Over the last 12 years, Warner Archive has been able to use the power of the internet to transform and grow by selling products directly to the consumer. It has been the demand for classic films on Blu-Ray that has driven the expansion of the catalogue to what it is today. More and more people want more and more classic films, popular and hard to find, on discs delivered directly to them. It's a very copacetic relationship for all. Now, here are my favorites selections for December 2020, just in time for the holiday season.
The Shop Around the Corner (1940) is now available as a new 2020 1080p HD remaster. The inspiration for In The Goof Old Summer Time (1949) and You've Got Mail (1998), is helmed by the master of Golden Age romantic comedies, Ernst Lubitsch. His unique directorial style inspired the moniker only his films could. Unlike a Welles film being "Wellesian", and a Capra film being "Capraesque, Lubitsch films had "that Lubitsch touch".
This love story marks the third of four films Margaret Sullavan and James Stewart's would make together. In this one, they play bickering gift-shop workers who are unaware that they have fallen in love with each other through the letters they write to each other as pen pals. The romantic interaction is purely intellectual so the actually fall in love with each other's true personality, which is something that doesn't fall inline with your usually romance films of the day. Only Lubitsch and this cast could make that work. And then there's the sterling supporting cast you expect from the era. The ever likeable Frank Morgan (The Wizard of Oz) leads a shop crew that includes Felix Bressart (To Be Or Not To Be), Sara Haden (The Bishop's Wife), and Joseph Schildkraut (Oscar winner for The Diary ofAnne Frank). All of the pieces come together to make this timeless classic one to enjoy over and over again. The new Blu-ray presentation features a vintage MGM promotional film, and a Screen Guild Theater radio broadcast with Margaret Sullavan, James Stewart and Frank Morgan.
I admit, It Happened on 5th Avenue (1947) is not a particular favorite of mine, but it has gained a place in the hearts of many classic films ever since TCM brought it back to audience attention by broadcasting it every holiday season for the last several years. It is a sweet story about a street vagabond who moves into a mansion on New York City's 5th Avenue during the holidays when the wealthy owners have left for sunnier climates for the season. He ends up inviting some ex-soldiers, their families, and the disguesed real owners into his temporary residence as well. The rich learn some lessons, and the poor earn much due respect. It has a less than stellar cast that includes Don DeFore (Romance on the High Seas) and Gale Storm (My Little Margie) who co-star as the young love interests. These "B" level stars just don't bring their "A" game to the film that whacks a soft tap that just doesn't rank as a perenial must see in my book. It will be released as a new 2020 1080p HD remaster from a 4K scan of the best surviving Nitrate Elements.
Holiday Affaire stars RKO's resident "bad boy" Robert Mitchum (Out of the Past). He surprised audiences with his softer side in this classic Yule-themed romantic comedy about a war widow (Janet Leigh) torn between her button-down fiancé (Wendell Corey from Rear Window) and the free spirited Mitchum. The fiancee is a dependable man with a great, respectable job. Mitchum is a department-store clerk who loses his job, yet buys an electric train set for Leigh's little boy. Awkward moments pass between the three of them, until Mitchum and Leigh naturally end up together. It sounds like a cookie cutter plot, and does go on with the "will she or won't she end up with the hunk" bit way too many times. But it is charming to see the ever so manly Mitchum fall for a young widow and her kid. And he wants to chase a dream by moving to California. What could be more exciting or romantic? Well, maybe not so much to poor Wendell Corey. The new releas will be in a new 1080p HD Master.
Although it is obvious that in my opinion the sure bet here is The Shop Around the Corner. However, Fans of the era will be more than pleased with all three. And a triple feature during presnt wrapping, home decorating, or hours of meal preparation will set just the mood for you holidays in a cheerful, nostalgic way that only classic films can achieve. So, treat yourself to a Christmas present good for your classic film soul.