It’s officially the run-up to Christmas, and you know what that means:
TIME TO BUST OUT ALL OF THE OLD SCHOOL CHRISTMAS FILMS!!!
One problem though… you kind of have to save the It’s A Wonderful Life-style old movies until minimum Christmas Eve Eve.
So that means you’re stuck watching whatever new film Hallmark has crapped out this year, because the only old films available are the 1938 version of Christmas Carol, which is a total classic and all…but it’s also slow as f and it’s not this?
But suffer no longer! I’ve gathered 4 of the best old (we’re talking released before 1950!) films that you probably haven’t seen. All are fun and most importantly batshit enough to keep you entertained, no matter what level of turkey-based food coma you’re in.
Oh, and I’ve included where you can watch the films — you’re welcome. So crack open the wine and prepare to mock and love these films in equal measure!
1. THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER, 1940
Watch it because… truly nothing says Christmas like Jimmy Stewart in a suicidal Christmas film!
What’s it about? Set in Budapest, Hungary (as nifty a way for the film studio to seem Euro positive during WWII), the film follows a group of shopworkers. Specifically Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullavan, who can’t stand each other…But *gasp* they are actually secretly falling in love with each other as anonymous pen pals!
What makes it so good? If you haven’t guessed yet, 1990s AOL classic You’ve Got Mail is based on this. BUT the original has 2 major bonuses over the remake:
1. The romance is waaaay off: Seriously, the romance here is less "I bet they have really good angry sex" and more "I bet they have a lot of angry sex followed by crying." Seriously, the hatred between these two is real! They should in no way be together and if it doesn’t end in divorce within a year, I’ll eat my Santa hat….and for some reason it’s that aspect which makes this version way more entertaining.
2. It’s festive AS F!! Set in snow-capped Hungary with a Christmas Eve kissing session thrown in for good measure, this film is all kinds of cosy! Plus it also stars Frank Morgan, AKA the Wizard of Oz!
What’s the downside? Well *spoiler alert* er…The Wizard tries to kill himself…yeah bit of a festive bummer. You see, Frank Morgan plays the shop’s owner, who through the course of the film starts off fine, then suspects his wife of having an affair, has a breakdown, and attempts suicide. Merry Christmas!
Don’t worry though, two days after his suicide attempt, the Wizard is back at the shop and everyone just kind of glosses over what happened…making this the ultimate Christmas film for everyone with a massively dysfunctional family.
Where can I watch it? It’s available to rent for not very much at all on Amazon (included in some Prime packages), YouTube and Google Play.
2. CHRISTMAS IN CONNECTICUT, 1945
Watch this because… this screwball comedy with a female lead somehow manages to both be WAY ahead of its time feminism-wise, and yet somehow really outdated…it’s quite an impressive feat!
What’s it about? Barbara Stynwyck plays a career girl writer whose homemaking column has transformed her into the '40s Martha Stewart.
The only problem? She can’t even make toast!
But when her boss forces her to host a (cute) military hero at her (imaginary) farm for Christmas, Barbara has no choice to make her homemaking fantasy life a reality. Cue much screwball comedy, fake babies, kitchen mishaps and a love triangle.
So what makes it so good? Well not to be this person…but Barbara’s wardrobe is pretty great. Plus *spoiler ahead* Barbara doesn’t magically become great at homemaking or ditch writing to become a wife. By the end,,,,,,,,,, she gets a promotion and gets off with the guy, who is totally fine with the fact she can’t cook, clean or change a baby (but he can!).
So what’s the downsides? Well the film is a bit all over the place…which it gets away with as it is a screwball comedy.
Still, I’d recommend tucking into some mulled wine and creating a Christmas in Connecticut drinking game to get you through the more nonsensical bits (try drinking every time they say "baby’" and "hunky dory" — you’ll be sloshed within 20 minutes!)
Where can I watch it? Available on Youtube, Amazon Prime and Google Play.
3. IT HAPPENED ON FIFTH AVENUE, 1947
Watch it because... It’s the forgotten sibling of old holiday films. It Happened on 5th lost its director to It’s A Wonderful Life and was beaten to Oscar glory by Miracle on 34th Street. Basically, it had 0 luck! Now finally re-released after decades in 2008, this sweet (but barmy) movie looks set to make an iconic Christmas comeback!
What’s it about? A rich businessman leaves his plush pad vacant while he is out of town over Christmas. Except it’s not empty…because a homeless man has broken in and set up a fancy temporary home there! He soon invites round his mates, including a a newly homeless war vet and a young female drifter…who turns out to be the home owner's daughter, who is just pretending to be homeless (Yeah…bit of a twat move). Soon the rich homeowner comes back (now also pretending to be a homeless man…) and learns that actually he shouldn’t be a massive prick to those worse off.
What’s good? It’s basically a very socialist Christmas! Honestly: One of the storylines involves a group of homeless veterans trying to fund their plan to build mass affordable housing. The film couldn’t be more humanist and socialist if it tried! Which in such a consumer driven time… is actually really bloody lovely.
The downside? Good luck watching this if you live outside the USA. For real, there is literally no way to watch it legally and that’s super bloody frustrating!
Where can I watch it? Well if you're in the US, you can rent it for a pittance on YouTube, Amazon or Google Play. Not in the US…happy streaming!
4. MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS, 1944
Watch it because… nothing says Christmas quite like Judy motherfucking Garland. (And, though apparently this is on in America over Christmas all the bloody time…the same cannot be said for the UK, where it remains a hidden Christmas gem.)
What’s it about? The film spends a year following the Smith family, a middle class family at the turn of the century. From spring to winter, we watch as the family are torn apart, pull back together again, and generally learn all about family values and love, etc. etc.
Whats good? It’s generally a cracking musical. You have fun numbers, earworms a plenty and of course — Miss Judy Garland, AKA THE FUCKING BEST. On a festive note, the film contains the classic song "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," arguably one of the most underappreciated festive numbers around.
Now, for those who don’t know…"Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" is the perfect mix of both melancholic and hopeful. During Meet Me In St. Louis, it’s sung right after this happens:
Why yes, that is an emotional little girl murdering a snowman with what looks like a gun. Yeah…not such an innocuous little ditty now huh!?!
Judy Garland's character sings "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" to soothe her upset sister (following snowman decapitation gate). The songs lyrics remind us that no matter how bad things are right now, things will get better. But until then, if we band together with those we love, we can "muddle through somehow."
MY GOD, DOESN’T THAT SEEM LIKE THE END OF YEAR ANTHEM 2017 NEEDS?
Where I can watch it? Again, Amazon, YouTube and Google Play have it for less than a cup of coffee. If you live in the UK, it is also on SkyCinema.
This post originally appeared on F Yeah History and is reprinted here with permission.
Top photo: The Shop Around The Corner
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Written by Natasha Tidd, Sara Westrop, and Helen Antrobus, F Yeah History is dedicated to unearthing history that's just too good for history class. From historic hangover cures to unsung historic heroes, all told with a healthy does of gifs and somewhat terrible jokes, it's history...just not as you know it. Follow F Yeah History on FYeahHistory.com and on Twitter @F_yeah_history.