A black and white Christmas: 5 classic holiday films from the 1940s

By Elizabeth Reid

For the Deseret News

Published: Saturday, Dec. 21 2013 3:40 p.m. MST

Joseph Cotten, Jennifer Jones, Shirley Temple and Claudette Colbert star in "Since You Went Away."

MGM

Tired of watching the same Christmas movies every December? This year, try something in black and white. These charming movies have enough mature topics to appeal to adults but are clean enough to be watched with elementary-age children.

While many recent flicks have taken over most of the Christmas-movie hype, these gems are not to be forgotten. Each of these movies is fantastic in its own way and, so as to not show favoritism, is listed in order of year released.

"Remember the Night"

Just before Christmas, a young woman is caught shoplifting. It's her third offense, and the assistant district attorney views her as another easy conviction. Then he feels sorry about her being locked up during the holiday season, so he arranges her bail and takes her home to a loving family very different from her own.

As the two enjoy the Christmas season, they unexpectedly fall in love. The only problem is in how they will handle her upcoming trial once Christmas is over.

Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray star in this 1940 romance that switches between comedy and drama but ends with class.

"The Shop Around the Corner"

Before “You’ve Got Mail” was this delightful film that centers on two co-workers who hate each other. Little do they know they are each other’s secret pen pal. As the two navigate the politics and intrigues of the store, they come in contact with other co-workers and a boss who bring love and chaos into their lives.

Finally, on Christmas Eve, identities are revealed and the sworn enemies realize they are actually soul mates.

Margaret Sullavan and James Stewart star in this 1940 romance.

"Since You Went Away"

During World War II, life on the home front was difficult for the women and children who constantly worried about their husbands, sweethearts and fathers. This movie focuses on a mother and two daughters from January through December of 1943.

As the months pass, the women’s lives are changed as they come to know great happiness, worry and extreme sorrow. Through it all, their absent father is spoken of and idealized.

A beautiful, emotional film, this 1944 movie is stocked with star power. Claudette Colbert, Joseph Cotten, Jennifer Jones, Robert Walker and a teenage Shirley Temple give wonderful performances and show that Christmas is a time for love and family.

"Christmas in Connecticut"

A World War II hero is homeless for Christmas and is invited to the home of a woman who is a famous writer and housewife. Except she isn’t really a housewife at all but a single woman who used her writing skills and the recipes of a good friend to launch her career.

She finds herself scrambling to find a home in the country, a husband and a baby in order to host the soldier and keep her job. What ensues is a romantic comedy with some great acting.

Barbara Stanwyck and Dennis Morgan star in this 1945 movie.

"Holiday Affair"

A single mom relies on her job as a secret shopper to provide for her young son. But when she accidentally gets a sales clerk fired, neither realizes their entire Christmas is about to change. The generosity of the sales clerk surprises the mom when he shows up with a train for her young son.

After acting in this delightful 1949 romantic comedy, Robert Mitchum went on to star in film noir, in which he was perpetually cast as a bad guy. Today, Janet Leigh is probably best known for her role as a murder victim in “Psycho.”

Take a leap and watch a new-to-you Christmas movie this year. Don’t be afraid of these films’ lack of color; you might find a new Christmas favorite among some older films.

For more detailed summaries of these movies, see www.tcm.com.

Elizabeth Reid has bachelor's degrees in economics and history. She has worked in retail, medical billing, catering, education and business fields. Her favorite occupation is that of wife and mother. She can be reached at bizziereid@gmail.com.

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