The Shop Around the Corner (1940)

Director: Ernst Lubitsch Run Time: 99 min. Release Year: 1940

Starring: Frank Morgan, James Stewart, Joseph Schildkraut, Margaret Sullavan, Sara Haden

Country: United States
Language: English

About the film:

Based on the 1937 Hungarian play “Parfumerie” by Miklós László that later inspired writer-director Nora Ephron’s You’ve Got Mail (1998). The Shop Around The Corner (aka: Matuschek & Company) is a small gift shop in Budapest, Hungary where feuding shop clerks fall in love while corresponding as anonymous pen pals.

About the filmmaker:

The pointed and patented “Lubitsch Touch” was this filmmaker’s style of romantic comedy widely recognized by audiences and adored by critics. Some of Lubitsch’s best known works were Trouble in Paradise (1932), Ninotchka (1939), The Shop Around the Corner (1940), and Heaven Can Wait (1943). In 1946, he received an Honorary Academy Award for his distinguished contributions to the art of the motion picture. In 1958, renowned director Billy Wilder established the Ernst-Lubitsch-Prize, a German Comedy prize, in his friend’s honor.

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Christmas in Connecticut (1945)

Director: Peter Godfrey Run Time: 102 min. Release Year: 1945

Starring: Barbara Stanwyck, Dennis Morgan, Reginald Gardiner, S.Z. Sakall, Sydney Greenstreet

Country: United States
Language: English, German

About the film:

Barbara Stanwyck stars as a famous expert on marriage, cooking and homemaking who is asked by her publisher to host a national hero for Christmas dinner at her famous Connecticut home. It should be simple, but she must scramble to keep the secret that she’s single, can’t cook and doesn’t own a home. With a lot of help, meticulous planning and split-second timing, the urban sophisticate may succeed… but the unforeseen happens when she falls in love with her guest in this classic romantic comedy. Read the original New York Times review here.

About the filmmaker:

London-born Peter Godfrey was a stage actor, director and producer before coming to Hollywood as an actor in the late ’30s. By the late 1940s Godfrey was a prominent director, working on films such as Cry Wolf (1947) and Escape Me Never (1947) and eventually moved to television.

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It Happened on Fifth Avenue (1947)

Director: Roy Del Ruth Run Time: 116 min. Release Year: 1947

Starring: Ann Harding, Charles Ruggles, Don DeFore, Gale Storm, Victor Moore

Country: United States
Language: English, Spanish

About the film:

Each Christmas, an industrial tycoon and his family travel from New York City to Florida to spend the holiday season in the sun. While they are gone, a drifter and his friends take up residence in the millionaire’s Fifth Avenue mansion. When the tycoon’s daughter returns early and discovers the house has been taken over, she fakes a life of poverty to stay in the house.

Nominated for Best Original Story at the 1948 Academy Awards.

About the filmmaker:

Roy Del Ruth was an American filmmaker who worked with various stars, notably James Cagney, and directed a number of popular musicals in the 1930s including Kid Millions (1934), Folies Bergère de Paris (1935), and Born to Dance (1936).

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Elf (2003) on 35mm

Director: Jon Favreau Run Time: 97 min. Rating: PG Release Year: 2003

Starring: Bob Newhart, Ed Asner, James Caan, Mary Steenburgen, Will Ferrell

Country: United States, Canada
Language: English

“a breezily entertaining, perfectly cast family treat”

The Hollywood Reporter

About the film:

Starring Will Ferrell as the titular elf, this instant holiday classic tells the story of a human baby raised amongst the hard working elves of Santa’s workshop. Struggling to fit in (literally) with his adopted family, he sets out on a magical journey to the island of Manhattan in search of his birth father (James Caan), a naughty-list lifer in desperate need of some Christmas spirit.

About the filmmaker:

Jon Favreau has made his mark as one of the most exciting blockbuster directors working today. Initially working as a successful character actor,  Favreau transitioned into directing with his feature film debut Made and went on to create some of the biggest films in the last two decades.  With nine movies under his belt as a director, the self-taught filmmaker has explored small indie gems like Chef as well as some of the biggest blockbusters ever made. With a style that blends humor and warmth with technological innovation, Favreau found success helping to launch the Marvel Universe with Iron Man, as well as spearheading Disney live action classics like The Jungle Book and The Lion King.

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A Christmas Story (1983) on 35mm

Director: Bob Clark Run Time: 93 min. Rating: PG Release Year: 1983

Starring: Darren McGavin, Ian Petrella, Jean Shepherd, Melinda Dillon, Peter Billingsley

Country: United States, Canada
Language: English

“a joy to the world, right down to the moment Mom slips downstairs to unplug the tree lights”

The Washington Post

About the film:

Based on the humorous writings of author Jean Shepherd, this beloved holiday movie follows a young boy named Ralphie in the 1940s attempting to convince his parents, his teacher and Santa that a Red Ryder BB gun really is the perfect Christmas gift.

The film received two Genie Awards (the Canadian Academy Awards) for Best Achievement in Direction and Best Screenplay, and was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 2012.

About the filmmaker:

Before helming the perennial holiday classic A Christmas Story, award-winning director and screenwriter Bob Clark helped pioneer the slasher genre with the intense 1974 horror film Black Christmas and launched the teen sex comedy craze with the phenomenally popular 1981 film Porky’s. He was also the mind behind Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things, the critically acclaimed Sherlock Holmes film Murder by Decree, Berlin Film Festival selection Tribute, the Baby Geniuses films, and Rhinestone, a musical starring Sylvester Stallone and Dolly Parton.

