A CHRISTMAS STORY
Listening to Sam Shepherd's homey narration ( loosely based on his childhood in Lake county Indiana) sets the tone for this sweetly hilarious tale of a boy who wants nothing more than a Red Ryder Air Rifle. Why, after some 25 years, does this movie still move us to laughter and plain happiness? My guess is that it resonates with both adults and children; kids want to be Ralphie, grown-ups wish they'd have had such a childhood. And Peter Billingsley is perfect.
SCROOGE or CHRISTMAS CAROL
There have been many Scrooges but Alastair Sim, one of England's great comic actors, makes you believe. Let's hope the DVD is available in your neighborhood; if not, you can buy the 2-disc Collectors Edition on-line under "Christmas Carol." This remains the most faithful version of Charles Dickens's classic.
THE BISHOP'S WIFE
Cary Grant as an angel? Yes, and he works wonders: melts a rich woman's (Gladys Cooper) stony heart; reminds a bishop (David Niven) what Christmas is really all about; and nearly steals the heart of the bishop's wife (Loretta Young).
MIRACLE ON 34th STREET
First, make sure you get the original 1947 version, you know, the one with Maureen O'Hara, John Payne, Natalie Wood, and the real Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwenn). Perhaps as warming a Christmas movie as you'll ever see, without getting in least syrupy.
MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS
I know, the Christmas segment is only twenty or so minutes long. But what a wonderful treat - to spend some time with the Smith family, and hear Judy Garland sing "Have yourself a merry little Christmas" to Tootie (played by Margaret O'Brien). Read my review of the entire movie.