Saturday, December 22, 2007

For your viewing pleasure ...

by Anna Sugden

No, it’s not Christmas hunks (or for P226, gorgeous gals) … but my favourite Christmas films. I’m sure we all have them. As most of mine are classics (yes, some are even in black and white!), I thought I’d share them with you. Hopefully, you’ll share yours with me too. Maybe we’ll all find a hidden gem to become part of our holiday viewing.

Christmas in Connecticut
Stars Barbara Stanwyck and Dennis Morgan (and a fab supporting cast). This is a lovely romance with wonderful, snappy dialogue. If you like the Cary Grant/Irene Dunne movies or any of that type of screwball comedy that were famous in that era - you’ll love Christmas in Connecticut.

Journalist Elizabeth Lane (Stanwyck) is one of the country's most famous food writers. In her columns, she describes herself as a hard working farm woman, taking care of her children and being an excellent cook. But this is all lies. In reality she is an unmarried New Yorker who can't even boil an egg. The recipes come from her good friend Felix. The owner of the magazine she works for has decided that a heroic sailor (Morgan) will spend his Christmas on *her* farm. Miss Lane knows that her career is over if the truth comes out, but what can she do?

Note - don’t be fooled into buying a film of the same name which stars Dyan Cannon. It is a truly terrible remake!!!

Miracle on 34th Street

Stars Maureen O’Hara and John Payne (with another fab supporting cast). This is one of the few films where the remake is almost as good as the original - you can’t go wrong with either. Another classic tale of romance - one of the first where the heroine was the cynic about Christmas and the hero, the believer. And the trial of Kris Kringle, Macy’s Santa, is wonderful.


Stars Bill Murray and Karen Allen. You’re spoiled for choice with films based on that wonderful Christmas tale by Charles Dickens “A Christmas Carol”. If you love musicals with rousing songs and dance numbers - check out “Scrooge!” starring Albert Finney. There is also “A Muppet’s Christmas Carol” in which Michael Caine plays a fantastic Scrooge! For those who want a more classic telling, there are versions with George C Scott or Patrick Stewart.

The reason I’ve chosen this version is that it has everything to make you feel good about Christmas. It’s funny. Bill Murray is perfect as the heartless ad executive (his Christmas ads are hilarious!). The modernisation of the story is cleverly done. And it has some of the best cameos! But it’s also touching - tell me the song “Put a little love in your heart” doesn’t raise your spirits.

White Christmas
Stars Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Vera Ellen and Rosemary Clooney. Not bad for a story written around a song! Even if you discount The Song, this film is filled with wonderful music, spectacular dance routines, witty dialogue and a heart-warming romance (oh, and some gorgeous shoes!). What more could anyone want?

It’s a Wonderful Life
No list would be complete without this Jimmy Stewart classic. I’m embarrassed to say that it was only last year that I watched this through from beginning to end. I’ve seen most of it in bits, but to get the most out of the story, I had to see it in its entirety. The story is so well-crafted and there are so many subtle nuances in the filming. Even if you’re not a movie geek, it’s worth watching the section about the making of the film.

And an honourable mention has to go to The Shop Around the Corner. Although it's not actually a Christmas film, it's set during the Christmas season. It stars Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullavan. Another lovely romance - which was later remade as You've Got Mail.

Okay - now it’s your turn. What are your top 5 Christmas movies? Is there a holiday film you absolutely hate?

One lucky commenter will win a copy of It's a Wonderful Christmas - a lovely anthology of Christmas romances inspired by Hollywood Classics. Look out for It's a Wonderful Night by my great friend, Harlequin author Kathleen Long.

And for something to indulge yourself with, while you're watching or reading, how about a recipe for Sherry Trifle? It takes some time to make - but it's worth it!

