Review by C.J. Bunce
If Turner Classic Movies says that Die Hard is a Christmas movie, then the discussion is over finally, right?
It’s that time of year again and Turner Classic Movies is back showing some of the best Christmas movies from across the decades. This year host Ben Mankiewicz is interviewing author Jeremy Arnold before and after the screening of movies Arnold has selected to feature in his new book, TCM: Christmas in the Movies–30 Classics to Celebrate the Season. And yes, Arnold’s list includes Die Hard. So as the British say, “end of.” Most readers and movie fans will likely agree with at least twenty of the selections discussed in the book, and the rest are there ready for some good discussions with friends over some egg nog this holiday season.
It’s also likely this bucket list of movies has several films that even avid movie watchers may have missed. I set up my DVR to pick up a few in the book I hadn’t seen yet and was surprised at how superb a selection Holiday Affair is. It stars Janet Leigh, Robert Mitchum, Wendell Corey, Henry Morgan, plus young Gordon Gebert in what must be the best-ever performance by a child actor in a Christmas movie. This is exactly the kind of value you get with a book like Christmas in the Movies–this movie will now be added to my own favorite Christmas movie list. For each entry Arnold discusses the actors, plot, audience reception and the impact of the film, and why it’s a good Christmas season film for audiences today.
Along with Die Hard, which is smartly defended by Arnold, you’ll find the usual suspects like Miracle on 34th Street, It’s a Wonderful Life, White Christmas, A Christmas Story, and Elf, plus some lesser known gems, like Remember the Night, the first of four films that would pair Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray, plus Ginger Rogers and Joseph Cotten in I’ll Be Seeing You, and Humphrey Bogart in We’re No Angels. Arnold picks up genre films Gremlins and The Nightmare Before Christmas, and even a few Westerns, including 3 Godfathers starring John Wayne.
These aren’t all your typical happy holiday films. Arnold sees as a theme of many films set during Christmas the dysfunctional family–a component of more Christmas classics than you might think. Repeating players and themes include Jimmy Stewart, Barbara Stanwyck, Edith Head, Michael Curtiz, John Hughes, writer/directors, the impact of war, and ghostly spirits.
Add Arnold’s list of 30 movies to the Rankin/Bass television specials, A Muppet Christmas Carol (mentioned in Arnold’s discussion of 1951’s Scrooge), A Charlie Brown Christmas, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and–whether you’re actively watching or just have the TV on in the background as you go about celebrating this year–your holiday season of television will be completely covered. Check out the TCM website for December holiday movie listings here.
There’s something for everyone in TCM: Christmas in the Movies–30 Classics to Celebrate the Season, and it’s a great prompt to add some classics you haven’t seen to your December television watch list. Full of color and black and white photo stills, movie posters, and more, TCM: Christmas in the Movies–30 Classics to Celebrate the Season is available from Running Press now here at Amazon.
In case you missed it, don’t forget to check out our review of an earlier book in the TCM series, Must-See Sci-Fi, here at borg.com.