Get Merry—Mid-Century Style

Holiday films from the period show touches of modernist influence with lots of ho-ho-ho
Holiday Films

For many, winter means more time indoors, and for many more, time indoors means catching up on essential movie-watching.

Worry not. The average modernist can spice their holiday season viewing with just the right mid-century Christmas classics on the screen. We've got eight great ones for you with lots of ho-ho-ho.

Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart starred in respective postwar classics set in the mid-'40s and centered around two Christmas Eve angels, 'The Bishop's Wife' and 'It's A Wonderful Life.' Child actress Karolyn Grimes is prominent in both, and both are also partly about mid-century building construction.

Stewart's first role after real-life service as a fighter pilot in the war was a man devoted to the Bailey Building and Loan. His character, George Bailey, gets credit for possibly the most interesting mid-century modern design in either film, the retractable dance floor/swimming pool in Bedford Falls (which still exists at Beverly Hills High School). The film also includes a montage of vintage neon signage.

Bing Crosby and Irving Berlin were teamed for a couple of tuneful Christmas stories in 'Holiday Inn' and 'White Christmas' that represented possibly the apex of Crosby's fame. Dig the woodie airport shuttle that picks up Bing and Danny Kaye to go to the Vermont ski resort in the latter film.

Two of the best animated television specials of the mid-'60s celebrated the holiday: 'The Grinch Who Stole Christmas,' showcasing the genius of Ted Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss) and Boris Karloff; and 'A Charlie Brown Christmas,' featuring some of the best Christmas jazz ever courtesy of the Vince Guaraldi Trio.

A wonderful vision of mid-century Christmas in small-town Indiana is the setting of 'A Christmas Story,' made in 1983 with the highly amusing story by author/narrator Jean Shepherd.

Of course, the film probably most closely dedicated to Christmas in mid-century America is 'Miracle on 34th Street,' a story pitting belief in Best Actor Edward Gwenn's Santa Claus as a factor in a retail battle between Macy's and Gimbels department stores in New York City.

Now what could be more Christmasy than that?