Posts Tagged ‘White Christmas’

It’s funny what people consider to be “classic”.  I suppose a lot of it comes down to what you grew up with.  For instance, I grew up watching “A Charlie Brown Christmas”, so it has always been a part of my holiday tradition.  Some of the shows on this list are “favorites”, but don’t necessarily qualify as “classics”, while there are some classics that didn’t make the list of favorites.  An example of this would be “It’s a Wonderful Life”.  Because, while I love the message of that movie, and I think that Jimmy Stewart’s performance is outstanding, watching George Bailey’s life unravel on an annual basis is just too painful for me.  The productions included below are some of the shows that have become a part of our annual Christmas tradition. 


  1. Miracle on 34th Street (1947 movie, starring Edmund Gwenn): This heartwarming classic (featuring Maureen O’Hara and Natalie Wood) is ostensibly about whether to believe in Santa Claus; but it is the contrasts between the kind and generous Kris (Gwenn), and the cynical commercialism of a couple of large New York City department stores (Macy’s & Gimbels), and the oppressive pragmatism of Doris (O’Hara) and the spirited idealism of her neighbor Fred, that convey a more timeless, and transcendent, message.  Favorite scene: When Susan finds Kris’ cane at her dream house.


  1. White Christmas (1954 film, starring Bing Crosby): Though this big budgeted Hollywood musical is only loosely tied to Christmas, the opening scenes with soldiers on the battlefront taking a break for a little yuletide celebration, the closing scene with snow coming down around a picturesque Vermont Inn, and the inclusion of what is arguably the most successful Christmas song of all-time, make it an indelible part of the holiday season.  Favorite scenes: The surprise party for the General, and the eventual arrival of snow at the inn.


  1. A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965 animated television special): Though the production value of this special is absolutely primitive by today’s standards, it retains a sweet innocence that is sadly missing from almost anything produced in the last 25 years.  Charlie is a type of every-man, who generally plays the role of underdog, but who aspires to do great things, and who searches for meaning within life’s mundane events.  The inclusion of a classic soundtrack, provided by the Vince Guaraldi Trio, has been a significant part of the show’s continued success.  Favorite scene: Linus’ speech on what Christmas is all about.


  1. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966 television special, featuring Boris Karloff): Based on a book by Dr. Seuss, this story touches on themes (e.g. repentance and redemption) similar to those found within the classic Dickens story, “A Christmas Carol”.  The narration by horror film star, Boris Karloff, and the memorable song, “You’re a Mean One Mr. Grinch” only add to the charm.  Favorite scene:  When the Grinch hears the Whos down in Whoville singing their joyous song.


  1. Scrooge (1970 musical, starring Albert Finney): Despite some very poor special effects (e.g. Scrooge flying over London), a bizarre performance by Sir Alec Guinness as Jacob Marley, and a forgettable scene where Scrooge descends into hell, this is still my favorite adaption of Charles Dicken’s classic tale.  Albert Finney is superb throughout, and the musical score manages to enhance the story.  Favorite scene – When Scrooge unwittingly comes upon his own funeral procession and thinks that the town is having a parade in his honor.


  1. The Homecoming (1971 movie, starring Patricia Neal): This movie became the de facto pilot for the long running television series, “The Waltons”.  It beautifully captures both the virtues and the struggles of the depression/war era it portrays.  It is both subtle and rich.  Favorite scenes – John Boy’s narration, as he recollects the events of his life on Walton’s mountain.


  1. Silent Night (2002 Hallmark TV movie, starring Linda Hamilton): This made for TV movie portrays a German woman (Hamilton) who takes her young son to a cabin in the woods to escape the advancing armies.  On the night of Christmas Eve, both American and German soldiers come to take refuge there, as they all wind up spending a tense night together.  Each of their stories unfolds throughout the evening, and in the light of Christmas day, they emerge from this experience changed.  Favorite scene – When the young German soldier (Peter) sings a Christmas carol for them, and they realize that he is only fourteen years old.


  1. The Polar Express (2004 animated movie, featuring Tom Hanks):  Like Miracle on 34th Street, this beautifully animated feature would seem to be about believing in Santa Claus; but when the kids in the film come face to face with the “Big Guy”, he reminds them that he is only a symbol of the true spirit of Christmas.  While the movie does take an occasional side trip to show off the special effects facilitated by the computer animation technology, it manages to keep the characters at the center of the story.  Along with some stunning visuals, the musical score by Alan Silvestri, and songs featuring the likes of Josh Groban, are top notch.  Favorite scene – The duet sung by the heroic young girl and the poor boy (Billy).