You need:

A large glass bowl
1 large banana - sliced
A handful of strawberries - halved
One pack of strawberry Jello/jelly
6 trifle fingers or a handful of stale sponge/pound cake (cut into chunks)
Sweet sherry
1 packet of Bird's custard (egg custard) - you could, at a pinch, replace with vanilla pudding, but it won't be quite the same.
Whipping/whipped cream
Glace cherries or sprinkles or sliced almonds (or all three!) to decorate

1. Place strawberry halves, banana slices and chunks of cake in the bottom of the glass bowl.

2. Soak with sherry.

3. Make the jelly according to the instructions and pour into the bowl, covering the fruit and sponge.

4. Very important - let the jelly set fully!

5. While the jelly is setting, make the custard (if you don't have Bird's, there are loads of recipes for egg custard on the internet - Nigella or Delia Smith have great ones).

6. Very important - let the custard cool! But don't let it set. This is important as you're going to pour it onto the jelly to form a second layer and you don't want to melt the jelly.

7. Pour cold custard onto the jelly and let it set.

8. Whip the cream and add to form a third layer.

9. Decorate with cherries, almonds, sprinkles or all 3.

10. Enjoy!


Anna Campbell said...


Anna Campbell said...

Now that I've got over my excitement - come here, roosty, roosty, roosty, and sit on Foey's lappy, lappy, lappy! - great post, Anna. I haven't seen a couple of the modern films you mention but I LOVE all the old ones, especially Christmas in Connecticut. The banter between the two leads is just SOOOO sexy, isn't it? He gets a glint in his eye, then she gets a glint in her eye, then it's just on for young and old. Sigh. Actually you forgot my favorite Christmas movie - AN AFFAIR TO REMEMBER. It all finishes at Christmas, remember? With the painting and her on the couch and him finally cluing as to what has happened. Ooh, I'm getting goosebumps typing it even now. It's absolutely magic. Double sigh.

Ouch! Roosty, if you peck me one more time, you'll be Rosti!

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

All righty then! I can't really blame the GR for not wanting to sit on Foey's lappy, lappy, lappy. Not after the rumors of what's buried in her couch, and the uncontrollable twitches Joanie's Demetrius developed after his visit! But I must ask, is his black nail polish still in place after his "debriefing" at P226's place?

Great post, VA! I must confess that I have NEVER watched "...Wonderful Life" all the way through. (Put down those snowballs! Jomama TOLD YOU, Aunty is a Grinch.) Can't really think of a fave Christmas movie... Oh wait, "Escape from New York" is a Christmas movie, isn't it?


Anna Campbell said...

No, these days he wears combat streaks! No black nail polish for this tough guy!

Caren Crane said...

Foanna, back away from the Golden Rooster! Though he has camouflage nails, he has not gone to the dark side completely. P226 simply taught him some evasive maneuvers, which fully explains why you cannot lure him onto your lap. I would approach with caution and try not to make eye contact. We may have to send him back to Jennifer or Doglady for debriefing. High maintenance poultry...

Foanna, I also adore 'An Affair To Remember'! And 'Sleepless In Seattle' is a total homage to that film, so I love it, too!

AC, while I love 'Escape From New York' (world's biggest Kurt Russell fan over here!), I would not liken Snake to Santa in any way. I doubt we can qualify this one!

By the way, I have seen ALL those Christmas movies listed and all versions of them (except the horrible remake of 'Christmas In Connecticut). Okay, my top five:

1. Elf - absolutely hysterical Will Ferrell movie about a guy who grows up at the North Pole, then goes to NYC to find his father. Hilarious!

2. It's a Wonderful Life - love the character development and the tight focus on a very ordinary life that touched a whole town in extraordinary ways.

3. White Christmas - I really do love this one! Fabulous song and dance numbers. Vera Ellen was wonderful! And I am a schmuck who thinks Danny Kaye was charming and very talented. I loved him in roles that were not totally goofy!

4. Christmas Vacation - What's not to love when Clark Griswold attempts to do Christmas?

5. Scrooged - I'm with Anna on this one. Bill Murray is the quirkiest man in the universe. I love this one as much as Ground Hog Day, which saying something. Karen Allen was completely adorable in this!

I know, I have odd tastes. *g*

Andrea said...

My five favorite Christmas movies are...

~ Christmas Vacation
~ A Christmas Story
~ It's a Wonderful Life
~ Mickey's Christmas Carol
~ How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Merry Christmas, everyone! :)


Keira Soleore said...

