Christmas Movie Reviews: It’s a Wonderful Life, White Christmas, & Frosty the Snowman

By Abby Chovan

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

With a twinkle of lights and the hum of soft voices, the scene of a young man in 1940s America flitters on screen. This man, George Bailey (James Stewart), is made out to be the main focus of the Christmas feature film. The film follows Bailey and his upbringing through various flashbacks as the guardian angel Clarence Oddbody (Henry Travers) studies the boy’s life and the eventual downfall of it. Oddbody has been promised his wings and full “angelship” if he completes his mission on Earth of saving Bailey’s life. The angel takes on the case and watches over the events of Bailey’s life that lead him to such a pivotal moment.

Things start off good for the man as he prepares to head off to college. However, when his father falls ill and passes, Bailey is left to pick up the pieces of his father’s company. He manages to turn things off and ward off the evil money collector, Mr. Potter, (Lionel Barrymore), but in order to keep things on track he allows his brother to go to college in his place. As more time passes, Bailey meets and begins to fall in love with his childhood crush, Mary Hatch (Donna Reed).

As the Bailey family grows and the two lovers begin a life together, things begin to go downhill for the man. Potter looks for any way he can to ruin Bailey’s life, and when he receives the chance to cause trouble, he puts the Bailey family in a sticky situation where they either have to pay up the money they owe or face jail. When Bailey believes all hope is lost, he begins to recklessly fly off the handle and ends up in a life or death situation. This is where Oddbody steps in and helps Bailey understand the importance and effect he had on his community that changed things for the better.

This movie, while not always taking place on Christmas, tells a heart-warming tale that has been shared for many years. Although it holds a dark atmosphere at times, it is a movie that any member of the family can enjoy. It’s A Wonderful Life seemed to trademark what it meant to create a Christmas movie, seeing as it was one of the first of its genre. The movie, however, features many morals of love and family that carry their way through the holiday season, year after year. The film ends in a Christmas movie cliche that brings the whole town together as the screen fades to place, lights twinkle, and voices ring out along to the song ‘Auld Lang Syne.’

White Christmas (1954)

As the camera crinkles and a focus begins to develop, the 1954 movie White Christmas begins its opening scene with a snippet of soldiers on a World War Two base. The men on the base are getting into the holiday spirit as the two main characters Phil Davis (Danny Kaye) and Bob Wallace (Bing Crosby) sing the title song to lift everyone’s spirits. Directly after this event and seemingly happy day, chaos erupts as the base comes under fire and Davis saves Wallace’s life by throwing him from the line of fire. Later in the hospital, Wallace finds Davis to thank him for his heroic act and Davis guilt trips the other in joining him in a duet show. After this moment, 10 years of the movie begin to elapse, showing how after the war the two men found themself in a two man group, growing more and more successful as time went on. Time begins to slow, however ,when they recieve a letter from an old army comrade asking them to come and see the act his sisters have put on.

The two men arrive and are immediately  enthralled by the two sisters, older sister Betty Haynes (Rosemary Clooney) and younger sister Judy Haynes (Vera-Ellen),as they perform their singing and dancing act. Though it is never revealed to the two men, Judy really was the one to send the letter in place of her brother. After the show however, Davis and Judy hit it off, meanwhile Wallace and Betty do not. This disagreement is replaced by a much bigger one that causes the men to have to cover for the two girls as they sneak out. They catch up with the women on the train and agree to accompany them to their next act location, a snowy lodge resort in Vermont.

Upon arriving, the men are greeted by their old war General Waverly (Dean Jagger), who just so happens to run the lodge. The lodge, however, lacks guests seeing as there is hardly any sign of snow or reason to stay. The Haynes sisters agree to perform no matter the audience size as Davis and Wallace hatch a plan to put their big flashy show on at the lodge to attract guests. As this all goes on, Judy and Davis also are brewing a plan to get Betty and Wallace together. Things begin to fall apart  as Betty and Wallace have a misunderstanding that they never communicate. Time continues on and Davis continues to try to bring the two together, but to no avail.

This story has a moral for someone of any age to take away from it. Its familial appeal and heartwarming storyline that was a popular trend with many 50s movies draws in a large audience of those seeking a sing-a-long Christmas movie. From its happy-go-lucky characters and wacky numbers, the whole film drips with personality and fun that can be enjoyable for anyone.

Its most notable number by far is Crosby’s rendition of the song White Christmas. Crosby became a hit in this movie for his angelic voice that made his version of the song a classic. Both the movie and the song have remained timeless for years, though its popularity has declined as time has gone on.

Overall, the movie had a great development and aura of nostalgia that allowed all audiences to relate to it. Its incredible score and storyline has created a classic film that will be positively associated with Christmastime for many years to come.

Frosty the Snowman (1969)

With the end of 1969 and the beginnings of the Christmas season came one of the first animated films that over the years would become a classic. This film had a small cast that doubled up on roles and only lasted a short 25 minutes. The short run time was geared towards the fact film was made to be featured on television during the holidays. Frosty the Snowman was an iconic film of its time and continues to remain relevant, even into its 49th year of running.

Its story begins with a group of children who are watching a magician perform a show, though the show ends up ending badly and the children take his hat towards the end. This hat seems to be the only magical thing about the situation, seeing as when they place it on a snowman’s head, he seems to come to life. One of the kids, Karen, names the snowman Frosty and together the kids celebrate the Christmas spirit with this magical new friend. However, the magician takes the hat back in anger, causing all the fun to cease.

The kids are disappointed but are later greeted by the magician’s rabbit, who brings the hat back to them to allow them to have more fun with Frosty. Frosty returns back to life, but another problem erupts as begins to melt under the rising temperatures. All the children begin to hatch another plan to take Frosty to the North Pole. Karen and Frosty embark on this dangerous adventure, facing problems around every turn as both of them have to choose between selfishness and selflessness.

Overall, the film is one that teaches many morals to its audience, including the importance of giving back to others even if the concept might not be favorable. It also teaches the importance and impact that kind actions have, and that if kind and selflessness prevail, good deeds will be rewarded.

This Christmas classic is also highly rated for its high quality animation. Though in comparison to today’s technology it might not seem much, Frosty was a pricey and time consuming project for the time that astonished audiences. However, the bit that hallmarks the film the most would most highly be the title song, which is still sung and celebrated by many today. The songs relevancy ties in well to the relevancy and commonality of the film, which continues to be passed down generations as more Christmases roll around time and time again.

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