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8 Forgotten Christmas Films of the 1940s

Updated on November 23, 2013

Are you looking for a Christmas movie to watch during the holidays? Consider one of these forgotten classics from the 1940s.

"Holiday Affair" reproduction poster print.
"Holiday Affair" reproduction poster print. | Source

Rare Holiday Gems

Are you looking for a Christmas movie to watch during the holidays? Nothing warms a winter day like a mug of hot chocolate and a wonderful old movie.

This year, start a new movie tradition with a "forgotten" holiday classic from the 1940s. This hub showcases eight lesser-known Christmas movies of the era.

Maybe you've watched all of the popular Christmas movies. If your personal DVD collection is like mine, you already own a copy of White Christmas, It's a Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th Street.

The beloved holiday staples never go out of style, but maybe you want to light up your Christmas with something new. The "forgotten" classics are harder to find, but the search will be well worth your effort.

Movies that are in the public domain are available for free viewing at the Internet Archives Moving Image Library. Others may be found at a movie rental store or your public library. To locate a copy for your personal collection, visit the big entertainment retailers for online or in-store purchases.

Are you ready to start a new tradition this year? Here is my list of eight wonderful "forgotten" films of the 1940s. Merry Christmas and enjoy the show!

1. Beyond Tomorrow

Beyond Tomorrow is a real holiday gem. The 1940 black-and-white film was later released as a colorized version called Beyond Christmas.

The story centers on the ghosts of three old men who are determined to help two young people they befriended one Christmas Eve.

Harry Carey, Charles Winninger and C. Aubrey Smith play the trio of matchmaking ghosts. Richard Carlson and Jean Parker star as the young romantics.

This sweet, sentimental movie begs rediscovery by modern audiences. The Internet Archive works to collect films that reside in the public domain, and you can watch this one online for free.

Jean Parker in "Beyond Tomorrow."
Jean Parker in "Beyond Tomorrow." | Source

2. Remember the Night

Remember The Night is another holiday gem from 1940. Barbara Stanwyck, Fred MacMurray, Beulah Bondi and Sterling Holloway star in the romantic comedy written by Preston Sturges.

The story centers on a young woman and an assistant district attorney. When the woman is arrested for shoplifting at Christmas time, the attorney assigned to her case moves to postpone the trial.

During the holiday break, the woman and the attorney fall in love. But, as Sturges summarized, “love reformed her and corrupted him.”

Soon, a series of unfortunate events occur that threatens to ruin the young man's future and send both lovers to jail.

Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck in "Remember the Night."
Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck in "Remember the Night." | Source

3. Penny Serenade

Penny Serenade is often included in Christmas film lists because of some holiday settings. The melancholgy drama from 1941 stars Cary Grant and Irene Dunn.

The story centers on a young married couple whose hopes and dreams shatter into unexpected pain and sadness. As they struggle to overcome their problems and keep their marriage together, they wonder if the relationship is worth saving.

The story unfolds in flashbacks, triggered by musical recordings. The music evokes numerous memories for the wife, as she prepares to leave her husband and their marriage.

Penny Serenade is available for viewing on the Internet Archive. Don't miss this holiday classic, but watch it with a box of tissues!

4. Christmas Holiday

Christmas Holiday is the film noir of holiday film collections. Loosely based on a novel by W. Somerset Maugham, the 1944 movie stars Deanna Durbin and Gene Kelly.

The story centers on a cabaret singer in World War II New Orleans who starts a conversation with a soldier stranded during the holidays. Through a series of flashbacks, the woman recounts her tragic story of marriage to a murderous Creole scoundrel.

This dark film is the most obscure Christmas movie on my list. It is very hard to locate for rent or for purchase. If you know where to find a copy in stock, please share details in the comments section.

5. I'll Be Seeing You

I’ll Be Seeing You is a tender-hearted wartime drama starring Joseph Cotten, Ginger Rogers and Shirley Temple. An old time radio drama inspired the 1944 film.

The story follows a kindhearted soldier who suffers from shell shock and battle fatigue. When he is released from a mental hospital for the Christmas holidays, he meets a female convict on furlough from prison to visit her family.

Their mutual loneliness blossoms into a sweet romance. Both lovers long for a normal life together, but they wonder if that is possible once their secrets are known.

The popular Bing Crosby recording of "I'll Be Seeing You" is featured throughout the movie.