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Meet Me in St. Louis (1944) on 35mm

Director: Vincente Minnelli Run Time: 113 min. Rating: NR Release Year: 1944

Starring: Judy Garland, Leon Ames, Lucille Bremer, Margaret O'Brien, Mary Astor

Country: United States
Language: English

“a fine-tuned, pastel romp, worthy of its place among the best of the big brass Hollywood musicals”

—Luke Parker for Film Inquiry

About the film:

In the year before the 1904 St Louis World’s Fair, the four Smith daughters learn lessons of life and love, even as they prepare for a reluctant move to New York.

Nominated for four Academy Awards, Judy Garland and Margaret O’Brien star in this heartwarming tale famous for musical numbers seamlessly embedded into the narrative—an innovation at the time for Hollywood—including “The Trolley Song”, “The Boy Next Door”, and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” The film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 1994.

About the filmmaker:

American stage and film director Vincente Minnelli helmed the classical musicals Meet Me in St. Louis, An American in Paris, The Band Wagon, and Gigi, which earned him the Academy Award for Best Director. Before he was one of the leading directors at MGM, Minnelli grew up performing with his family’s traveling theater company and settled in Delaware, Ohio, before attending the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He honed his craft as a photographer and costume designer before working his way up to stage director in New York City, catching the eye of major Hollywood studios.

Meet Me In St. Louis was adapted by Irving Brecher and Fred F. Finklehoffe from a series of short stories by Sally Benson originally published in The New Yorker magazine, and is a perfect introduction to the director described by French journal Cahiers du Cinéma as “an artist who could give substance to the world of dreams.” Read more here.

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White Christmas (1954) on 35mm

Director: Michael Curtiz Run Time: 120 min. Rating: NR Release Year: 1954

Starring: Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Dean Jagger, Rosemary Clooney, Vera-Ellen

Country: United States
Language: English

“With wit, exuberance, and some show stopping hits, “White Christmas” is a cracking musical…warm, sweet, and perfect”

Matt Ford for BBC

About the film:

The romantic and humorous tale of two Army buddies who became a top-notch musical comedy team after the war and are now the toast of Broadway. When they find their old beloved general is in danger of losing his inn due to the lack of snow and lack of guests, the duo enlist the help of two singing sisters to perform their latest hit show and help save the inn.

The first film released in Paramount’s innovative VistaVision, a process that provided sharper images by filming on twice the surface area as a standard 35mm film, White Christmas features the songs of Irving Berlin, including “Sisters”, the Academy Award nominated “Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep,” and a new version of the Academy Award winning song “White Christmas” first introduced by Bing Crosby in the film Holiday Inn.

About the filmmaker:

A versatile storyteller who could handle any genre, Hungarian-born American film director Michael Curtiz began his career as a stage actor and circus pantomime—and as a fencer on Hungary’s 1912 Olympic team—before directing and starring in Hungary’s first feature film, Today and Tomorrow. One of the country’s most important directors, his unique visual style eventually caught the eye of film studios in the United States. He helmed over 100 films during his Hollywood career, including The Adventures of Robin Hood, Mildred Pierce, and Casablanca, which earned him the Academy Award for Best Director, and the musicals Yankee Doodle Dandy, This Is the Army, and White Christmas. He also earned the Academy Award for Best Short Subject for Sons of Liberty.

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National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)

Director: Jeremiah S. Chechik Run Time: 97 min. Rating: PG-13 Release Year: 1989

Starring: Beverly D'Angelo, Chevy Chase, John Randolph, Johnny Galecki, Juliette Lewis

Country: United States
Language: English

About the film:

Clarke Griswold does his best to orchestrate a traditional happy family Christmas, but is thwarted by odious relatives, bah-humbug neighbors, and plain old bad luck.

“If it doesn’t make you at least giggle, then you clearly don’t understand the true meaning of the festive season”

Empire Magazine

About the filmmaker:

Jeremiah S. Chechik was a notable fashion photographer in the 1970s before entering the world of music videos—working with bands like Van Halen and Hall & Oates in the burgeoning MTV era before making his feature film debut with National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Chechik continued with work on films ranging from heartwarming romantic comedies like Benny & Joon to psychological thrillers like Diabolique before transitioning to work in television.

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It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) on 35mm

Director: Frank Capra Run Time: 130 min. Rating: PG Release Year: 1947

Starring: Donna Reed, James Stewart, Lionel Barrymore

Country: United States
Language: English, French

About the film:

It’s Christmas, but businessman George Bailey has so many problems that he wishes he hadn’t been born. About to jump from a bridge, he is rescued by his guardian angel, Clarence, who shows George what his town would have looked like if it hadn’t been for all of his good deeds over the years.

Considered one of the greatest and most inspirational films of all time, It’s A Wonderful Life was based on Philip Van Doren Stern’s short story “The Greatest Gift,” itself loosely based on Charles Dickens’ classic tale “A Christmas Carol.” The film was nominated for five Academy Awards—including Best Picture and Best Director—and was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 1990.

About the filmmaker:

Italian-born American film director, producer and writer Frank Capra’s iconic stories often celebrate idealist underdogs who triumph against overwhelming odds. It Happened One Night was the first movie to ever sweep the five major Academy Award categories, and Capra also won Best Director for Mr. Deeds Goes to Town and You Can’t Take It with You and was nominated for Lady for a Day and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. One of the top directors in the industry, Capra served as the president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and championed creative freedom as head of the Screen Directors’ Guild. He received a Life Achievement Award from the American Film Institute in 1982. 

Capra wanted his first film after serving during WWII, It’s a Wonderful Life, to be special.

“a celebration of the lives and dreams of America’s ordinary citizens, who tried the best they could to do the right thing by themselves and their neighbors”

—Roger Ebert. Read more here.

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