Foanna, congratulations!! :)

Loved that trifle recipe, V.Anna.

The Muppet Christmas Carol and Miracle on 34th Street are my fav Xmas movies. In fact, muppet-anythinb ar my favs.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Beth Andrews said...

Great post, Anna! I have to admit, I've never seen Chrismtas in Connecticut but it sounds like a great film! I'll have to rent it this weekend *g*

My Christmas faves are:

1. It's a Wonderful Life
2. White Christmas
3. The Santa Clause

I haven't seen all of Elf yet but the parts I did see tell me this will also be a favorite :-)

Maureen said...

My favorite is A Christmas Story although It's a Wonderful life is also a great one.

jo robertson said...

Anna, I loved that walk down memory lane. What a great post topic! And the Sherry trifle sounds scrumptious and sure to put one in a holly-jolly mood!

I had to add A CHRISTMAS STORY to the list. The whole "shooting your eye out with the beebee gun is hilarious," as well as all the other ditties. We watch it with our kids every year.

And of course, "It's a Wonderful Life," the quintessential Christmas story. Originally, the story did poorly at the box office and didn't become popular until decades later. Through a clerical error, its copyright wasn't renewed and the images went into the public domain. I love watching that every year.

jo robertson said...

Oops, forgot to congratulate Foanna on the rooster capture.

And a comment on the orginal "Christmas on 34th Street." I adored Natalie Wood in that film.

Anna Sugden said...

Foanna - congrats on your stealth move on the GR. I love the old movies too - as you can tell! Ah yes - Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr - fab movie.

AC - Anything with Kurt Russell in counts as a Christmas treat (lucky Goldie Hawn!). Although personally, I'd go for Tombstone *grin*.

Anna Sugden said...

ROFL Caren - high maintenance poultry! And yes to Sleepless in Seattle too. Your tastes are perfectly fine (though I haven't seen Elf - I'm not a fan of Will Ferrell - despite my younger stepdaughter's urging). As is your adoration for the lovely Danny Kaye.

If you get a chance to do the totally nerdy thing (that I do *grin*) and watch the 'making of' special - it's great for plot and character development.

Anna Sugden said...

Great choices AndreaW!

Keira - how did I know that you'd love the Muppets?! Isn't Michael Caine fab? My favourite bit is where Kermit is trying to get extra coal for the book-keepers - LOL.

Beth - you HAVE to see Christmas in Connecticut. It's wonderful (and you'll love the banter!).

Maureen - glad to see some more votes for the old classics!

p226 said...

Oh yeah. Christmas Vacation. One of my favorite movies ever. It's full of memorable and hilarious lines.

And A Christmas Story would be OK, if my wife didn't play the 24 hour marathon on TBS ever year.

And Apocalypse Now and Full Metal Ja.... er... no, those don't count. Sorry... forgot the theme for a minute there.


And... I'm off to the range. Jingle shells jingle shells jingle in the mag.... oh what fun it is to shoot on a cold december dayyyy - hey!

Anna Sugden said...

Jo - there's so much behind the scenes info on It's a Wonderful Life and it's all fascinating (to a movie nerd like me).

I agree with you on Natalie Wood - shame she didn't stay that great!

I've never seen A Christmas Story - seen bits - must check it out.

Anna Sugden said...

Hey P226 - whatever gets you into the Christmas spirit! If the rhythmic daka-daka-daka of machine guns and choppers is better than reindeers and bells ... go for it!

Happy shooting!

Nancy said...

Anna C. captures the rooster again! I know this is a huge relief to you, Anna C. You don't seem to do well when the rooster is away from you for too long. *g*

Anna S.--you're sharing a trifle recipe! Real, English trifle! Yum. The Olympians can keep their ambrosia. Trifle is the true food of the gods, imho!

As for Christmas movies:
-A Christmas Story
-It's a Wonderful Life (b&w version only!)
-Miracle on 34th St. (b&w only !)
-A Christmas Carol
(starring Alastair Sim, b&w only!)
-How the Grinch Stole Christmas (cartoon only!)