Donald Woods in the 1937 film "Sea Devils."
Donald Woods in the 1937 film "Sea Devils." | Source

6. Star in the Night

Star in the Night is a short Christmas drama starring J. Carrol Naish and Donald Woods. It was director Don Siegal’s debut film, and it won an Oscar for Best Short Subject (Two-Reel).

The 1945 film is a modernized version of the biblical Christmas story. It also contains elements of the Charles Dickens novella, “A Christmas Carol.”

According to a Turner Classic Movies review, the story is shared "from the point of view of a Scrooge-like jaded man with little use for the Christmas holiday."

Like Christmas Holiday, Star in the Night is another obscure film that is very hard to locate. If you know where to find a copy for rent, purchase or viewing, please share the details in the comments section.

7. It Happened on 5th Avenue

It Happened on Fifth Avenue is a 1947 Christmas comedy starring Don DeFore, Ann Harding, Charles Ruggles, Victor Moore and Gale Storm.

The movie is set in New York City -- specifically Fifth Avenue, "the richest avenue in the world."

The story centers on a homeless man and his friends, who secretly take up residence in a Fifth Avenue townhouse while the owners spend their Christmas in the South.

A song from this 1940s film, "That’s What Christmas Means to Me,” became a 1950s hit for Eddie Fisher.

8. Holiday Affair

Holiday Affair is a romantic comedy from 1949. Robert Mitchum, Janet Leigh, Wendell Corey and Harry Morgan star in the film.

Set during the holiday season, this story centers on a war widow who can't afford to buy her son a toy train for Christmas.

When a war veteran discovers her plight, he offers to buy the toy. This begins a complicated holiday romance, with lively competition for the widow's affections.

Robert Mitchum and Janet Leigh in "Holiday Affair."
Robert Mitchum and Janet Leigh in "Holiday Affair." | Source

Your Turn

What is your favorite classic Christmas movie? Leave a comment below and join the discussion. If you enjoyed this article, please share it with your social networks.

Reference Sources

"Penny Serenade" reproduction poster print.
"Penny Serenade" reproduction poster print. | Source

© 2010 Annette R. Smith

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    • Annette R. Smith profile image
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      Annette R. Smith 11 months ago from Grand Island, Florida

      Thank you for sharing this, Jamie. So glad to hear it. Merry Christmas!

    • profile image

      Jamie 13 months ago

      A Star In The Night is an extra on a recent DVD release of Christmas In Connecticut. I picked one up at Walmart two years ago for $5.00 but it is available elsewhere and on Amazon.

    • Annette R. Smith profile image
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      Annette R. Smith 2 years ago from Grand Island, Florida

      Thank you for your suggestion, Sylvain. I haven't seen "The Cheaters," but it's now on my holiday movie list! I just checked Amazon.com, and they have two copies (new and used) available on DVD.

    • Annette R. Smith profile image
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      Annette R. Smith 2 years ago from Grand Island, Florida

      You're welcome, defeblearia. Thank you for stopping by.

    • profile image

      Sylvain Lamoureux 2 years ago

      One forgotten gem is The Cheaters (1945). Unfortunately, there are no official release of it on DVD yet.

    • profile image

      defeblearia 2 years ago

      thanks for this awesome post

    • Annette R. Smith profile image
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      Annette R. Smith 4 years ago from Grand Island, Florida

      Hello, ambyn. I was not familiar with "The Cheaters," so I looked it up on the Internet Movie Database. Reading your description and the IMDb storyline, it sounds like a delightful film. If I can find it for sale anywhere online, I will certainly post about it here. Thank you so much for your recommendation!

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      ambyn 4 years ago

      Hi. Another excellent Christmas movie is 1945's "The Cheaters". The title doesn't sound Christmassy in 21st century standards, but the story/plot is really all about Christmas and how it makes people's hearts tender and willing to do what is right. It starts with a Christmas scene and ends with a warm Christmas ending. I highly recommend this movie. I tried looking for this movie online - Amazon, TCM, etc. but cannot find a dvd. It can be seen in full on youtube, though. If anyone knows of a dvd for sale for this movie, please post it here. Thanks.

    • Annette R. Smith profile image
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      Annette R. Smith 4 years ago from Grand Island, Florida

      Mark your calendars! Turner Classic Movies (TCM) will feature "Holiday Affair" twice this season: December 20 at 8PM (ET) and December 24 at 3PM (ET).

