Please tell me your favorite old-timey, not "Classic", Xmas-type movie.
December 9, 2012 9:22 AM   Subscribe

I like older movies (think before 1950), and I like Holiday-ish movies. But I'm not big on "the classics." Every now and again I come across a great sleeper Christmas movie and I want more! Please tell me your favorite old-timey, not "Classic", Xmas-type movie.

So, a few years ago, the middle kidling and I ran across this movie called The Cheaters on late night TV, and we thought it was pretty good, but I'd never heard of it before. Now I'm wondering what other great holiday movies are out there that I'm missing. Google only brings me the Classics. I don't want the classics. I want the movies that don't come up in a Google search.

I do like some of the classics, don't get me wrong. But one can only see so many versions of A Christmas Carol and Miracle on 34th Street before they all become old. I also liked movies akin to The Thin Man as a Christmasy type movie because it takes place around Xmas, though it's not technically a Christmas movie. (I also like watching After the Thin Man because it takes place in the same time frame -- New Year's). I'm not big into sappy movies like White Christmas and Holiday Inn. I watched them once, they were okay, then it was *yawn*, moving on. I've seen the previous "show me movies that are set around Christmas but not about Christmas" threads. These are not what I'm looking for, as most of the recommendations in those are modern and/or classic and/or well known movies. I'm looking for the movies that fell through the cracks. Like The Cheaters. I only mentioned The Thin Man and Holiday Inn (they're well known) to give y'all an idea of what kind of movies I like and don't like.

Anyway, I want to build my library of old-timey, not "Classic", sleeper, Christmas-type movies. I know they're out there. Help me find them. They don't have to be American or in English; I can read subtitles (and I hate dubbed movies, the dissonance between the lips and sound makes me twitch). If y'all think it's good, and I can find it relatively cheap, or online, or through Amazon Prime, I'll check it out.
posted by patheral to Media & Arts (27 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
Billy Wilder's "The Apartment." For anyone who's ever wondered what a great New Year's Eve with a loved one might feel like. Not pre-1950 but certainly a classic.
posted by Currer Belfry at 9:35 AM on December 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Fanny and Alexander
Meet Me in St. Louis isn't strictly Christmas, but when Judy sings Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, who cares?
Joyeux Noel
The Bishop's Wife (the original, not the remake)
The Shop Around the Corner
The Ref, which is darkish, but hilarious
posted by Ideefixe at 9:46 AM on December 9, 2012 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Seconding Currer Belfry and Ideefixe.

Set at Christmas but not a Christmas movie, The Man Who Came To Dinner. Also, good luck getting a copy of it but The Holly And The Ivy is a good one. Super corny but I am fond of Christmas in Connecticut (the 1945 version).
posted by gudrun at 10:02 AM on December 9, 2012 [3 favorites]

Oh, and, you can watch Truman Capote's A Christmas Memory on Youtube.
posted by gudrun at 10:10 AM on December 9, 2012

If you haven't watched Jodie Foster's Home for the Holidays, you really should.
posted by humboldt32 at 10:11 AM on December 9, 2012

posted by RogerB at 10:11 AM on December 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Here are some crime melodramas set during Christmas, along the lines of The Thin Man:

There's a terrific, underseen noir film called Christmas Holiday.
Also worth checking out: Blast of Silence, about a hitman planning a hit over Christmas
Cover Up is about a suicide during Christmas that may or may not be murder
The FBI Story includes an FBI Christmas celebration!
I, The Jury: It's a Mike Hammer Christmas miracle!
Lady in the Lake: It's a very Phillip Marlowe Christmas!
Larceny Inc., about former criminals trying to go straight, climaxes on Christmas eve
Manchurian Candidate: What is a good political brainswashing thriller without a Christmas scene?
Mr. Soft Touch: What happens when criminals take over a nightclub just before Christmas?
Night of the Hunter: The film ends with a Christmas celebration
The Odessa File: John Voight hunts ex-Nazis on Christmas
The Unholy Three: Great film by the creator of Freaks about criminal sideshow performers; includes Christmas scene

Arguably, Psycho is set during Christmas -- there are Christmas decorations on display in the street scenes in Phoenix. It's never made explicit, however.

And, for modern audiences, LA Confidential and In Bruges are set over the Christmas holiday. A personal favorite of mine, the second-half of The Matador is set during Christmas.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:20 AM on December 9, 2012 [7 favorites]

Stanwyck plays a shoplifter in Remember the Night.
posted by brujita at 10:26 AM on December 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Shocked that no one has mentioned "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang". It's a modern overlooked classic.
posted by ColdChef at 10:36 AM on December 9, 2012

Desk Set is from 1957 and one of the many movies starring Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. It takes place around Christmas, but it's a screwball romantic comedy about computers taking over for the librarians at a news network.
posted by wsquared at 10:43 AM on December 9, 2012 [5 favorites]

The Miracle of Morgan's Creek's pivotal scene is set on Christmas day, iirc. Directed and written by Preston Sturges with a superb cast and dealing with what was then taboo subject matter, it's one of the funniest movies ever made.
posted by buggzzee23 at 11:14 AM on December 9, 2012

Response by poster: Oh, I love Desk Set! That's just the kind of movie I'm looking for. I'll check out some of the others offered (I've seen things like The Ref, The Bishop's Wife -- both of them -- and Christmas in Connecticut, they're pretty mainstream IMO). But I'm definitely looking forward to watching some of the ones Bunny Ultramod mentioned.

