You've probably seen It's a Wonderful Life (1946) scores of times already, and while it is certainly a great movie, it's just one of a dozen memorable films made in the 1940s that celebrate the holiday season. The quality of acting during those years was sensational, and the sentiments straightforward and sincere. Here are some lesser-known chestnuts from the 1940s (and one from the early 1950s) that are worth seeking out this holiday season:
- Holiday Inn (1942). The original White Christmas stars Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire. True to its title, it features Irving Berlin songs written for nearly every holiday during the year, from White Christmas to Easter Parade.
- Christmas in Connecticut (1945). Barbara Stanwyck plays a well-known columnist for a housekeeping magazine (think Martha Stewart). The problem is, she can't even boil an egg and doesn't live in a Connecticut mansion, as she pretends. Trouble ensues when her publisher invites a war hero to spend Christmas at what he imagines to be her estate.
- The Bishop's Wife (1947). Cary Grant stars as an angel who appears during the holidays to help David Niven, a bishop obsessed with building a cathedral. Ultimately, Grant gets Niven to realize that his marriage to Loretta Young means more to him than bricks and mortar.
- Larceny, Inc. (1947). A trio of crooks including Edward G. Robinson buys a luggage store with the intention of tunneling into the bank next door and emptying the vault on Christmas Eve. Of course, nothing goes as planned and Robinson decides to go straight as an honest merchant.
- Holiday Affair (1949). Janet Leigh, whose husband was killed in World War II, must choose between her wealthy but unimaginative fiancÃ©e and a charming veteran, played by Robert Mitchum, who has lost his job at a department store because of her.
- A Christmas Carol (1951). Not strictly from the 1940s, but the spirit is the same. A New York television station thought so much of this British version of Charles Dickens's classic that it made a tradition of broadcasting this film on Christmas Eve and repeating it throughout the night until Christmas morning.
If you can't find these films on TV, just add them to your Netflix queue. They are all available as DVDs.