I suspect I would hate, loathe and despise the live-action "Grinch," even though I know some people really enjoy it (and they're entitled to their opinion, of course) because: a) a little, a very little, of Jim Carrey goes a long way for me; and b) I love the original so much.

I think colorizing is just anemic (correct me, Joan, if that's the wrong term). I hate the way it makes old movies look.

Maureen, Jo, and P226, the dh loves A Christmas Story. It's the only one he'll make time to sit down and watch. We'll probably watch one showing on the marathon, but he doesn't like to watch things and then immediately watch them again. Which is good because there's a Stargate SG-1 marathon on SciFi on Christmas day. Not seasonal, I know, but I really love some of those episodes, which I hope are on later in the day, when I'll have time to watch them.

Not in my top five, but definitely in our son's, is Jingle All the Way (about a busy father's last-minute quest for that year's "hot" toy). I think it's cute. We watched it last night on TV.

I like the Patrick Stewart version of A Christmas Carol, too. It was also on last night but opposite "Jingle."

In case any of our visitors don't make it back in the next few days, I hope you'll all have a wonderful holiday season!

CrystalGB said...

My favorite Christmas movies are:
The Santa Clause
The Polar Express
The Christmas Story
It's a Wonderful Life
While You Were Sleeping

Suzanne Ferrell said...

Good morning, Anna! Congrautlaions to our other Anna for winning the GR.

You've included my most favorite Christmas movie in your selections, White Christmas! My daughter bought me my own copy a few years ago. It's become a tradition with me that I pop it into the player, make hot chocolate and begin wrapping presents. I do this on a night when DH is sleeping and no one is home but me and Rocky-the-wonder dog!

I'd add one more to your list. It isn't about Christmas, but it takes place at Christmas. "While You Were Sleeping". It is such a great comedy/romance.

Helen said...

Congrats on the GR Anna.
What a lovely post Anna I love trifle.
My favourite Christmas movies are
Miricale on 34th St
Its A Wonderful Life
The Santa Claus
Christmas Vacation
Home Alone
White Christmas
I remember watching Miricale on 34th St with my Mum when I was about 12 and everytime I watch that movie it just brings back so many wonderful memories we used to watch it every Christmas together. I picked up Its A Wonderful Life on DVD last year for $5 so I can watch that anytime I like as well. I don't think I have seen Christmas In Connecticut I must try and find it, it sounds like my kinda movie.
Have Fun

Tawny said...

Oooh, my favorites...

Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer
Santa Claus is Coming to Town
The Year without a Santa Claus
(aha, a non cartoon *g*)
The Santa Clause

LOL - I'm juvenile, I admit it.

Happy Happy everyone!!!

Anna Sugden said...

Great to see so many of you popping in today!

Nancy - you are so right - trifle is definitely food of the Gods! I also agree with you on colourising! Puh-lease, if it was done in black & white - let's leave it that way!

Crystalgb - oh yes - The Polar Express! Loved it. Must add that to my list.

Suz - While You Were Sleeping is another great movie set at Christmas. It's often used as an example of great character development too.

Helen - Home Alone ... another family favourite. I liked it until Macauley Culkin got irritating! What a lovely memory of you and your mum.

Tawny - it's Christmas - you're allowed to embrace your iner child *grin*

Anna Sugden said...

Just thought of another film I love, which takes place at Christmas - Love Actually.

Anna Campbell said...

Nancy, does that mean I get to keep the GR for HEALTH reasons? I like your way of thinking!!!

Caren Crane said...

Oh, Anna, I love 'Love Actually' too! My favorite is when the PM and his driver go caroling down the street. Ha!

I do enjoy A Christmas Story and watch it with the family every year.

Christmas In Connecticut is one The Incomparable Claudia Dain recommended to me, so I watched it this year. Barbara Stanwyck was wonderful in this! For some reason, though, it doesn't feel very Christmasy to me. I'm not sure why. It's all about Christmas and yet they kind of treat Christmas as an afterthought in the movie because there is so much else going on!

