For the past ten years, I have been writing a regular movie column for the New Jersey publication, Fifty Plus. Each “Forgotten Gems” column discusses an overlooked film from Hollywood’s Golden Era. Each December, I offer a Christmas “Forgotten Gem.” Below is a list – in no particular order – of ten motion pictures that have always been overshadowed by White Christmas, It’s a Wonderful Life, The Bishop’s Wife, and Miracle on 34th Street.
(1) Three Godfathers (1948) This John Ford desert western stars John Wayne and features a different version of the three wise men.
(2) Remember the Night (1940) This comedy/drama/romance depicts Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray as two jaded people taking a trip back home to Indiana for the holidays.
(3) The Great Rupert (1950) This movie showcases the true Christmas spirit as well as the talents of Jimmy Durante, Terry Moore, and special effects master, George Pal.
(4) Trail of Robin Hood (1950) This film has nothing to do with the legendary bandit of Sherwood Forest; instead, it is a Roy Rogers western with Christmas songs, Christmas trees, and a turkey named Sir Galahad.
(5) Holiday Affair (1949) This New York City Christmas story stars Robert Mitchum and Janet Leigh as two strangers who meet and fall in love.
(6) The Holly and the Ivy (1952) This British Christmas drama features Ralph Richardson as a recently widowed and aging parson experiencing a tumultuous Christmas family reunion in England after the Second World War.
(7) Christmas in July (1940) This uplifting Preston Sturges comedy stars Dick Powell as a slogan contest winner who embodies the Christmas spirit of generosity, kindness, and charity.
(8) Beyond Tomorrow (1940) This Christmas fantasy features three wonderful character actors – Harry Carey, C. Aubrey Smith, and Charles Winninger – as three lonely, wealthy bachelors whose charity brings two strangers – Richard Carlson and Jean Parker – together.
(9) Christmas in Connecticut (1945) This “House-of-Cards-About-to-Tumble” comedy stars Barbara Stanwyck as the Martha Stewart of her day who actually knows nothing about cooking, interior design, or child rearing.
(10) Christmas Eve (1947) This episodic Christmas melodrama tells the story of a wealthy spinister (Ann Harding) searching for her three foster sons – Randolph Scott, George Raft, and George Brent. A “B’ movie with some bizarre turns, Christmas Eve illustrates the holiday messages of good triumphing over evil and family superseding individual needs.
My forthcoming book, Fifty Forgotten Gems featuring several of these holiday films, will be published by mid-summer, 2012.