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8 Days to Christmas: The Classics of the 1940s

December 17, 2012

By John C.

It's A Wonderful LifeThe big day is just over a week away, so welcome to day two of our Christmas Countdown where we will be profiling nine decades of classics.  Yesterday was the 1930s, and today the 1940s.  The decade was notable for wonderful films that took place around Christmas or had holiday-themed scenes, like Meet Me in St. Louis (1944) and The Bells of St. Mary’s (1945).  But the 1940s also produced two of the most enduring classics of all time, films that continue to resonate well over sixty years since they were first released.

Directed by Frank Capra, It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) stars James Stewart as a man slowly descending into depression before finally appreciating every second of his life.  This is a complete package of storytelling and performances that works on multiple levels, in some ways growing stronger with every viewing.  The themes of finding meaning in your life and discovering your place in the world are just as relevant today as they were in 1946, making It’s a Wonderful Life an enduring Christmas classic.  Nominated for five Oscars including Best Picture, this remains one of the most watched and beloved films of all time.

Miracle On 34th StreetWhen Edmund Gwenn won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for Miracle on 34th Street (1947), he became the first and so far only actor to win an Academy Award for playing Santa Claus.  The classic film is as much about a little girl (Natalie Wood) learning to believe in Santa, as it is about a lawyer (John Payne) trying to prove that Kris Kringle (Gwenn) isn’t just playing the part.  With great performances and a brilliant script that still feels fresh, this is a magical classic that allows every member of the audience to believe in their own way that there really is a Santa Claus.  The film got a disappointing remake with Sir Richard Attenborough in 1994, but it just couldn’t retain the true magic of the original Miracle on 34th Street.

Both It’s a Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th Street remain quintessential Christmas classics, encompassing the true meaning of the season.  Come back tomorrow for the classics of the 1950s…

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