Some surprising choices dot the vintage movie titles showing up in movie theaters during December, but the most surprising thing is that so few are holiday perennials.
Even the Christmas movies are offbeat choices: “Remember the Night,” “Scrooged,” “3 Godfathers” and “Holiday Affair.” The one expected choice is “It’s a Wonderful Life,” which will play over three days at different venues.
• “Remember the Night” (1940, b/w). Fred MacMurray is a New York assistant district attorney assigned to the case of a hardened shoplifter (Barbara Stanwyck). After he arranges for her to spend the court’s Christmas break in jail, he feels guilty and decides to help her out, which leads, through convoluted circumstances, to him taking her to his mother’s rural home for Christmas. Naturally, love blossoms. This sentimental comedy-drama gets a boost from the stars and a cast of seasoned character players. (Friday, Dec. 2, 7 p.m., free, BYU, Provo)
• “Scrooged” (1988, PG-13). Bill Murray plays a modern, supposedly hipper version of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” miser. He’s a ruthless TV executive in this frantic flick, which plays like a series of “Saturday Night Live” skits, some of which are amusing, most of which fall flat, and all of which are tasteless. It is filled with star cameos ranging from Robert Mitchum to Buddy Hackett. (Sunday, Dec. 4, and Wednesday, Dec. 7, Cinemark Theatres)
• “Spirited Away: 15th Anniversary” (2001, PG). An unhappy 10-year-old girl and her family stumble into an alternate universe that initially seems benign but soon proves to be inhabited by demons, evil spirits and a witch determined to enslave them. Hayao Miyazaki’s captivating film won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature, the first hand-drawn film to win in that category. It is nicely dubbed in English with a voice cast that includes Suzanne Pleshette, David Ogden Stiers and John Ratzenberger. (Sunday, Dec. 4, and Monday, Dec. 5, Cinemark and Megaplex Theatres)
• “Driving Miss Daisy” (1989, PG). This wonderful, character-driven comedy-drama begins in 1948 and chronicles the next 25 years as an irascible elderly white widow (Oscar-winner Jessica Tandy) is forced to strike up a tenuous relationship with a black chauffeur (Oscar-nominated Morgan Freeman) hired by her son (Oscar-nominated Dan Aykroyd). (Monday, Dec. 5, and Wednesday, Dec. 7, Megaplex Theatres)
• “3 Godfathers” (1948). John Ford’s classic holiday Western offers a parable that reworks the baby Jesus being visited by the Three Wise Men. John Wayne, Harry Carey Jr. and Pedro Armendariz are thieves on the run in the desert when they lose their way and stumble onto a wagon with a pregnant woman about to give birth. She extracts a promise from them to care for her baby boy, then she dies and they are left to fulfill that promise, which they gradually come to see as a holy calling. (Tuesday, Dec. 6, 10 a.m., SCERA Center For the Arts, Orem)
• “The Sound of Music: Sing With Maria” (1962). This is the sing-along version of “The Sound of Music,” with subtitled lyrics on the screen as former nun Maria (Julie Andrews) becomes governess to a widower’s large brood and teaches them to sing (and you too, if you are so inclined). This is a benefit for the Salt Lake Film Society with tickets priced at $15. (Saturday, Dec. 10, 2 and 6:30 p.m., Tower Theatre)
• “From Here to Eternity” (1953, b/w). This classic World War II drama is set against Pearl Harbor with intersecting storylines about a first sergeant (Burt Lancaster) romancing the captain’s wife (Deborah Kerr), a private (Montgomery Clift) who is a former boxer who won’t fight in a local bout, and another private (Oscar-winner Frank Sinatra) at odds with a bullying staff sergeant (Ernest Borgnine). It also won Oscars for best picture, best director (Fred Zinnemann) and best supporting actress (Donna Reed). (Sunday, Dec. 11, and Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2 and 7 p.m., Cinemark Theatres)
• “The Searchers” (1956). One of John Wayne’s best performances and one of John Ford’s best directing efforts is this stirring Western about a racist Civil War veteran who spends years trying to find his niece (Natalie Wood) after she is kidnapped by Comanches. With him is the girl’s adopted brother (Jeffrey Hunter), who begins to wonder if Wayne is planning to rescue the girl or kill her after she has spent years as a wife of the Comanche chief. It is gorgeously filmed in Monument Valley. (Monday, Dec. 12, and Wednesday, Dec. 14, Megaplex Theatres)
• “Holiday Affair” (1949, b/w). Robert Mitchum is a department store clerk during the Christmas season when he spots Janet Leigh as a comparison-shopper but doesn’t turn her in, which gets him fired. She’s a war widow with a young son and a longtime fiancé (Wendell Corey), but Mitchum pursues her anyway, which proves to be a rocky road since Corey isn’t the only competition; Leigh’s still not over her late husband. It's a nicely modulated, sentimental romance. (Tuesday, Dec. 13, 10 a.m., SCERA Center For the Arts, Orem)
• “For Your Eyes Only” (PG). Roger Moore’s fifth go-round as James Bond (and the franchise’s 12th entry) is a return to less gimmicky spy-jinks for 007 and one of Moore’s best outings. The plot has the spy with a license to kill tracking a British encryption device that may have fallen into enemy hands. The spectacular stunt work offers several highlights. (Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2 p.m., free, Salt Lake City Library)
• “It’s a Wonderful Life” (1946, b/w). James Stewart stars in what Frank Capra called his favorite of his own films, the story of a man contemplating suicide when he gets a chance to see what the world would have been like if he’d never been born. It's pretty much a perfect movie with a terrific supporting cast led by Donna Reed and Lionel Barrymore. (Friday, Dec. 18, and Wednesday, Dec. 21, Cinemark Theatres; also Friday, Dec. 20, SCERA Center For the Arts, Orem)
• “The Getaway” (1972, PG). After being denied parole, inmate Doc McCoy (Steve McQueen) agrees to help corrupt officials rob a bank in exchange for his freedom, but the robbery goes awry when a guard is killed, and the crew attempts a double-cross, sending Doc and wife Carol (Ali MacGraw) on the run as they are pursued by cops and crooks alike. This exciting film is essentially one long chase, tightly written by Walter Hill and directed with style by Sam Peckinpah. Ben Johnson, Sally Struthers and Slim Pickens co-star. (Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2 p.m., free, Salt Lake City Library)