Last week we brought up the Christmas movies we hate, so we wanted to balance that out. This week we talk about the Christmas characters who make us smile, whether that be out of joy or thirst. Who are your favorite characters to catch up with around the holidays? Feel free to leave us something in the comments.
As I detailed to the Dames, I probably could have just turned this into a thirst trap because some of my favorite thirst moments come in Christmas movies. NOT Love, Actually because that movie is terrible and I fucking hate it. Except for Bill Nighy because he’s badass. But, in the end, I went with characters who made me happy. Who make me smile. Okay, one choice is PURELY out of lust but it still works!
Happy from Rudolph’s Shiny New Year (1976)
Despite the title I watch this every Christmas. It’s not one of the more popular Rankin-Bass features, but it’s one of the first I saw and it holds a special place in my heart. The story follows Rudolph as he goes through the Island of Last Years to find Happy, the new baby new year. The problem is Happy is constantly made fun of for having giant ears and keeps running away. Now, I love Happy. He’s cute as a button. I also think this movie is about mocking the disabled because every. single. character. is a total dick to Happy. The kid’s got some big ears. You’re a talking fucking bear! You have bigger problems. Sorry, been meaning to get that off my chest. Happy deserves better than the world he was getting in 1976…..shit, he deserves better than what we have in 2018.
Elizabeth Lane from Christmas in Connecticut (1945)
Christmas in Connecticut is a great holiday movie with feminist overtones. Barbara Stanwyck plays Elizabeth Lane, a successful magazine columnist who’s sold herself as the perfect wife and mother. But when a soldier is allowed to stay with her and her (non-existent) family, Elizabeth has to figure out how to get a husband and baby. I love how Barbara Stanwyck does comedy in this movie. It’s obvious her character has never interacted with children, and some of the best scenes are her just trying to deal with a kid. When the baby is presumed to have swallowed something, her reaction is priceless. Elizabeth also doesn’t hide the fact she’s hot for soldier, Jefferson Jones (Dennis Morgan). While all the other men talk around her, she’s making her move for the real man she’s into.
Dudley from The Bishop’s Wife (1947)
I ALMOST put Denzel Washington’s take on Dudley, from the 1996 remake The Preacher’s Wife, on this list. Really, he and Cary Grant are pitch-perfect in the role of an angel brought down to Earth to help a pastor learn the true meaning of Christmas. Washington’s Dudley gets a richer backstory that he sells perfectly. What I’m saying is go watch both movies! That being said, Grant is just so luminous as Dudley. He gets such joy out of helping others that it’s infectious. Watch him tell the story of David and Goliath to a little girl. You’ll melt.
Max from How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1965)
Like Happy, I’m a sucker for the character who’s just treated like crap during the holidays, and there’s no bigger holiday doormat than Max the dog. The poor animal is weighed down with a massive horn on his head, nearly killed by a sleigh, and is generally stuck with a mean-spirited asshole 364 days out of the year. So when the Grinch looks behind him to see Max sitting there….that’s a mood.
Brian Bedford from Miracle on 34th Street (1994)
Hear me out! I saw the remake of Miracle on 34th Street before I saw the original. I also had a MASSIVE crush on Dylan McDermott when I was a teenager so being told he did a Christmas movie where he rocked a dad sweater was kind of a big deal. But on top of that his character is actually better than John Payne’s take (sorry, not sorry). He’s less creepy than Payne, whose character seemingly just hung around this single woman and her daughter. He’s supportive and has a darling camaraderie with Mara Wilson’s Susan. Before we had Marty Ginsburg, we had Brian Bedford. You know what I mean.
I just love Christmas. Christmas is my favorite.
Buddy the Elf in Elf (2003)
He just likes to smile. Smiling’s his favorite. I know some of my co-conspirators here at Citizen Dame don’t like this movie, but they are
soulless and wrong missing out. One Christmas season, several years ago, depression hit hard and Elf was the only thing that got me through. Maybe that sounds silly, but there was something so pure and magical in Buddy’s innocent joy that it really did make the world a little less dark.
(I do still want to know, though, what happened with Deb and those kittens.)
Mary Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
It’s a Wonderful Life is one of the best Christmas movies of all time, regardless of what some of my colleagues might incorrectly claim. The reason it’s such a great movie is not because it ends on such a happy note, or that George Bailey gets a big miracle right when he needs it, or even that he stands up to the evil Mr. Potter. No, It’s a Wonderful Life is a great movie because of George’s wife Mary. You want to talk about a supportive spouse? Let’s talk about Mary Bailey, who literally rebuilt and remodeled a decrepit old house and turned it into a home for her family. She did the work herself while her husband was off being a reluctant and grouchy hero to the town. When there was a run on the bank, it was Mary who came up with the idea to forgo their honeymoon in favor of using their money to save the Bailey Building & Loan. George got the glory for that move, but it was 100% Mary’s idea and at her insistence. George would have been nothing and the movie couldn’t have existed without Mary.
Mother Parker in A Christmas Story (1983)
A Christmas Story would not be nearly as charming or nostalgic if not for the eternal optimism of Ralphie Parker’s Mother. Melinda Dillon makes that movie the gem that it is, with all of her age old maternal wisdom, from “You’ll shoot your eye out,” to “Daddy’s not going to kill Ralphie.” While the story is told from Ralphie’s recollection, director Bob Clark gives plenty of glimpses into the love Mother has for her family and the sacrifices she makes for them. Plus, she’s funny as hell.
