An article about the great films of Christmas which have delighted us through the years during this most special holiday season.
There are many a Christmas film to entertain during this most special time of year and in spite of this tradition not going back as far as the music and stories that accompany this season; it has become just as much apart of Christmas as any other. Christmas films; now a days are just as eagerly awaited as perhaps the season itself by cinema goers all over the world with every season bringing on a new batch, most of which will probably be forgotten before the season returns the following year.
With regards to the history behind these films perhaps it can be said that the first films of this season limited themselves to subjects which portrayed the birth and life of Jesus Christ or at least the way it is said to have taken place in the “New Testament” of the bible. These films concentrating on showing three wise men being lead by a star to a place where the virgin Mary gave birth to the one whom Christians through out the world have called the messiah. Some films would include the events of Jesus’ life but for the most part these films of Christmas would limit themselves to the events that preceded his birth.
With time however Christmas films as did perhaps the season itself; moved away from only being focused on the birth of Christ and started including such themes as Santa Claus. This being the man who supposedly lives in the North Pole and gives presents to all those children, regardless of any condition other then weather or not they have been good through out the year.
Christmas eventually stretched beyond even these two themes and like Christmas itself which expanded so did the films concerning this time of year, to include the effect this season has on most people and their relationships to one another. As a strange coincidence or perhaps it was not the first film to go a way from these two themes was “A Christmas Carol”, based on the famous book written by Charles Dickens. As it might have been this story which was the first to concentrate on another matter concerning Christmas other then Jesus or Santa Claus.
With regards however to film versions of “A Christmas Carol”, the first of which was not even given this title but “Scrooge” (though sometimes also referred to as “Marley’s ghost”), it being released way back in 1901 as a short film. Many films however would follow based on the theme created by Dickens though perhaps the one that sticks out the most from all these versions of the same, at least as far as those which are in black and white is the one staring Reginald Owen in 1938 in the role of the Ebenezer Scrooge. The biter old man who needed to be reminded by three ghosts sent to him by his deceased business partner, Marley of the joy he once held for Christmas which had been replaced by his greed for money.
Where “A Christmas Carol” can be said to have been the first film to focus on other then religious subjects perhaps it is the film “It’s A Wonderful Life” which in a way goes back to them though again not concentrating on Jesus’ birth but on an angel coming down to earth to assist “George Bailey”. This being a man who on Christmas day decided that his path would be suicide to escape from a life he considered not to have been of use to any; only to be proven that in fact many around him would be far worse of if he had not been born.
“It’s A Wonderful Life” in my opinion and that of many (at least in the United States) others has in recent years replaced “A Christmas Carol” as far as being the most symbolic film of the Christmas season. As it perhaps even more so then “A Christmas Carol” captures that spirit so abundant during this season. That being the spirit of giving and sharing with our neighbors specially should they be in need or if they through out their lives have done as much as George Bailey did for those in his town of Bedford Falls. As for myself personally I would have to say that looking at this film even from a critical angle, that it is the one that I would recommend above all others when it comes to Christmas films. It combining sentimentalism but in a strange manner those who are portrayed as such are also shown as being practical. After all they in a way are simply showing their gratitude to the man who was responsible for them being able to buy the homes they live in. This sentiment being exclaimed in the line “I wouldn’t even have a roof over my head it if wasn’t for you George” used by one of the characters who contributes to solve George’s dilemma over the money which had been stolen from his savings and loan.
Perhaps one of the reasons why “It’s A Wonderful Life” has replaced “A Christmas Carol” as the standard Christmas film is because “It’s A Wonderful Life” contrary to “A Christmas Carol” has not had so many different versions made, which makes it that when people refer to it they naturally only think of the one made by Capra staring James Stewart. This being the case though a very forgettable version called “It happened One Christmas” was made in 1977 which given the fact that many were not familiar with the original version at the time become very popular. This till “It’s A Wonderful Life” was made popular on TV to the point of almost being shown at least once a day at Christmas time. All of which sending “It happened One Christmas” back to the obscurity from which it should have never left.
“A Christmas Carol” however has had many versions made of it, making it almost that there is no version which can be considered classic or even the original one. All of which making it hard for film viewers to focus on any one particular version or associating the main character “Ebenezer Scrooge” with any particular actor, given that many from George C. Scot to Henry Winkler (mostly known for his portrayal of the “Happy Days” character the “Fonz”) to Reginald Owen have played have played it. This not being the case for George Bailey; as this character has come to be associated exclusively with James Stewart.
