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Although not a formally recognized genre, holiday films are movies that surely fit into their own special niche.

Holiday films are mostly family-friendly movies, and there are some that have stood the test of time and are perennial favorites for people of all ages.

Most holiday films wrap the audience in a feeling of warmth and nostalgia, remembering favorite holidays and special times with family and friends.

Very basically, a holiday film is a movie made with a specific holiday theme, whether it’s Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Independence Day, or any other holiday you can name.  The most popular theme by far though is the Christmas film.

The majority of holiday films involve family, sometimes very happy together, and at other times struggling to understand and get along.  There is usually an obstacle in the way of the celebration, which is surmounted by the end of the film.  Within the storyline there may well be a moral or life lesson to be learned as well.

A Christmas Dream (1945) is a short film produced by Castle Films.  In the movie a little girl, with a bounty of new Christmas toys under the tree, discards her old favorite carelessly.  Later, while she’s sleeping, she dreams that Santa visits her and that the old doll comes to life.  She is delighted as she watches him play and have fun with the other toys, and she realizes that not only the brand new toys deserve her love.

Arthur Pierson directed The Christmas Carol (1949).  The film is narrated by Vincent Price and tells the story of the Dickens classic with Ebenezer Scrooge, Jacob Marley, the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future, the Cratchit family and Tiny Tim.

The Pilgrimage Play (1949) was directed by Frank R. Strayer.  In this film, a great movie to enjoy at the season of Easter, Roman Emperor Nero is persecuting Christians in 64 AD and Simon Peter, one of the Apostles, is sentenced to death and imprisoned.  In his prison cell, Simon Peter tells the story of the life and death of Christ to two other prisoners.

Jimmy Durante and Terry Moore star in The Great Rupert (aka A Christmas Wish) (1950), directed by Irving Pichel.  Rupert, billed as the World’s Greatest Entertainer by his manager Joe Mahoney, is a dancing squirrel.  The movie is about the Amendolas, a vaudeville family, that is struggling to make ends meet and they move into an apartment just before Christmas.  The apartment is owned by Frank Dingle, a tightwad of a man.  Joe Mahoney was a tenant in the building but is evicted by Mr. Dingle when he can’t pay his rent because he can’t sell Rupert’s act and Rupert takes up residency in the attic of the building.  Each week Mr. Dingle receives a check from his gold mine stock and, not trusting banks, deposits the cash into the wall of his bedroom – right into Rupert’s paws.  Overhearing the plight of the Amendolas, Rupert takes each week’s deposit and drops it into the Amendola’s apartment for them.  And in the meantime, a romance is blossoming between the Amendola’s daughter, Rosalinda, and Mr. Dingle’s son, Pete.

Silent Night – Story of the Christmas Carol (1953) was produced by Coronet Films and, through narration and vignettes, tells how the beloved carol came to be written in Oberndorf, Austria in 1818.

The Little Lamb – A Christmas Story (1955), produced by Castle Films, is a short film telling of the birth of Christ...  Starring Morris Ankrum and Maureen O’Sullivan, the film is about a lamb that has strayed from the herd and leads the shepherd’s to the manger where the Child is to be born.

With a rather strange twist to the usual holiday film, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1965) was directed by Nicholas Webster and has come to be known as one of the worst films ever made.  The premise is that Martian children have become obsessed with Santa (having learned all about him from watching television broadcast from Earth).  To prove there is no Santa Claus adult Martians journey to Earth to kidnap him, but end up at the North Pole, witnessing the truth for themselves.

A cute animated film, Santa and the Three Bears (1970) was directed Tony Benedict and Barry Mahon.  A Park Ranger tells two bear cubs about the Christmas holiday and the cubs are so excited they can’t sleep, much to Mama Bear’s annoyance since she’s tired and it’s time to hibernate.

A Christmas Without Snow (1980) is a holiday movie directed by John Korty, starring Michael Learned and John Houseman.  Zoe is a recently divorced woman who moves to San Francisco from Nebraska who must leave her son behind until she earns enough money to send for him.  Alone is a new city and with no friends there, she joins the choir of her local church.  At the church the Choir Director is beginning rehearsals for Handel's Messiah for their Christmas service.  As the choir practices progress you get to meet and learn something of the life stories of the various choir members, and how their spiritual experiences at the church help them to overcome the tribulations of their lives.

Whether they’re simply for fun or if they contain a lesson for us all, holiday films can bring back happy memories of good times.  Wouldn’t it be fun to add to your holiday mood by enjoying some of these holiday favorites on Matinee Classics? 

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