The Diogenes Club met for its annual festive gathering in a little out of the way pub in a quaint Dorset village - which shall remain nameless - if only because we want to keep it as a quite retreat and wouldn't like it to become too popular. During our evening conversation over a glass or two of mulled wine the vexed topic of which were the best movies to watch over Christmas came up. And as usual no two members could agree.
So in the absence of any definitive list, I humbly offer here my own top ten of Christmas movies, and make no apologies if they seem set in a "certain age". I confess to you now that modern movies are rather lacking from my list. They may have the action and the Computer Generated Watsits but sadly lack the character and the atmosphere of what I consider to be a good movie. So in reverse order:
10 The Bishop’s Wife (1947)
Cary Grant, David Niven
The bishop (David Niven) is preoccupied with the plans for a new cathedral, while his wife is struggling to make Christmas for the family. An Angel called Dudley (Carey Grant) is sent to help but the bishop becomes jealous of Dudley’s popularity , especially with his wife and daughter. A parable on what is truly important in life. Nominated for 5 Academy Awards in 1948.
9 Bell, Book and Candle (1958)
James Stewart, Kim Novak, Jack Lemon
Kim Novak is a witch who falls in love with a mortal (James Stewart) and starts to lose her powers, all over Christmas.
8 Going My Way (1944)
Bing Crosby, Barry Fitzgerald
Parish life at his first "assignment" includes gossip, youth mischief, and a rather shady landlord, but young Father O'Malley (Crosby) seems to land on his feet. As older Father Fitzgibbon (Fitzgerald) watches Father O'Malley in action, he feels his days as pastor of his flock may be numbered.
7 The Bells of St. Mary's (1945)
Bing Crosby, Ingrid Bergman
Father O'Malley (Bing Crosby) is sent to St. Mary's to revitalize the school and finds himself at odds with Sister Benedict (Ingrid Bergman), but the skinflint Horace P. Bogardus is going to have the school condemned. Sequel to Going my Way. Nominated for 8 Oscars in 1946.
6 It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
George Bailey (James Stewart) has lost $8000 and feels that his life has made no difference to anyone and so he is about to end it. So Clarence the angel is sent to take George back in time, to show George the tremendous difference he made in the lives of the people around him. Some say it is the most popular Christmas movie ever made, but in my opinion not quite.
5 A Christmas Carol (1951)
The classic Christmas story by Charles Dickens, in which the miserly Scrooge learns that amassing money is not the ultimate goal of life; Without doubt the 1951 version is head and shoulders above every other.
4 We’re no Angels (1955)
Humphrey Bogart, Aldo Ray, Peter Ustinov, Basil Rathbone
Three convicts escape from Devil’s Island and stay with kindly Leo G Carroll and his family over Christmas and help him deal with his difficult and pompous cousin (Rathbone). The humorous conflict between Rathbone and Bogart is a sight to be seen.
3 White Christmas (1954)
Bing Crosby, Danny Kay
Bob Wallace (Bing Crosby) and Phil Davis (Danny Kaye) get together after the war as the top variety entertainers. They perform their Christmas show in Vermont in the inn owned by their former general, who has fallen on hard times. Romance ensues as the foursome tries to put together the perfect show to help the general.
2 The Man Who Came to Dinner(1941)
Bette Davis, Monty Woolley, Jimmy Durante, Anne Sheridan.
Sheridan Whiteside (Monty Woolley) the rudest author and broadcaster in the world (and the prototype for Gregory House) slips on the front porch of his hosts home and has to stay over Christmas where he does what he does best – interfering in other lives to great hilarity
1 Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
A nice old man (Edmund Gwen) is institutionalized for claiming that he really is Santa Claus. Fred believes the old man, and arranges the legal hearing to let Kris prove himself. An undisputed Christmas classic nominated for four Academy Awards and two Golden Globes in 1948, and miles better than the Richard Attenborough remake.