1940s Festive Films

April 22, 2023 10:05 pm29 commentsViews: 137

During a decade in which the world was recovering from economic depression and experiencing a war, Hollywood produced some of the most heart-warming motion pictures for the yuletide season. Still loved today, these are five family favorites for the holidays.

It’s a Wonderful Life (<a href=1946)" width="620" height="387" />

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

George Bailey has enjoyed some happiness, but he seems to have always put his personal dreams aside due to circumstance and responsibility. On Christmas Eve, what he does have is threatened by destruction, causing George to give up on life, until an addlebrained angel named Clarence shows him how important and influential his life has been to the people around him.

Directed by Frank Capra, and starring James Stewart and Donna Reed, this movie has become part of the collective consciousness, and some only regard it as Christmas once having seen this movie.

Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

When the true Kris Kringle comes to New York to find a hint of the true Christmas spirit, he takes over from the intoxicated man set to play Santa Claus in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Kris proves so popular that Macy’s employs him as the store’s Santa. Through the Christmas season Kris goes about improving the lives of the people around him, including the sensible and somewhat cynical Doris Walker and daughter Susan, who has been raised not to believe in magic or miracles.

Originally released in May 1947, the movie was such a success with audiences that it ran in cinemas through Christmas. Starring Edmund Gwenn, Maureen O’Hara, John Payne, and Natalie Wood, this film has become a Christmas classic, and although it has been remade several times for either the big or small screen, the original remains the most well-done and heart-warming version.

The Bishop’s Wife (1947)

Julia (Loretta Young), forgotten by her busy bishop husband, Henry (David Niven), has begun to loose faith and joy, but the arrival of the angel Dudley (Cary Grant) restores Julia’s cheer. Meanwhile, Henry has previously been preoccupied with the building of a new cathedral, but he is soon reminded to take more of an interest in his family.

The original film was remade in 1996 as The Preacher’s Wife, starring Denzel Washington and Whitney Houston.

Christmas in Connecticut (1945)

Barbara Stanwyck plays Elizabeth Lane, the writer of a successful household column, but when the publisher of the magazine for which she writes insists that she extend perfect “Martha Stewart” hospitality to an injured war hero, Elizabeth is in danger of it being exposed that rather than being a wife and mother with a farm in Connecticut, she is in fact a Manhattan single, who cannot cook. Assisted by friends, she borrows a farmhouse, husband, and baby. However, she soon falls for the navy man, Jefferson Jones, played by Dennis Morgan, and she begins to worry both about the truth and the falsehoods being revealed to all the wrong people. Farce ensues until the Happy Christmas ending!

Ironically this movie was first released in the summer of 1945, so although the premise revolves around a wartime Christmas, in reality there was not to be another Christmas during World War II.

Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)

Directed by Vincente Minnelli and starring Judy Garland, Meet Me in St. Louis follows the stories of the Smith family, as their hometown of St. Louis prepares for the 1904 World’s Fair, until their daily lives are interrupted by a possible relocation to New York City.

The screenplay was adapted from the writings of Sally Benson (1897-1972), who based a series of short stories, originally published in The New Yorker, and later the novel 5135 Kensington, on occurrences from her own childhood in Missouri.

Although all four seasons of the annum are depicted, this film is often counted among holiday favorites because it is the movie which introduced the song, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”


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