Gus Polinski in Home Alone (1990)
While Kevin McAllister was eating a lot of junk food and defending his home from bumbling burglars, his mom was desperately trying to get home to him. She made some very questionable choices and some very odd decisions along the way. But her frenzy put her in the path of a guardian angel in the form of Gus Polinski, the leader of a polka band that helps her get home. John Candy’s face was always a welcome presence in movies, so that was definitely a plus, but his Gus was also just a really sweet man who was trying to do good deeds, probably in his own quest for redemption after leaving his kid alone in a funeral home for an entire day. Come on, that story never gets old.
John McClane in Die Hard (1988)
Yes. Die Hard is a Christmas movie. And John McClane is a stud. Of course Hans Gruber is also awesome. But McClane? Yippee ki yay.
Mr. Hankey in South Park (1997)
There are many things to dislike about South Park, but Mr. Hankey is not one of them. He’s an adorable little scamp who visits every Christmas Eve, spreading joy and poo. He shows up for the first time in the very first season, comforting Kyle, who is sad that he’s a Jew on Christmas. But Mr. Hankey puts in many appearances, including one episode that features his whole family. In a weird twist, probably the grossest character on South Park is also the most optimistic, reminding us that Christmas is for everyone, even if you’re a piece of shit.
The Krampus in Krampus (2015)
Christmas has always had a strange duality, born out of taking place in the deep winter, when everything is dying, and at the same time celebrating birth. But that’s paganism overlaid by Christianity for you. I love Christmas’s duality, and I love that there’s a long tradition of horror stories within it. Krampus is one of the best, funniest Christmas horror films in a long time, managing to summon scares without quite losing sight of the fun of the holidays. And the Krampus itself, that big, evil, goat-creature is one hell of a Christmas antagonist. He’s not really bad – just the inversion of Santa Claus that at least American culture has largely forgotten about.
The Grinch in How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)
Who doesn’t love the Grinch? But I’m talking about the proper Dr. Seuss Grinch voiced by Boris Karloff in the cartoon, not Jim Carrey or whatever Illumination tried to push on us. How the Grinch Stole Christmas is still annual viewing in my house, and sometimes we even break out the old tape that my grandmother sent me when I was three years old, complete with commercials from 1989. (Isotoner gloves were popular, it seems.) I love that the Grinch doesn’t have a backstory or a reason why he’s so grumpy—he just is, and no one really tries to change his mind about it. He comes to a new understanding all on his own
Dudley in The Bishop’s Wife (1947)
Looking back, I realize I haven’t listed a single human character. I have mixed feelings about The Bishop’s Wife, but no mixed feelings about Cary Grant playing Dudley, heaven’s sexiest angel. If I were Loretta Young, I would totally throw over David Niven for a piece of that.
Sheridan Whiteside in The Man Who Came To Dinner (1942)
The Man Who Came To Dinner is usually treated as a Christmas film because a large section of it takes place during the holidays. Everyone is simply hilarious in this film, from Bette Davis to Ann Sheridan to Jimmy Durante to Billie Burke. But the center of it all is the most delightful sneering curmudgeon in the world, played by Monty Woolley. Whiteside has nothing better to do during the holidays than manipulate his employees, ruthlessly mock his hosts, and interfere in everyone’s lives from the comfort of his chair. He’s terrible and delightful and I would like to be him when I grow up.
I’m not sorry…
Mark in Love Actually (2003)
*Wistful sigh* Okay, you say problematic, I say, favorite Christmas movie (hell, one of my top five favorites) of all time and a big chunk of this is due to the unrequited love of Andrew Lincoln’s Mark for Keira Knightley’s Juliet. That scene still melts my heart, each and every time I see it. You know what, I am perfect! (sniffle) Leave me alone! (sniffle). I’m fine!
Jamie in Love Actually (2003)
Okay… one more. Like I said, Love Actually… I love it. So, Colin “I’m utterly adorable” Firth. It’s impossible to leave him out. He’s the struggling writer, and I completely identify with that character. I’ve pined. I’ve pined ever so hard on certain… individuals. Did he make the list because he’s fricken adorable? Yes! And I don’t care.
Betty in White Christmas (1954)
This was a hard one. I knew that I had to represent White Christmas as one of my favorite holiday movies. It was just a question of “Who?”. I settled on Betty Haynes (Rosemary Clooney). I suppose it’s largely a question of identification. Heck, there were times in my life where I wanted to be Rosemary Clooney dangit. However, Betty is the adult. She has her head screwed on straight, and when her sister is being an absolute pain-in-the-neck she packs up and headlines the Stork Club on her own. She really didn’t need Bing Crosby… but that voice is just so nice.
Stannie Dum and Ollie Dee in March of the Wooden Soldiers (1934)
Okay, I’m cheating a bit, but you have to acknowledge Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy as a match set. You can’t get one, without the other. In fact, my introduction to the legendary comedy duo came with the 1934 holiday movie, and it is still one of my favorites. I mean, if I could talk about all the characters, I would. Except for Bo-Peep and her damsel-in-distress inability to keep her sheep. However, there’s Tom-Tom (Poor Man’s Nelson Eddy) the Pipers Son and the delight that is the villain Barnaby.
Doris Walker in Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
Miracle on 34th Street is another film which I knew had to make the list. There are simply too many good characters to ignore between O’Hara, a stellar performance by Natalie Wood, Edmund Gwynne (of course!) and the making me thirsty-ness of John Payne…
However, Doris Walker just stood out as who I needed to represent. She’s the go-to kick ass woman of 1940s holiday cinema. She’s a single mother, she’s working a successful job and raising a smart-as-a-whip child. Maureen O’Hara is Queen, and this is reflected in Doris. She manages to be likable, charismatic while enjoying one of the strongest character arcs of the movie. When she comes around, you truly know that Kris is Santa Clause.