A Muppet Christmas Carol is one I remember seeing in the theater with my son when he was little (he's 21 now). I loved it and we have it, but it's on VHS. Yet another DVD I have to buy to replace my old tapes!

Lily said...

1. Christmas in Connecticut (also my all time favorite!!)
2. The Man who Came to Dinner (a comedy with Betty Davis... rarely on anyone's list, truly great and funny)
3. White Christmas
4. It's A Wonderful Life
5. Miracle on 34th street

Nathalie said...

I don't watch a lot of christmas movies, I prefer to read those delightful christmas anthologies!

The rare ones I like are the one in Black & White:
1. Christmas in Connecticut
2. White Christmas

These are the two which I found original and entertaining :)

Fedora said...

I'm with Nathalie--we don't watch too many movies. My favorites are The Grinch Who Stole Christmas (agree with Nancy--cartoon only; Jim Carrey only in teensy doses, and I think the live-action version would push me right over the edge) and A Charlie Brown Christmas. Plus I love the Vince Guaraldi soundtrack and can leave that in the player on repeat :)

Congrats on the GR, Anna!

jo robertson said...

LOL, p226!

Nancy, I'll bet your husband loves the part where the Dad buys that gosh-awful lamp, you know, the naughty one.

Anna, I used to show It's a Wonderful Life to my students every year. My excuse -- all the symbolism in the movie.

And I agree with everyone who said BLACK AND WHITE -- all the way!

Caren Crane said...

No, Jo, the dad didn't buy the lamp, he won it. It was a major award!! *g* I love it when they have the flat tire and Ralphie lets loose with the F word! OMG, that is one funny movie.

Caren Crane said...

Flchen, I love the Vince Guaraldi Trio soundtrack. I keep it on repeat on my car stereo until the kids can't take it anymore! Cool jazz, baby...

catslady said...

Watching Christmas Vacation is a tradition at our house - it gets funnier every time we watch it.
I also like The Grinch. After that it's hit and miss with whatever happens to be on TV.

Anna Sugden said...

Caren - yes, that's a great scene! I love the scene in the church too.

Ooh Lily - The Man Who Came to Dinner - that's different!

Yay Nathalie - another Christmas in Connecticut fan! I watched it today *grin* so everything is hunky dunky.

Flchen1 - A Charlie Brown Christmas - awww. That brings back memories.

Jo - I'm all for showing it in the name of education. I'll watch it for that too *grin*.

Anna Sugden said...

Catslady - I love movies like that. Scrooged is one of those for me.

I'm currently watching Elf, based on some of your recommendations ... ummm ... not getting it. Maybe it improves as the movie goes along.

Nancy said...

Anna C--now, Anna, let's not get carried away. I never said you got to keep the rooster, only that you seem to feel better when he's in your custody. After all, other banditas--not to mention our visitors!--want a turn, too, y'know. So you just sit there with him on your lappy and get ready to boot up for midnight. But you might have to surrender him, you know. Deep breaths. You can do it. *g*

Flchen1, we have friends who love the live-action version of Grinch, and they don't understand why I like the cartoon so much. To each our own, I guess. The dh loves the Charlie Brown Christmas and especially likes the music. I gave it to him on our first Christmas together.

Anna S., Orson Welles is supposed to have said on his deathbed, "Tell Ted Turner to keep his crayons off my movie." Meaning Citizen Kane; Turner had just bought MGM. But I hear the story isn't true.

Jo, Caren's right. He didn't buy it but received it as a "major award." Back when we had MediaPlay, they sold those lamps, and don't think I wasn't tempted. *g* Except I'm not crazy about looking at it, so I passed.

Anna Sugden said...

Love the quote, Nancy! LOL. Quite right too.

Joan said...

Anna, I agree with many of your selections.

White Christmas: God I love Vera Ellen and Danny Kaye dancing on the dock to "The Best things, happen when your dancing..." To be able to dance AND have a 5 inch waist like her LOL

The original Miracle on 34th Street. I ADORE Maureen O'Hara and John Payne. That moment at the end when they spy the cane in the corner? Priceless.