“A Christmas Carol” perhaps because it was first known as a great piece of literature went on however to have its theme repeated not only in many a film but TV serials as well. For instance “The Odd Couple” did so when Oscar dreamed he was “Scrooge” being visited by the ghost of Felix; given that the ghost of Marley could not make it given that it was his busiest time of year. “The Six Million Dollar Man”, a TV show about a man turned part robot also took from this theme as did many a cartoon like “Mr. Magoo” and even Walt Disney cashed in on the idea using Donald Duck’s rich but often parsimonious Scottish uncle.
However, many are the films regarding Christmas that I would say deserve honorable mention such as “The Christmas That Almost Wasn’t”, which I might add I went to see with my class while a student at the parochial school I attended in my early years in New York City. “The Christmas That Almost Wasn’t” I would recommend as being nice though it perhaps lacks somewhat in originality as it takes a page from “It’s A Wonderful Life”. This coming in the form that it is the children who help Santa raise the money he needs to pay off his debt or the toys he has worked on all year will be taken instead.
However when mentioning Christmas films there are some which I would not take even the most rotten kids I know to see such as the one made with Dudley Moore called “Santa Claus” or “Miracle On 34th Street”. This last film being in extremely poor taste in my opinion; as it tries to show the hardships of a “poor little girl” who cries because she has to content herself with living in luxurious apartment on Westside of Central Park; given her mother does not own an equally posh house in the country. This “poor girl’s” tragedy is even augmented because she has no father, as if her more then loving mother were not enough. This making me think of how one could classify those orphaned children I saw living on the streets of South America, who had to do with much less then this spoilt American child; while not having anybody what so ever.
Of course there are other films which were made and can be purchased on DVD such as “The Bells Of Saint Marry” though this film I know very little about as I have neither seen it nor read its synopsis and what little I do know about it is that there is a Swedish actress by the name of Ingrid Bergman, who plays a nun. This being what I picked up from a scene in “The Godfather” in which Michael Corleone (played by Al Pacino) and his girlfriend, Kate (Played by Diane Keaton) walk out of Radio City (when they showed films there) after seeing it and comment on how perhaps Michael would prefer it if Kate were a nun or Ingrid Bergman. I having little in the way of knowledge about this film can not recommend it though I have heard from many that it is worth seeing but then again this was what I heard about that tactless film “Miracle On 34th Street”.
As for animated films that have taken my interest during this time of year, I would have to say that “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas” ranks up there as one of the finest films I have seen connected to this time of year. This 30 minute animated film by “Doctor Zeus” showing how a little girl teaches the mean Grinch, that there is more to Christmas then toys and decorations; is a real Christmas classic which no child should ever miss. Those who see this film in English and are old enough might recognize the voice of Boris Karloff (real name William Pratt), also known for his portrayal of Frankenstein. Where I recommend this animated film I by no means do so the idiotic film version made in recent years with the same title by director Ron Howard (also known for his portrayal of the Happy Days character Ritchie Cunningham) staring Jim Carey. This because I have a hard time deciding if this film is even a bigger tragedy then some of the other Christmas disasters I have tried to watch on TV; most of which I will not even mention in this article.
TV shows have also contributed great stories for this time of year known as Christmas and it is with all my heart that I would like to recommend to those who should read this article, that this Christmas they turn on Youtube and watch the episode of the Twilight Zone; entitled “Night Of The Meek”. This being a truly igneous story of a man of good nature by the name of Henry Corwin; who through the magic that is Christmas is literally transformed in to Santa Claus but not before having been fired from his Job as the department store Santa Clause for drunkenness.
It is this story which I would say is my favorite as far as stories portraying the character who is also known as Saint Nick. As it portrays Henry Corwin as a generous man, who drinks because he is unable to help the poor and helpless one’s as he refers to them who are all around him. One of which contrary to the child in “Miracle On 34th Street” asks not for a house in the country but a job for his unemployed father. It is however when confronted by a bag of Christmas presents which seems to not only never run out of presents but have in it all that those around ask for; such as toys, sweaters and just about anything anybody could want that Henry Corwin gets what he always wanted. To become the biggest gift giver of all.
In conclusion I would say that Christmas is a wonderful time of year and perhaps in a way it is made more so by the films mentioned in this article; for they thanks to their stories show us how this time of year can truly bring people closer together in a way that nothing else can. As for a personal confession of mine, I must say that “It’s A Wonderful Life” along with “The Night Of Meek” never fail to bring tears to my eyes. This being the case regardless of weather I find myself watching or even describing their plots as I have done so in this piece of mine.