gentler The Bishop’s Wife (1947), a grown-up romantic fantasy in which Cary Grant stars as a particularly debonair and charming angel named Dudley, who answers the prayers of a stressed-out clergyman (David Niven)and his neglected wife (Loretta Young) at Christmas-time, and leaves a trail of swooning ladies in his wake.
Or settle down with family favourite Miracle on 34th Street (1947 – a vintage year for Christmas movies) in which department store Santa Edmund Gwenn has to prove that he’s the real McCoy to a non-believing seven-year-old (Natalie Wood).
Heartwarming Christmas scenes feature in plenty of movies, but the ones worth digging out in the run-up to midnight are Little Women (any of the three versions will do, as long as you have your hankies handy) and Meet Me In St Louis (1944).
Although it covers a whole year in the lives of the characters it depicts, Meet Me In St Louis easily qualifies as a festive film: not only does it embody all the sentiments of the season, but it also features Judy Garland introducing the beautiful song Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas which is guaranteed to jerk a few buckets’ worth of tears.
The hours spanning Christmas Eve and Christmas morning should be spent in the company of Clarence the Angel, Zuzu, George, Uncle Billy and everyone else in Frank Capra’s evergreen It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) – the definitive Christmas movie.
And, if by December 27, I feel that I’ve overdosed on the old Christmas spirit, Billy Wilder’s The Apartment (1960) will provide just the right amount of cynicism to prepare me for the horrors of Hogmanay…