The Bishop's Wife with Cary Grant and David Niven. I love the simplicity of the season as shown in the 30's-40's (And Cary as an angel? Heavenly)

Holiday Inn with Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire. I love the way people in the 40's used to get SO dressed up for one night on the town and...again..the dancing theme.

I have another that most people probably have never seen. Back in the 70's there was a made for TV Christmas movie called "The Homecoming". It was the pilot for "The Waltons". I taped it and watch it often. Patricia Neal played the Mom

"It's a Wonderful Life" I can take or leave. Same with "Christmas Vacation". I despise any variation of Scrooge and not a fan of the Grinch.

And I have never watched a Christmas Story and have not the least desire to do so. And Anna, if Will gets on your nerves too bad, check out the Elf snowball game I put on the loop. :-)

Caren Crane said...

Oh, Joan, I love 'The Homecoming'. I love the scene where the church ladies are giving out toys to children who know Bible verses and Mary Ellen comes up with, "Jesus wept." I felt really sorry for little Elizabeth when the doll's face was cracked!

My family loved The Waltons and we watched it on TV every week. I had almost forgotten 'The Homecoming'!

Anna, we just watched 'Elf' on DVD and my husband, youngest daughter and I laughed until we could hardly breathe! Will Ferrell is a complete idiot--I love that about him. *g* James Caan was the perfect foil for Buddy, as his "on the naughty list" biological father. I also love Bob Newhart and Ed Asner. All around a lovefest for me and 'Elf'!!

p226 said...

Prepare to be astonished.

Are you ready?

Sitting down?

Braced for this?


I displayed.... Christmas spirit. Yes. Me. Christmas spirit. I picked up all of my spent cartridges from the range, and accumulated them in my cargo pocket. Brass is getting really expensive, so you don't just leave it there or throw it away. Well, all the way home, I shook my cargo pocket to the rhythm of "Jingle Bells." Not only did I do that, but I was able to do it while driving, AND with my 10y/o son (who was apparently driven insane by it) occasionally smacking me in the head and begging me to stop.

Ho Ho Ho.

doglady said...

Yay, Anna C on capturing the GR and dragging him squawking and pecking back to Oz. Good on you!

Great post Anna S! My mother has a recipe for English trifle that she makes every year for Christmas. I will have to give her this one. It is not Christmas without her chicken and dumplings and English trifle.

I love Christmas movies. The only ones I don't care for are the ones with a tired unoriginal story that is just and excuse to give a country music star a chance to act.

If I have to choose just five, here goes.

It's A Wonderful Life (each life touches so many other lives)

Christmas Vacation

Muppets' Christmas Carol

Christmas in Connecticut

A Christmas Carol (the original Alistair Sim version with I believe Freddy Bartholomew as Tiny Tim, I believe?)

I also love the original Miracle on 34th Street

Joan said...

Wow, Caren! Somebody else who knows "The Homecoming"?

I like the look on the church lady's face when the one kid quotes some obscure bible quote about "breasts?" LOL And the Baldwin sisters and their receipe.


Good on you, P226. A little Christmas spirit...even the annoying good.

Good luck to all you GR watcher's tonight....

Nancy said...

Joan and Caren, I remember The Homecoming, though not in detail. My folks were big fans of Patricia Neal. I think they were disappointed that she didn't do th3 show, though Michael Learned was wonderful.

p226, Christmas spirit is Christmas spirit, no matter how it comes. Yay for you! You probably win this week's prize for creative use of spent cartridges, too!

Sue A. said...

Here's my five favorites:
Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
It's a Wonderful Life
White Christmas
The Bishop's Wife (1947)
How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)

Anna Sugden said...

Joanie - love Holiday Inn and The Bishop's Wife! Will have to check out The Homecoming.

Elf really didn't do it for me - although the ending was kind of cute. Loved the all-star cast ... but Will Ferrell was just too ... silly? Not the right word, but he irritated me. Maybe I needed some Christmas spirit in me instead of magraine meds *grin*.

LOL P226 - we're getting to you ... admit it! Ho ho ho!

Doglady, we're sisters under the skin!

Sue A - I'm impressed you have the dates too!