The Shop Around the Corner (1940) is my favorite Christmas film. It is a love story that has been remade into In the Good Old Summertime and You’ve Got Mail. In fact, the bookstore Meg Ryan’s character owns in You’ve Got Mail is named The Shop Around the Corner. The film stars Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullavan as co-workers at a Hungarian shop who hate each other but unwittingly fall in love through letters they are exchanging anonymously.
The film is hilarious with a strong supportive cast that includes Frank Morgan the wizard in The Wizard of Oz. Yet the tension that ensues between the co-workers, will they fall in love when they discover the person they’ve fallen in love with through the mail is their co-worker, kept me enthralled. I watch this movie every year even if it’s not Christmas just for the final scene. It’s worth every minute.
White Christmas (1954) is a musical named after the Irving Berlin song of the same name. The song was originally featured in the film Holiday Inn. With music by Irving Berlin, this musical with a romantic undertone is already a winner. But the stars are what make this film special. The collaboration of the four stars: Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney (yes, George Clooney’s aunt), and Vera Ellen make this a holiday classic with their tremendous talent. Two former World War II buddies become an entertaining duo when Kaye’s character saves Crosby’s character’s life. They audition a sister act consisting of Clooney and Vera Ellen because their brother is an old army buddy. When they end up at an inn where the sisters are performing, Crosby and Kaye discover their old army general is running the ship but losing money.
A touching story about friendship specifically the kind that results in serving together in the army with a hint of romance, this film is a timeless classic. I became a fan of Vera Ellen’s after watching this musical and her fancy footwork. Even if you don’t like musicals, watch this film; it’ll change your mind.
Meet Me in St. Louis (1944): The 1904 World’s Fair has come to St. Louis and the four sisters of the Smith family prepare in anticipation over the next year for this momentous occasion. Songbird Judy Garland plays the second oldest sister and sings Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas amongst other beautiful songs that tell this story of romance and family relations. When the father of the family announces his job has transferred him to New York City, the family is sad about leaving St. Louis and the oldest two girls protest.
I grew up in St. Louis so I love the title. I love the movie because it’s a warm family classic with festive and upbeat songs. This is not a sappy happy musical as drama ensues when moving away from the beloved St. Louis is considered. The presentation of the film broken up into four seasons helps move the film along nicely and makes you a part of the Smith family. Watch Judy Garland at her best. It’s even better than The Wizard of Oz.
Love Actually (2003): The British have mastered comedies. This is a beautifully woven love story about eight couples. All the characters are connected to one another but the love stories are not the overly sugared stories that drive men running in the other direction. The film is set five weeks before Christmas and follows the couples as they go through their day-to-day lives with drama and a real sense of longing for love.
There are two festive Christmas songs that aren’t classics but are fun to sing: Christmas is All Around and All I Want for Christmas is You. The question is “What is love and what does it look like?” Watch this all-star cast of Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson, Liam Neeson, Claudia Schiffer, Laura Linney, Keira Knightley, Billy Bob Thornton (playing the US president), Martine McCutcheon, Alan Rickman, Rowan Atkinson (Mr. Bean), January Jones, Elisa Cuthbert, Shannon Elizabeth, Denise Richards, and even Ant and Dec. Learn: what is love actually?