Monday, December 13, 2010

Holiday Romance

Note: This post originally appeared at The Romance Studio on December 10, 2010.

I was going to try to be more creative with my topic, but why fight it? Christmas is only two weeks away, so why not do a Christmas theme post? I was trying to think of romantic Christmas-themed novels, but I had a lot of trouble with that. I guess it's because we think of family more often at Christmas, and we save the romantic couple activities for New Year's. I had better luck thinking of some favorite Christmas movies with romance angles. Here are my top five:

The Bishop's Wife - Cary Grant, Loretta Young and David Niven
A beautiful story about an Episcopal minister (played by one of my favorite overlooked leading men, David Niven) who's having trouble remembering what being a man of God is supposed to be about. He's all obsessed with building a new church and doesn't want to be distracted by petty parishioner problems or his beautiful, lonely wife. Enter the unlikeliest angel ever in the form of Cary Grant and the bishop learns his lessons the hard way. Very clever and funny.

It's A Wonderful Life - Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed
Yes, I know it's an obvious choice.  It's a Wonderful Life is about an awful lot of things - dreams not realized, fighting the good fight, making a difference in the lives of others. But at its heart, it's also a love story. All about the love between George and Mary and what a difference they make in each other's lives and the lives of everyone around them because of that love.

Bachelor Mother - Ginger Rogers and (wait for it. . .) David Niven. Technically, it's after Christmas in this story. Ginger is a salesgirl in a department store who's just lost her job at the end of the holiday shopping season when she finds an abandoned baby and decides to care for it. Very ahead of its time (1939), since it addresses the issue of single parenthood. The playboy son of the department store owner takes pity on Ginger and gets her job back, then finds himself falling in love with her and wondering what Dad will think of him cavorting with a "loose woman." But it all ends happily, of course.

Love Actually - Colin Firth, Liam Neeson, Hugh Grant, Alan Rickman and every other actor or actress in London at the time of filming, or so it seems
This is a really uneven story, because it's not one story at all. It's a bunch of vignettes about some loosely related people, all of whom are having relationship troubles in the month leading up to Christmas. Colin Firth is his usual magnificent self in romancing an Italian housekeeper. Liam Neeson is touching as a widower trying to get back to the business of living. Martin Freeman, now so wonderful as Watson in BBC America's "Sherlock Holmes" is a porno movie actor. But the top peformance goes to Bill Nighy as a dissolute washed-up rock star trying to make a comeback.

Stairway to Heaven - Kim Hunter and (oh, look, here he is again!) David Niven
This one is the obscure obsession of an old movie nut. The original British title is A Matter of Life and Death. I saw this on the late show when I was a teenager and thought it was awesome. Technically, it's not a Christmas movie, but it was released on Christmas Day in 1946, so I decided it qualifies. David Niven is Peter, a British fighter pilot who's shot down on his way back from a bombing run. He has to jump out of his plane without a parachute. Before he goes, Peter talks to an American radio dispatcher named June. He's supposed to die when he jumps out of his plane, but the otherworldly Conductor meant to fetch him can't find him in the fog. And so June finds Peter instead and they fall in love. But the Conductor wants to collect his soul. A sort of extra-terrestrial court is convened to decide what's more important - Peter's duty to report to Heaven on time, or his newfound love for June. This is just a great movie and one of David Niven's best. A lot of movies have used this plot since, notably Warren Beatty's "Heaven Can Wait," but this is really the best. A great finish to any Holiday romantic movie festival.

I hope I've given you a few good ideas for holiday movies. Let me know some of your own ideas on the subject!