    • Annette R. Smith profile image
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      Annette R. Smith 5 years ago from Grand Island, Florida

      Hi, Cyndi! Thank you for your comments. Penny Serenade and The Bishop's Wife are wonderful films, and they're two of my favorites. I started my holiday viewing this year with Holiday Inn. Merry Christmas, and enjoy the shows!

    • Cyndi10 profile image

      Cynthia B Turner 5 years ago from Georgia

      Hello Annette, Thank you for providing such a great list of movie possibilities for the season. I've only seen one of the movies on your list, Penny Serenade. I also saw the Bishop's Wife, both versions, and enjoyed them. Now, I'll gather up my hot chocolate and start looking for others.

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      Annette R. Smith 6 years ago from Grand Island, Florida

      Thank you, Maren Morgan M-T. Glad you enjoyed the hub!

    • Maren Morgan M-T profile image

      Maren Elizabeth Morgan 6 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Great coverage!

    • Annette R. Smith profile image
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      Annette R. Smith 6 years ago from Grand Island, Florida

      Hello, gryphin423. Thank you for dropping in and leaving a comment! I'm glad you enjoyed the hub. I had such fun putting it together. And I'm eager to watch these and other Christmas classics again soon. Enjoy the holidays!

    • gryphin423 profile image

      gryphin423 6 years ago from Florida

      Finally a list that has Meet Me in St Louis on it! My all time favorite holiday movie! And I also love Holiday Affair. Thank you so much for sharing these, some I had never hear of before ;-)

    • Annette R. Smith profile image
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      Annette R. Smith 6 years ago from Grand Island, Florida

      @FloraBreenRobison, thanks for stopping by! I see some of these movies on television, too, from time to time. The popular Christmas movies are fun, but I love the rare old gems!

      @Woody Marx, I'm with you! I'll have to start my holiday viewing a little sooner this year, so I can watch more of these classics. Thank you for the comment!

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      Woody Marx 6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I am going to start Christmas early this year just so I can get in all these movies! ;)

    • FloraBreenRobison profile image

      FloraBreenRobison 6 years ago

      Meet Me in St. louis seems to air all the time where I live and I had heard of it before I saw it. That cannot be said of Remember the Night which I watch every year now- I had never even heard of it before and that is not like me. It's fabulous.

      I have seen It Happened On Fifth Avenue and Holiday Affair on TCM too, but I don't watch them every year.

      Christmas Holiday is on my to see list. i must admit that I hadn't heard of Beyond Christmas

    • Annette R. Smith profile image
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      Annette R. Smith 6 years ago from Grand Island, Florida

      Thank you, Mickey Sr. I'm so glad you enjoyed and appreciated this hub. I had fun with the research and writing, and I look forward to watching many of these movies again this holiday season.

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      MickeySr 6 years ago from Hershey, Pa.

      Thank you - I've just looked at several other lists of 'best whatever' movies and they're all nothing but "Dirty Dancing", "Titanic", "An Officer and a Gentleman", etc, etc - no matter what the list is, 'Best Haunted SciFi Kung Fu Love Story' = well of course, it's "Pretty Woman".

      Yours is the 1st list I've come across that is informative and real - not just regurgitating this sorry generation's lame lists of lovable sluts with a heart of gold crap, but actual storytelling. Thank you.

    • Annette R. Smith profile image
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      Annette R. Smith 6 years ago from Grand Island, Florida

      Hello, Marsha H. Thanks for stopping by! These are some great movies, aren't they? I'm glad you enjoyed reading this hub.

    • Marsha H profile image

      Marsha H 6 years ago from My Retro Kitchen in NY

      What a fabulous list of movies! I've seen most of these, but I don't believe I've ever seen 'Beyond Christmas.' Thanks for the heads up. :)

    • Annette R. Smith profile image
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      Annette R. Smith 6 years ago from Grand Island, Florida

      Terry C, thanks for mentioning this one. It's another film that made the list for "Best Classic Christmas Movies Ever: A Baker's Dozen." A sweet, sentimental movie...and another one to watch with a box of tissues.

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      Terry C - NJ 6 years ago

      "Miracle of the Bells" - Fred MacMurray, Lee J. Cobb, Alida Valli and Frank Sinatra as a - get this - Polish priest.

    • Annette R. Smith profile image
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      Annette R. Smith 6 years ago from Grand Island, Florida

      Thanks, Lauren. My family and I will have to check on this one, too.

