Turner Classic Movies has already started its Christmas Eve/Christmas Day movie marathon, but there's still time to catch a whole lot of classic holiday action. If you're a fan of Jimmy Stewart, Ginger Rogers, Judy Garland, Bette Davis, Barbara Stanwyck, Katharine Hepburn or Mickey Rooney, there are movies for you in the line-up.
It Happened on Fifth Avenue, a sweet little movie from 1947 about GIs moving into what they think is an empty Manhattan mansion because of the post-World War II housing shortage, begins at 11:15 am Central time, starting the holiday parade. It stars Don DeFore, someone you may remember from the Ozzie and Harriet show, as the first veteran into the mansion, with Ann Harding as a rich girl pretending to be poor to help out her new friends, Charles Ruggles as her robber baron dad, and Victor Moore, a major star of stage and screen you don't hear a lot about anymore, as Aloysious T. McKeever, a gentleman bum who knows how to keep himself in very nice housing even when he doesn't have a nickel. And you'll find Gilligan's Island's Skipper, Alan Hale Jr., in the supporting cast.
After that, Ginger Rogers appears in I'll Be Seeing You, airing at 1:15 pm CST, a 1944 film which has the dubious distinction of turning the beautiful title song into a soggy mess of choral flourishes. Aside from the song and some other melodramatic elements, I'll Be Seeing You is worth a look to see Ginger as a prisoner on a holiday furlough who meets the wonderful Joseph Cotten, playing a shell-shocked soldier who is also on leave, as they both travel home for the holidays by train. Shirley Temple is in the mix as a teenager with a big mouth.
The Shop Around the Corner, a wonderful 1940 movie full of Continental charm, begins at 3 pm CST. Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullavan star as argumentative sales clerks in a shop in Budapest as the holiday shopping season heats up, offering lots of opportunities for snowflakes falling on romantic street scenes with a Mittel-European flair. They are pen pals as well as co-workers, although neither knows the other is the one behind the love letters. Ernst Lubitsch directed this confection with his lighter-than-air Continental touch, pulling perfect performances from the likes of Frank Morgan, the Wizard of Oz himself, as the owner of the shop and Felix Bressart as a member of the team at Matuschek & Co. The movie is based on a play called Parfumerie by Miklos Laszlo and it's been remade a number of times, in films like In the Good Old Summertime and You've Got Mail and the stage musical She Loves Me.
Meet Me in St. Louis is up next, taking us to the World's Fair in 1904, with the Smith family, including Judy Garland and Margaret O'Brien as sisters, enjoying an idyllic life until Dad (Leon Ames) announces they're all moving. Uh oh. Judy sings "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" and there's not a dry eye in the house. It's a classic for a reason. Meet Me in St. Louis starts at 5 pm Central time.
Kaufman and Hart's The Man Who Came to Dinner gets the marquee spot at 7 pm, showcasing Monty Woolley, who reprises his Broadway role as Sheridan Whiteside, an obnoxious radio star who visits a small-town family, suffers a slip and fall on the front steps, and proceeds to take over the household with a non-stop stream of visitors, including eccentric movie and stage stars and a parade of penguins. Bette Davis is on-board as Whiteside's put-upon secretary, with Ann Sheridan as a luscious movie star, Reginald Gardner as a crazy Englishman modeled after Noel Coward, and Jimmy Durane as Banjo, a Harpo Marx-like comedian.
Christmas in Connecticut, takes over at 9 pm CST, with Barbara Stanwyck at her screwball comedy best as a magazine writer who purports to be a wife and mother and an expert on all things domestic, even though she's really single and doesn't know a stove from a refrigerator. A war hero played by the very handsome Dennis Morgan has one holiday desire -- to spend Christmas with a perfect family like hers -- and her editor, played by Sydney Greenstreet, isn't taking no for an answer. So Babs has to come up with a husband, a baby and a whole lot of picture-perfect food on short notice. S. Z. "Cuddles" Sakall makes an appearance as Barbara's pancake-flipper and general helper-outer. It's delightful.
Cover Girl, a 1944 musical with Gene Kelly, Rita Hayworth and Phil Silvers, begins at 11 pm CST, with 1958's Indiscreet, where Cary Grant tries to keep Ingrid Bergman on a string even though he doesn't want to marry her, at 1 am.
As we hit early Christmas morning, John Wayne, Pedro Roca Fuerte and Harry Carey Jr. saddle up for 3 Godfathers, a John Ford Western with a sentimental side. The Duke and his friends are bank robbers on the lam who find themselves unwilling caretakers of an orphaned newborn. They battle sandstorms, sweltering heat, thirst and all kinds of terrifying perils as they attempt to return the baby to her grandfather, who happens to be the sheriff trying to capture them.
Tenth Avenue Angel, a potboiler with Angela Lansbury in an early role, starts at 7 am, followed by Ginger Rogers as a Bachelor Mother at 8:30 am and Reginald Owen as one of the best Scrooges ever in the 1938 screen version of A Christmas Carol at 10:30.
Janet Leigh and Robert Mitchum are unlikely lovers in Holiday Affair, airing at 11:15, where Leigh plays a widowed working mother and Mitchum yearns to build boats in California. Will he give up his dreams to take care of comparison-shopper Connie and little Timmy? Or will she give up her need for security and follow his dream with him?
In the Good Old Summertime, the 1949 musical remake of The Shop Around the Corner, puts Judy Garland together with Van Johnson as squabbling co-workers, this time in a music shop. Liza Minnelli makes her screen debut as the baby Judy carries in the final number. You can compare/contrast Summertime with Shop Around the Corner at 1 pm on Christmas Day.
Then it's the 1933 Little Women, the one with Katharine Hepburn as Jo March, at 3 pm, Love Finds Andy Hardy at 5, and a slew of Mel Brooks' movies, from High Anxiety to Silent Movie, Mel's 1983 remake of To Be or Not to Be, and The Twelve Chairs, all night long.