A fresh look at Christmas movies (or: who’s your favourite Scrooge?)

The promos for classic Christmas shows are coming on TV again like old friends. This is something I would miss if I didn’t have cable and relied solely on the Internet for my programmes – the anticipation of waiting to see when Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer was coming on. Or Santa Claus is Coming to Town. Or A Charlie Brown Christmas.

When the networks still ruled the airwaves, those shows would come on only once or twice in the season, so you’d plan your week around when they were airing. If you missed them, you’d have to wait until next year. It was frustrating – your life was at the whim of network executives. But it didn’t feel that way. No, the waiting  was exciting – it increased the anticipation for Christmas Day – upping the ante and causing us to shiver with excitement. It simply became part of the tradition, part of the fabric of Christmas.

And those shows have become so familiar – when I see them now, I’m  immediately transported.

I can cry, for instance, within 5 minutes of It’s A Wonderful Life coming on the television. It doesn’t matter where in the movie I tune in … after years and years of watching it, the response to those familiar black and white images is Pavlovian. It’s emotional manipulation on the part of director Frank Capra (Arsenic and Old Lace, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington), to be sure, but this is one time I don’t mind it.

The part where Jimmy Stewart realizes all of his friends have come to save him.

The moment when Jimmy Stewart realizes his friends have come to save him.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas is another one I loved in my childhood. I waited every year for it to be on TV and watched it greedily when it finally arrived – knowing I wouldn’t see it again for another year. Of course I’m talking about the original Grinch, the animated version with horror movie denizen Boris Karloff doing the voice of the Grinch. The Jim Carrey live-action one doesn’t hold a candle to that, I don’t think.

When I was living in Northern Ireland and I mentioned the Grinch to my husband and stepson, they didn’t know the animated Grinch. I simply couldn’t watch the Jim Carrey one. So my brother, bless him, sent us over a copy of the Dr. Zeuss classic and I was able to introduce them – and my daughter – to part of my childhood. She watched that DVD over and over again – winter, spring summer and fall, she loved it so much. I wonder what life lessons she learned from it? What fascinated her so much?

Nothing beats the animated version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

Nothing beats the animated version of Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

The nostalgia is the thing that keeps me coming back to these shows – but seeing them with new people, introducing them to a new audience helps me see them through fresh eyes.

 A Christmas Carol based on the Charles Dickens book is a similar experience for most people. There are so many versions, which one is best is up for debate. For me, it’s the old 1950s version with Alastair Sim – the black and white images, the tinny British accents capture the tenor and timelessness in a way the other versions don’t for me.
He personifies Charles Dickens' Ebenezer Scrooge.

He personifies Charles Dickens’ Ebenezer Scrooge.

And then today I see this article and learn a whole new way of looking at the story. Did you know that, when the book came out, it caused many acts of philanthropy, including an American employer giving his workers an extra day’s holiday.
Finding this out makes me think that it is a wonderful life and a good story can change people. Sometimes those traditional values, repeated over the generations, are worth another look.
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10 comments

  1. What version? A Muppet Christmas Carol of course Deb 🙂

    1. Ha! Forgot about that one – or blocked it from my memory!

  2. The Grinch is my all-time fave and I try not to watch on DVD but wait for the TV slot. Somehow, I always think that’s cheating! And I cry every single time the Whos come out to sing even though there’s nothing in their homes. I also love Scrooged. Not sure what that says about me!

    1. I know what you mean about those Whos! The sheer joy of just being together outshining everything else … what a beautiful sentiment. As to Scrooged … it’s Bill Murray … he’s got a dark side to him that rivals the Alastair Sim Scrooge, but in a different way 😉

  3. Also: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer with Burl Ives, Santa Claus is Coming to Town with Fred Astaire, Frosty the Snowman (but NOT the sequel), The Little Drummer Boy (sobbing as I type the words), A Charlie Brown Christmas, and A Christmas Story (which I discovered as an adult but love anyway.) My 16-year-old is already planning the order in which we’ll watch all these on Christmas Eve

    1. Forgot about the Little Drummer Boy! Yes, that sequel to Frosty is horrific – I saw it for the first time last year and was shocked at how bad it was! We watch the ones you’ve listed every year … love ’em.

  4. So right, Deb! It’s all about the nostalgia (bugger off, Jim Carrey, you are messin with the sentiment!). Grinch and Rudolph the Red-Nosed reindeer are my all-time favs.

  5. Love Rudolph, too …. Abby gets upset when we watch it now because Rudolph’s being bullied!
    Still can’t wait for A Christmas Carol to come on the airwaves.

  6. […] Christmas movies: I love the Grinch – Who’s your favourite Christmas movie character? […]

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