When Hollywood Celebrated Christmas and Marriage | Dr. Paul Kengor | CWR blog
For countless Americans, marriage is no longer the goal, and so the America of "White Christmas" and "It’s a Wonderful Life” is long gone
A few days before Christmas, I checked the schedule for Turner Classic Movies, one of the few TV channels I watch. I was looking for Christmas movies, maybe the 1938 Reginald Owen version of “A Christmas Carol” or something like that—something for the family. I was pleased to find three favorites back-to-back that I’ve seen with my wife and daughters, all nice Christmas romances—and all with a similar happy ending.
The first was “I’ll Be Seeing You” (1944), starring Ginger Rogers and Joseph Cotten, with a smaller role by a charming teenage Shirley Temple. Cotten is a World War II veteran struggling with what we would call post-traumatic stress disorder. Rogers is on Christmas furlough from prison (of all things), unjustly serving time for an accidental death that was purely self-defense. Wonderful as always, Gingers Rogers doesn’t dance or sing in this one (no Fred Astaire), but plays a compelling role. The Rogers and Cotten characters fall in love, with Christmas as the suitably warm and fuzzy back-drop.
The next film on TCM’s offering that day was “Christmas in Connecticut” (1945), starring the great Barbara Stanwyck and the lesser-known Dennis Morgan. Here, too, the guy was wounded in World War II. Stanwyck is a food writer for a home magazine. She is initially confused for a married woman, which (thankfully) she is not, clearing the way for a snowy Christmas romance, replete with the horse-drawn sleigh through the countryside.
The third movie was “Holiday Affair” (1949), with Janet Leigh and Robert Mitchum. Here again, the background is Christmas and World War II, as the Mitchum character, another veteran, pursues Janet Leigh, a single mom who lost her husband in the war. It’s a touching, fun movie, well-written—back when dialogue was more important to moviegoers than non-stop action sequences.
What strikes me about these and other films from Hollywood’s Golden Age are two things: