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The 1940s were the golden age of Christmas films, tunes


Date published: 12/11/2012

IWATCHED "Holiday Inn" the other night and it got me in a bit of a Christmas frame of mind.

The movie is one of my favorites for several reasons. First, there is plenty of snow. Almost every winter scene has a snowy backdrop. It makes Connecticut seem like an eternal winter wonderland, which, of course, it isn't.

Between the falling snow outside the big farmhouse window and the roaring blaze in the living room fireplace, Hollywood has succeeded in creating a pretty cozy atmosphere.

Marjorie Reynolds curls up on the sofa in her housecoat, then joins Bing Crosby at the piano to sing "White Christmas."

That's the beginning of the love story and I love love stories. Reynolds is another of those screen lovelies a man just can't help falling in love with.

And Irving Berlin's "White Christmas" expresses the sentiment of the season better, for me, than any other holiday song ever written. "Happy Holidays," which has also become a standard, is also featured in the movie.

One would think that a movie that featured two such songs would have had its initial release around Thanksgiving, at the height of holiday season. Not so.

"Holiday Inn" opened during the heat of August in 1942. "White Christmas," however, topped the music charts from October right on through Christmas.

When you think about it, the 1940s produced any number of multimedia gems that help make up our modern Christmas season. From the hardships of World War II to the joy of postwar victory, Americans celebrated Christmas as they never had before.

"It's a Wonderful Life" with Jimmy Stewart was released in 1946 and the following year there was "Miracle on 34th Street" with Maureen O'Hara, Edmund Gwenn, John Payne and Natalie Wood.

Gene Autry released "Here Comes Santa Claus" in 1947 and came back two years later with "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer, which has since sold more than 25 million copies.

Just missing the 1940s (but still in the postwar era) was "Frosty the Snowman, which was recorded in 1950. Another children's favorite, "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town," was first recorded in 1935 and just missed the 1940s Christmas revival on the other end.


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