The Shop Around The Corner (1940)
Two employees of a Budapest music shop who ostensibly hate one another become anonymous pen–pals (neither is aware of the other’s identity). Alfred (Jimmy Stewart) figures it out early on, but it takes Klara (Margaret Sullavan) a bit longer.
If this sounds familiar, it’s because this beautiful film also inspired the insipid You’ve Got Mail. That’s exactly where the similarities end; Shop is filled with charm and grace and is blessed by the direction of the great Ernst Lubitsch.
Supporting players include Joseph Schildkraut and William Tracy.
“Oh, my Dear Friend, my heart was trembling as I walked into the post office, and there you were, lying in Box 237."
Now Showing: December 16th at 10:00 AM on TCM
The Lion In Winter (1968)
During Christmas of 1183, an aging King Henry II (Peter O’Toole) holds a reunion where he plans to name his successor. The family includes his scheming, estranged wife Eleanor of Aquitaine (Katharine Hepburn), his mistress, his three sons and King Philip of Spain. Machinations, treachery and deception are handed out like after dinner mints (and you thought *you* had a difficult family).
The first rate supporting cast includes Anthony Hopkins (son Richard) and Timothy Dalton as Philip of Spain. Not 100% historically accurate (show me a film that is), but the backgrounds and eventual destinies of the characters are correct.
This is the film for which Katharine Hepburn tied with Barbra Streisand (for Funny Girl) for the Best Actress Oscar.
“What family doesn't have its ups and downs?”
Now Showing: December 14th at 5:45 PM on TCM
The Man Who Came To Dinner (1942)
Benjamin Franklin famously said “Guests and fish begin to smell after 3 days”. The Stanleys would say he overestimated by about two days, 23 hours and 59 minutes.
While on a cross–country lecture tour, self–important, pompous blowhard, cyanide–tongued radio host Rush Limbau ... uh ... Sheridan Whiteside takes a fall on a icy front stoop of at the home of a local family, breaks his hip and is forced recuperate there over the Christmas holidays.
The stage play on which this is based (written by Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman) has become a classic, and deservedly so. The dialogue is as sharp as it comes and the delivery by all is impeccable. The supporting cast includes Bette Davis as Whiteside’s long–suffering secretary, professional flibberdigibbet Billie Burke and Grant Mitchell as the hapless Stanleys, Ann Sheridan as Lorraine Sheldon (an actress whose vanity makes Kim Kardashian look like Mother Teresa) and Jimmy Durante as Banjo.
The characters of Whiteside, Lorraine Sheldon, Beverly Carlton (Reginald Gardiner) and Banjo were all based on real life people: Alexander Woollcot, Gertrude Lawrence, Noel Coward and Harpo Marx.
Enough cannot be said about Mr Woolley’s performance. He created the role on the stage, but was scheduled to be replaced in the film by John Barrymore. Sadly, Barrymore’s heavy drinking prevented him from delivering the fast paced dialogue and Woolley was summoned.
“And now, will you all now leave quietly, or must I ask Miss Cutler to pass among you with a baseball bat?”
Now Showing: December 22nd at 6:00 PM on TCM
Santa’s sleigh gets caught in the sand on a Florida beach and he tells some kids about Thumbelina and then he’s rescued by the ice cream bunny and then your mom picks you up from the kiddie matinee and you’re so full of Dots and root beer that you aren’t sure if you actually saw that movie or imagined it in a high fructose corn syrup–induced haze.
I don’t make ‘em folks…I just write about ‘em.
Starring no one you’ve ever heard of.
“I think I'd better my coat on, very quickly. Can't let anybody see Santa Claus without his coat”
Now Showing: nowhere, ever, if there’s a God in heaven
There are quite a few horror/slasher films with murderous Santas and Christmas bloodbaths. I’ve chosen not to include them because to me, they are now as ubiquitous as It’s A Wonderful Life. However, this one is a bit different.
Santa here is not a traumatized child who grew up to hate Christmas, nor a psychopath who runs around hanging people by the chimney with care. This Santa is the real deal…the original Santa, the one who punishes bad children instead of rewarding good ones.
Things start to go very wrong when a Finnish excavating team uses explosives to unearth an archaeological dig. First reindeer, and then recalcitrant children start to go missing in the nearby town.
Roger Ebert gave it 3.5 out of 4 stars.
“He knows if you’ve been bad or good, and he doesn’t give a sh…”
Trailer (WARNING: graphic language and images): http://youtu.be/T5woAOEvuNI
We’re No Angels (1955)
Three Devil’s Island escapees – Joseph (Humphrey Bogart) , Albert (Aldo Ray) and Jules (Peter Ustinov) – arrive in a small French colonial town with less than honorable intentions. They have a change of heart (sorta) while spending Christmas with a local merchant and his family.
It is just a joy watching Bogey play comedy, and Ray and Ustinov are the perfect duo.
The supporting cast includes Joan Bennett, Basil Rathbone, Leo G. Carroll and Adolph, the viper.
Avoid the 1989 remake with Robert DeNiro & Sean Penn at all costs.
“I'll say one thing about prison. You meet a better class of people.”
Now Showing: December 9th at 8:00 PM on TCM
Next week: the world's most tragic landscaper, a dog with a hearing problem and Love, Actually (yeah, I caved)
And remember…friends don’t let friends watch remakes of films