I'm not looking for films that have scenes that include Christmas, but ones that take place during the Christmas season, as in Christmas is a part of the plot, not in the background. If that makes any sense.
posted by patheral at 11:59 AM on December 9, 2012

It Happened on Fifth Avenue (1947)
posted by mmmbacon at 12:04 PM on December 9, 2012

A Midnight Clear

Christmas fraternization between German and US soldiers as WWII nears its end.
posted by LonnieK at 12:59 PM on December 9, 2012

Bell, Book and Candle fills the bill here perfectly.
posted by pasici at 4:45 PM on December 9, 2012

I'm a sucker for the June Allyson/Elizabeth Taylor version of Little Women. The opening scenes take place during Christmas, I always feel the need to watch it this time of year.
posted by secrethandshake at 5:55 PM on December 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Re A Midnight Clear .. sorry, on re-preview, that's not an old-timey one. Good, but not old-timey. Great suggestions here.
posted by LonnieK at 6:58 PM on December 9, 2012

I just saw The Bishop's Wife for the first time this weekend - it's set during Christmastime and involves an angel being sent to Earth to "help" a curmudgeonly Bishop, but who instead mostly hangs out with the titular Wife causing trouble. It felt very Christopher Moore, 50 years early. I quite enjoyed it as a spin on the "classics."
posted by Rallon at 8:06 PM on December 9, 2012

Best answer: "The Man Who Came To Dinner" might be fit the criteria. A comedy.
posted by Fortnight Bender at 8:50 PM on December 9, 2012

Best answer: Frank Tashlin's 1954 Susan Slept Here! Here's a little selection of clips. It is great!

Last year the film series that I put on showed Remember the Night (1940) and this year we're showing Night of the Hunter, which Bunny Ultramod already mentioned. Both also great!

Laurel and Hardy's Babes in Toyland. Seconding Meet Me In St. Louis. Wikipedia has a pretty thorough round up of other options.
posted by bubukaba at 9:21 PM on December 9, 2012

my not-so-old but retro flavored xmas fave... The Hudsucker Proxy.
posted by quiteliterally at 10:33 PM on December 9, 2012

Best answer: Fitzwilly (1967) is a rom-com/caper movie starring Dick van Dyke and Barbara Feldon (Agent 99 from Get Smart). Christmas isn't featured too heavily, but it does play a crucial role in the caper at the climax of the film.

I guess Holiday (1938) is more centered around New Year's Eve than Christmas, but I still lump it in with my non-traditional holiday movies. It's lesser known than other Katharine Hepburn-Cary Grant collaborations, but I think it's a great film.

Bachelor Mother (1939, Ginger Rogers/David Niven) and Bundle of Joy (1956, Debbie Reynolds/Eddie Fisher) are both about a young woman who is about to lose her job during the Christmas season when she finds a baby and gets mistaken as the mother of said infant.

There's a novel from 1913 called The Three Godfathers, where the Magi are recast as three robbers in the Old West transporting a newborn baby across the desert; it ends on Christmas Eve. It's been adapted to film a number of times, with probably the two most notable being Three Godfathers (1936) and 3 Godfathers (1948). (For a more modern flair, there's the 2003 anime Tokyo Godfathers; I haven't seen that one, but I've heard it's good.)
posted by alyxstarr at 7:29 AM on December 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also, if you get Turner Classic Movies, be sure to check out their lineup for this month, as they typically show quite a few older, less typical Christmas-y movies.
posted by alyxstarr at 8:01 AM on December 10, 2012

Meet Me in St. Louis-Margaret O'Brian and Judy Garland, need I say more?

Auntie Mame with Rosalind Russell.

The Shop Around the Corner-Jimmy Stewart and Judy Garland, (it's the movie that You've Got Mail was nicked from)

And for a grin, Easter Parade with Fred Astaire and Judy Garland. (Wrong holiday, I know, but still good)

And here's a recent one that I've been telling EVERYONE to see because it's charming:

posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:53 AM on December 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

To refine Ruthless Bunny's great suggestion, The Shop Around the Corner was remade twice before You've Got Mail, once as The Shop Around the Corner (1940) with Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullavan and again as In the Good Old Summertime (1949) with Judy Garland and Van Johnson. Recommend both.
posted by ElleElle at 9:19 AM on December 10, 2012

Best answer: *Seconding Christmas in Connecticut and Holiday. Classics both.

*An Affair to Remember is really only a Christmas movie for one scene, but it's a hell of a scene.

*John Huston's (James Joyce's) The Dead was filmed at the close of the director's life and concerns the end of the Christmas season; fittingly, it's more melancholic and reflective than your average holiday screener.

*Finally, the ultimate sleeper: the 1978 TV movie A Christmas to Remember. It's got Jason Robards! Eva Marie Saint! Joanne Woodw-

A TV movie? Really?

Really! It's got sharp dialogue, a career-best performance from Robards (excepting the perhaps misjudged scene in which Robards tries to ride down a little boy on a tractor), a fine Christmas ghost-

No extant torrents?

Ahem! A fine Christmas ghost that plays a key part in the most emotionally shattering climax that-

$150 on Amazon for a VHS copy?!

My brother managed to wrangle a DVD burn off eBay for around fifty. He and I hold it a bargain at the price.
posted by Iridic at 10:03 AM on December 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Um, Auntie Mame is one of my favorite movies, and while it has a Christmas scene in it, and it's a good scene, it's not really a Christmas movie. Christmas isn't a part of the plot, just one scene.

I'm more looking for movies that are set during the Holiday season, begin and end right before, during, and after Christmas and New Year's -- because a lot of people consider New Year's as the "end" of the Holiday season. They don't have to be about Christmas, but the holidays should be weaved into the story. Like in The Thin Man, Nick and Nora were buying presents for each other, they had a tree, they were going to parties, Nick shot the ornaments of the tree with his pop gun, etc... It's definitely not a Christmas story, but it's set around Xmas.

I hope that helps with what I'm looking for.
posted by patheral at 10:26 AM on December 10, 2012

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