Popular Christmas movies span eras
Not that I’d want to anyway, but you almost can’t get away from the Christmas movies this time of year.
Over the next two weeks, those of us who “keep Christmas” in front of the television set can look forward to some classics and, unfortunately, a lot of also-rans.
One of the best is tonight. “A Christmas Story” is No. 1 on Moviefone’s list of the 25 best Christmas movies of all time, and the Web site offers this summary: “There’s nary a scene to forget in this near-perfect nostalgic look at where Americana and Christmastime meet. The story of a young boy’s epic quest to get his hands on a Red Ryder BB gun provides the hilarious backdrop for a timeless tale rife with family hijinks, frozen tongues and, of course, sex-oozing leg lamps.”
The movie features Peter Billingsley as Ralphie, the boy who wants the BB gun, and Darren McGavin and Melinda Dillon as his parents.
It’s on tonight on TNT and, the way things work these days, is almost sure to be on the tube again several times before Christmas.
Several others from the Moviefone list (http://insidemovies.moviefone.com, then click on “Top 25”) on television this week include No. 2, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” starring James Stewart, Donna Reed and Lionel Barrymore, up on Saturday. Just between us kids, I’ll probably have to go to the basement to watch this one; my wife is a woman of great patience and impeccable taste, but for reasons that escape me, she cannot abide this film. It’s on KSHB.
There are others, of course. I caught “White Christmas,” No 5, with Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, Vera-Ellen and Dean Jagger, last week. It’s repeated Sunday on AMC. It’s followed on the same channel by “Holiday Inn” (No. 12) from 1942, starring Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire. (It’s got nothing to do with Christmas, but my favorite bit from this film is Astaire’s Fourth of July dance.)
Tim Burton’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas” (No. 13) is up on Wednesday and Thursday on the Disney Channel.
“Die Hard” (No. 16), in which Bruce Willis takes down a whole herd of terrorists on Christmas Eve, is on Wednesday on Encore.
“Elf” (No. 6), with Will Farrell as Buddy the Elf, was on Monday, and “The Polar Express” (No. 25), with Tom Hanks’ voice as the conductor, is on the schedule for Saturday on both KMBC and the Disney Channel.
Of course you have to watch out for the impostors. There’s a remake of “Miracle on 34th Street” that’s scheduled this week, but it’s not the 1947 classic with Edmund Gwenn, Maureen O’Hara, John Payne and Natalie Wood.
There are two ersatz versions of “A Christmas Carol,” one starring George C. Scott from 1984 and another starring Reginald Owen from 1938, but neither matches the 1951 version with Alastair Sim as Scrooge.
Of course that’s not all. I’m sure I missed some, but in looking over the TV listings for the next five days, I counted no fewer than 45 programs that had something to do with Christmas.
Just for the record, here’s the top 15 on the Moviefone list:
“A Christmas Story”
“It’s a Wonderful Life”
“Miracle on 34th Street”
“Christmas in Connecticut”
“Babes in Toyland”
“National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation”
“A Christmas Carol”
“The Nightmare Before Christmas”
“The Bishop’s Wife”
So, happy viewing. Or, in the words of the waiters in the Chinese restaurant in “A Christmas Story,” fa-ra-ra-ra-ra, ra-ra-ra-ra.
— John Beal is the retired editor of the Eudora News’ sister publications The Shawnee Dispatch and Bonner Springs Chieftain.