(Really)-Awkward-Romance Christmas Movies

12 Days of Alt Christmas Viewing — #7: Incredibly Awkward Romances

Boy meets girl. It’s holiday season. What could possibly go wrong? A lot, if Billy Wilder, Tennessee Williams and Irving Berlin have their way! The corporate ladder, the Korean war, statutory rape and all manner of tawdry affairs — in keeping with the spirit of the season!

The Apartment (1960)

(Billy Wilder, Mirisch Corp.) If Lubitsch had The Touch, Wilder (his protege) had The Smack. The man had an absolutely wicked sense of humor. This holiday tale is set among the (Mad-Men-era) corporate office world in which C. C. Baxter (Jack Lemmon) ingratiates himself to management (all male) use his apartment for their extra-marital affairs. His boss, Sheldrake (an evil Fred MacMurray) is carrying on with vivacious elevator operator, Fran Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine) on whom Baxter has a crush. That office Christmas party! The unhappy reality of their situation is thrown into relief by Christmas, because that’s what Christmas does best! But I will tell you no more….[on DVD coming on TCM in January, 2016]

Period of Adjustment (1962)

(George Roy Hill, MGM) Based on a play by Tennessee Williams — his most light-hearted play. Shell-shocked Korean war vet, George (Jim Hutton) impulsively marries his young nurse, Isabel (Jane Fonda) upon being released from the hospital. On their way to honeymoon in Miami, they stop in High Point, Tennessee to visit George’s war buddy, Ralph (Tony Franciosa) and his wife, Dott (Lois Nettleton). But by the time George and Isabel get to High Point, they are at a very low point. Isabel’s illusions about romance and marriage are being shattered, while George’s nerves result in very unromantic performance anxiety. Then, it turns out, Dott has left Ralph. It’s “all about the lunacy with which every marriage abounds.” [on TCM 12/21 4PM EST]

Holiday Inn (1942)

(Mark Sandrich, RKO) Forget that schmaltzy White Christmas. In this tale Fred Astaire steals Bing Crosby’s girl (Virginia Dale), so Bing retires to the country to open Holiday Inn (a literally holiday-celebrating inn), and then Fred shows up to dance his way into stealing Bing’s new girl (Marjorie Reynolds). Go, Fred!! The film actually covers a full year of holidays, with some now-very-familiar songs by Irving Berlin, including “White Christmas.” [on DVD]

Susan Slept Here (1954)

(Frank Tashlin, RKO) I dunno about this one. But I adore Dick Powell who stars here, in his last theatrical feature, as screenwriter Mark Christopher. Through some ridiculous plotting, he winds up responsible for a juvenile delinquent, Susan (Debbie Reynolds) on Christmas Eve. This  basic premise works great for Remember the Night, but the age difference here adds a creep factor I never could get over. If your holiday spirit runs to the slightly perverse…. [on DVD]

Love Actually (2003)

I actually don’t hate Love Actually, it’s just that when it gets saccharin, it gets really saccharin. But Emma Thompson tears my heart out, and Bill Nighy and Gregor Fisher make me SO happy. Also very weird to see lovesick, British, Andrew Lincoln long before he became a zombie killer from Georgia. And January Jones before Mad Men…. [streaming on Netflix and on DVD]

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