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By Walker Joyce

Tired of the Usual Fare? Here are Some Other Yuletide Flicks

I yield to nobody regarding my affection for classic Hollywood films. And yes, some pictures—especially during the Holidays—should be sampled annually. But some years, you may want an alternative to the umpteenth showing of It’s a Wonderful Life or Miracle on 34th Street.

Here are a few suggestions for some fresh seasonal pics. They’ll help you get your Ho-Ho on, and some will leave a lump in your throat. In no particular order:

The Man Who Came to Dinner—Based on the Broadway hit by Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman, this screwball farce features a legendary performance by Monty Woolley, who also starred in the play. (Orson Welles turned the role down because he thought the show would run forever!) His character, broadly based on theatre critic Alexander Woollcott, is a famous radio personality who slips on ice at a private home and moves in with the family to recover. He completely commandeers the household while trying to ruin the engagement of his secretary, played by Bette Davis, who is more restrained and sympathetic than usual. Hilarious!

Die Hard—A top-notch action flick that made Bruce Willis a movie star. He plays a New York police officer who flies to L.A. to reconcile with his estranged wife, who has a big executive job with a major corporation. The entire story unfolds on Christmas Eve, when he crashes her office party in a city high rise. Terrorists capture the skyscraper, and Bruce escapes detection while his bride, played by the under-rated Bonnie Bedelia, becomes one of the hostages. A clever script with a twist, some top stunt work, and an Oscar-worthy performance by Alan Rickman as the Bad Guy.

The Great Rupert—The title character is a squirrel, the partner of a Vaudevillian who has fallen on hard times. Made in 1950, it’s the kind of family fare that Disney used to make before they succumbed to Woke Madness. Kids will love the animated critter, who is so realistic they’ll think it’s a real, wonderfully trained animal. Jimmy Durante is the human star, and as delightful as ever.

Holiday Affair—The title is a misnomer, considering the contemporary meaning of the second word: there is no illicit sex. Instead, it’s a sweet tale of a war widow and a charming knock-about who connect over Christmas, played by a young Janet Leigh, who never looked more beautiful, and Robert Mitchum, cast against type. Her dilemma is to choose between Bob and an earnest lawyer who she knows will be a good provider for her young son. Harry Morgan of Mash fame has a gem of a cameo as a judge.

The Ref—A very off-beat black comedy starring Dennis Leary in his break-out role. He plays a burglar whose latest heist goes sideways on Christmas Eve, forcing him to take a bickering couple, played by Kevin Spacey and Judy Davis, hostage. While he’s on the lam, he becomes an unwitting and unwilling marriage counselor. Wicked fun.

Prancer—An under-rated fantasy film with a pitch-perfect lead performance by Rebecca Harrell, who afterward forsook an acting career for one as an environmental activist. She’s luminous as a schoolgirl who believes she’s discovered one of Santa’s real reindeer. The always solid Sam Elliot plays her loving but crusty father.

Slip one or more of these between screenings of the classics. You’ll thank me.