  1. Christmas in Canaan (2009 Hallmark TV movie, starring Billy Ray Cyrus): While this TV movie tackles broader themes (e.g. race relations, poverty, stereotypes, loyalty), it also maintains a strong enough connection to Christmas to be considered a holiday movie.  Favorite scene – When the impoverished family opens their presents, which are pictures from the catalog of what their father wanted to buy for them.   


  1. A Christmas Carol (2009 animated feature, starring Jim Carrey): There is a lot to like about this Robert Zemeckis film.  The computer animation is beautiful, and it solves the problems that most productions have with realistically portraying the supernatural elements of the story.  Carrey does an admirable job voicing Scrooge, and demonstrates his range by voicing several other characters as well.  Overall, the story sticks pretty close to Dickens original material.  Favorite scene – When an unseen Scrooge comes face to face (i.e. within inches) with a grieving Bob Cratchit.  As he stares deeply into his tear filled eyes, you can almost feel Scrooge’s heart break.  .

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1.     Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (Gene Autry):  Even though the story had been written some years before (1939), it could be argued that Autry’s version of this song (1949) was the sleigh that launched Rudolph to a worldwide audience.  As the first #1 song of the 1950’s, it eventually went on to sell over 12 million copies.   Autry’s warm folksy rendition has never been surpassed (though the 1960’s television special made Burl Ives version of the song a holiday staple as well).

2.     The Christmas Waltz (Frank Sinatra):  While many believe that Frank also nailed the definitive version of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”, “The Christmas Waltz” manages to capture both the holiday spirit and the classic Sinatra style.  Except for the Christmas oriented lyrics, it’s not hard to imagine this song fitting nicely on any of his Nelson Riddle era albums.

3.     Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow (Dean Martin):  This song was a perfect vehicle to combine Martin’s gifts as a crooner with his naturally playful personality.  It also served to reinforce his reputation as something of a ladies’ man, as it turns out to be one of the more romantic holiday songs of the Christmas season.

4.     Jingle Bell Rock (Bobby Helms):  At the time of this recording (1957) Bobby Helms was a rising country music star.  The song itself was meant to capture both the holiday feel of “Jingle Bells” and the emerging popularity of “rock and roll”.  With its catchy, easy-going, style, it has managed to become an enduring classic in the years since.

5.     Holly Jolly Christmas (Burl Ives):  As an accomplished actor and folk singer, Burl Ives was picked to voice the character of “Sam,” the snowman, in the 1960’s TV special, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”  Johnny Marks, who’d composed the original Gene Autry hit, was also brought in to do some additional music for the show.  “Holly Jolly Christmas” was one of those compositions, and it went on to become a holiday standard in its own right. 

6.     Sleigh Ride (Arthur Fiedler & the Boston Pops):  Although Leroy Anderson originally composed this piece and went on to have a big hit record with it in the 1950s, Arthur Fiedler & the Boston Pops have the distinction of doing the original recording in 1949.  In the years since it has become something a signature song for that revered orchestra. 

7.     Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree (Brenda Lee):  Recorded in 1958, when Lee was only thirteen years old, this song eventually became the biggest selling record of her long and illustrious career.  Like a couple of other classics on this list, it was also composed by Johnny Marks.

8.     Blue Christmas (Elvis Presley):  While this song was originally recorded in 1948, and had been remade by numerous artists, it was Presley’s decision to include it on his 1957 Christmas album that propelled it to worldwide acclaim.  Released as a single in 1964, the song has become an indelible part of the Elvis legacy.

9.     The Christmas Song (Nat King Cole):  Written by notable composer/singer Mel Torme in 1944, Cole recorded the original version of this song in 1946.  Despite its immediate success, he chose to re-record the tune on multiple occasions in order to take full advantage of the developing recording technology.  The definitive version was completed in 1961 and featured a full orchestra and “Stereophonic” sound.  It still stands as one of the highlights of Cole’s stellar career. 

10.  White Christmas (Bing Crosby):  First recorded in 1942, and featured as part of the movie “Holiday Inn,” this song is considered the best selling single (>50 million copies) and record (including various albums, >100 million copies) of all time.  Its phenomenal success eventually led to the development of the 1958 movie “White Christmas,” which went on to build a holiday legacy of its own.  Crosby originated another holiday classic the following year (1943) with the bittersweet, “I’ll be Home for Christmas.”

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