In the world of classic Christmas movies, few remain as iconic as the tender Frank Capra jewel "It's a Wonderful Life." And if you love big-hearted films from Hollywood's Golden Age such as "White Christmas" or "Miracle on 34th Street," I'd like to suggest adding a trio of lesser-known offerings for cozy, firelit nights.
One is "Holiday Affair" (1949) with Robert Mitchum and Janet Leigh. It's the tale of a young widow and mother torn between the affections of two very different suitors. Wendell Corey plays a successful lawyer, offering stability for Connie Ennis (Leigh) and her boy while Steve Mason (Mitchum) is an unemployed architect with big ideas.
Stealing the limelight is Connie's son, Timmy, and his contagious delight at receiving a toy train — a gift from Mason, who knows the way to a woman's heart. The tender relationship between Connie and Mr. Ennis, as she calls her son, feels genuine and is pure joy to watch. Will she allow the young but wise Mr. Ennis to help her move on?
Another marquee moment is delivered by "The Man Who Came to Dinner" (1942) starring Monty Woolley and Bette Davis. Crazy, wacko, screwball — all three adjectives are necessary for this holiday romp through an Ohio family's living room. Once Sheridan Whiteside (Woolley), sophisticated author/lecturer, tumbles on the ice in front of the Stanley home, he moves in to stay and thenceforth fills the screen and the bourgeois family's living space with bombastic demands.
Davis plays Maggie Cuthbert, Whiteside's calm and capable secretary whom he's desperately afraid of losing when she confesses she has fallen for a playwright. The egomaniacal Whiteside will stop at nothing to prevent her departure and sics a carnivorous actress (Ann Sheridan) onto Maggie's new beau.
Enter Jimmy "The Schnoz" Durante, throw in a few penguins and an octopus for depth and enjoy the ride. Find out who ends up being shipped off in an Egyptian mummy case. This movie is a hoot.
The third feature is "Christmas in Connecticut" (1945) with Barbara Stanwyck and Dennis Morgan. Stanwyck plays Elizabeth Lane, writer of the successful "Diary of a Housewife" magazine column, who poses as a consummate homemaker, mother and cook. Her articles are pure fiction, however, as she's single, lives in a high-rise and her friend, the chef, supplies all her recipes.
Elizabeth must try to fake it, though, when her publisher (Sidney Greenstreet) offers a gift of Christmas in the country with Elizabeth and her family to a returning soldier, and then decides to come along for the fun. An opportunistic admirer (Reginald Gardiner) offers himself and his farm for the ruse, expecting to make it a reality, but when the so-called Mrs. Lane meets Jefferson Jones, the soldier, her composure crumbles.
These three escapades will leave you smiling and shaking your head as you go for another piece of fudge.
They're available from Netflix and for sale through Turner Classic Movies or Movies Unlimited.
Freelance writer Peggy Dover lives in Eagle Point. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.