TCM Greatest Classic Films: Holiday (4FE) (DVD)
Christmas in Connecticut Christmas in Connecticut
is a holiday film that plays 365 days of the year. Barbara Stanwyck gives a brilliant, sardonic performance as Elizabeth Lane, a columnist for Smart Housekeeping
magazine, whose enticing descriptions of the exquisite meals she prepares for her husband and baby on their bucolic Connecticut farm earns her fame as "America's Best Cook." A writer, she is; a cook, she is not. As she types the words, "From my living room window, as I write, the good cedar logs cracking on the fire..." the view is of clothes flapping on the line outside her bachelorette Manhattan apartment. An able supporting cast keeps her lie on life support: her editor, her stuffy and detestable architect suitor, and the wonderful "Uncle" Felix (S.Z. Sakall), an English-garbling Hungarian chef who provides the recipes that fill her column.
Cut to Jefferson Jones, a sailor adrift at sea for weeks after his destroyer is torpedoed. Memories of the food described in Lane's columns are central to his survival. After his rescue, as he's recuperating in a naval hospital, a marriage-minded nurse thinks she might nudge Jones to the altar if he could only experience a real domestic Christmas. And it just so happens that she was nurse to the grandchild of Alexander Yardley, the wealthy and powerful publisher of --you guessed it--Smart Housekeeping magazine. And so, she pens the letter that could unravel Lane's carefully constructed fraud. She writes to Yardley asking that Jones be included in America's ultimate Christmas--the one to be held at the Lane family farm in Connecticut. The pompous Yardley (ably portrayed by Sidney Greenstreet) believes the Lane myth and instantly sniffs a story that will send his magazine's circulation skyrocketing. And staring down a lonely holiday, he decides to join the Lanes for Christmas on the farm, too. Now, all Lane has to do is come up with a farm. And a husband. And let's not forget the baby. Christmas in Connecticut is classic screwball entertainment of the best kind, with its on-target skewering of social convention and house-of- cards-about-to-tumble tension: a perfect farcical vision of domestic blitz. --Susan Benson
A Christmas Carol 1938
This is the desert-island choice of the many versions of A Christmas Carol, with a magnificent, full-bodied portrayal of Ebenezer Scrooge by Alastair Sim that leaves everyone else in the dust. Lean and direct, this film's version of the story wastes no time trying to impress viewers with the magical nature of the spirits' visitations. Director Brian Desmond Hurst keeps the focus on Scrooge's life story, beautifully simplifying and underscoring the theme of lost women with a haunting musical refrain from the folk song "Barbara Allen." Sim's commitment to the role is at times astonishing; his Scrooge's Christmas-morning ecstasy is a marvel of giddy technique. Watch for Patrick Macnee (Steed in The Avengers) as the young Jacob Marley--the actor made his screen debut in this 1951 production. --Tom Keogh
The Shop Around the Corner
One of the most charming and romantic films around, this 1940 comic romance finds James Stewart (Vertigo, It's A Wonderful Life) working in a small shop in Budapest and longing for a girl to call his own. His coworker, Margaret Sullavan, feels the same, and soon they are both corresponding and falling in love with their respective pen pals. What they don't realize is that they are writing to and falling in love with each other, but the problem is that they can't stand each other in person. The beguiling nature of the mistaken identity formula that influenced countless films is done to perfection here, and the wry combativeness and delightful banter between the two leads makes this a very special film. --Robert Lane
It Happened on 5th Avenue
Making his winter home in a vacant New York City mansion,owned by vacationing industrialist Michael O'Connor (Charlie Ruggles), a philosophizing hobo decides to take in a homeless ex-G.I. O'Connor's unhappy daughter, Trudy (Gale Storm), running away from finishing school, returns home unexpectedly but doesn't tell anyone who she is or who her dad is when he comes looking for her disguised as a butler. Meanwhile, O'Connor unwittingly competes with the ex-G.I. in a land deal. The film, nominated best original story, contains a worthwhile message of self worth.