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      Lauren Duncan 6 years ago

      There's a great one from the mid 1950s with Humphrey Bogart, Peter Ustinov & Aldo Ray: We're No Angels (1955). Also starring Basil Rathbone, Leo G. Carroll & Joan Bennett. This is a tradition at our house.

    • Annette R. Smith profile image
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      Annette R. Smith 6 years ago from Grand Island, Florida

      @Nonymouse, I included "A Christmas Wish" in another hub, "The Best Classic Christmas Movies Ever--A Baker's Dozen" (see link above).

      @TK, thanks for sharing another movie title!

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      TK 6 years ago

      nobody ever remembers Curse of the Cat People.

    • profile image

      Nonymouse 6 years ago

      Where's Jimmy Durante's "The Great Rupert"?

      (AKA A Christmas Wish)

      Funny Xmas movie with a squirrel!

    • Annette R. Smith profile image
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      Annette R. Smith 6 years ago from Grand Island, Florida

      @Rubyredjewel, thank you for the broadcast updates. It's good to know that some of the old classics are airing on cable television this holiday season.

      @SDiner82@aol.com, @Dexter, and @bcapolino, thank you for sharing four other holiday gems. I can't wait to view them myself!

      @Maureen, "Come To The Stable" is one of my favorites, too. I included in another of my hubs, "The Best Classic Christmas Movies Ever--A Baker's Dozen" (see link above)

      @Scott MacDonough, thank you for the encouragement. Merry Christmas!

    • profile image

      Maureen 6 years ago

      My favorite has always been "Come to the Stable" (1949) with Loretta Young and Celeste Holm.

    • profile image

      bcapolino 6 years ago

      i think the movie "SINCE YOU WENT AWAY" should qualify as an xmas gem!

    • profile image

      Dexter 6 years ago

      Great list. I've seen a few of them, and I'll try to see the rest. One that should be added as #1, "The Man Who Came to Dinner" (1942). It includes a fantastic performance by Monty Woolley. Don't miss it! Highly recommended.

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      Rubyredjewel 6 years ago

      Beyond Tomorrow is on Christmas Eve.

    • profile image

      Scott MacDonough 6 years ago

      Great Website!!!

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      SDiner82@aol.com 6 years ago

      Whenever I see a list of overlooked Xmas gems, I always look for "Someone to Remember" (1943) and "Junior Miss" (1945)--in vain. The former is an exquisite, forgotten gem with that grand character actress Mabel Paige as a feisty senior citizen who refuses to relocate when the town decides to turn her apartment building into a boys' dormitory for the local college. (Look for a very young Peter Lawford as one of the frat boys.) While not a Christmas movie per se, it contains a 15-minute holiday scene that will break your heart--as does the entire movie with its double twist ending. "Junior Miss" is simply one of the funniest movies ever made about a young Manhattan teenager (the glorious Peggy Ann Garner) who inadvertently ruins her family's Christmas, and just as inadvertently sets everything right after 94 hilarious minutes. It is a crime indeed that neither of these superb flms have yet to be released to home video, nor have they been shown on cable TV. After years of searching, I finally was able to purchase both movies on VHS and the quality of each one is pristine. If you are interested, just let me know and I'll provide you with 3 hours of enchantment

    • profile image

      Rubyredjewel 6 years ago

      Meet me In St Louis airs often throughout the year on TCM and every Christmas season more than once. If the channel are showcasing any of the main stars it is one of the films that airs.

      It Happened On Fifth Avenue was on twice this month the last time just this past Sun. TCM has also aired Beyond Christmas a number of times.

    • Annette R. Smith profile image
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      Annette R. Smith 6 years ago from Grand Island, Florida

      @JDiNova, "The Bishop's Wife" is a great movie, too. One of my favorites, in fact. It's featured in another Hub article, "The Best Classic Christmas Movies Ever: A Baker's Dozen." Thanks for sharing!

      @C.J. Schexnayder, interesting question. I'll have to think about this one and get back with you. I read somewhere that a former Alabama football player had a role in a Capra film. Thanks for your comment!

    • profile image

      C.J. Schexnayder 6 years ago

      Do any of these films feature a character who is an uncle to the female protagonist that is a die-hard Alabama football fan? I saw a black and white film many years ago which I believe was a Christmas-themed movie that had such a character but, for the life of me, I've never been able to find it again.

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      JDiNova 6 years ago

      ...another classic: The Bishop's Wife with Cary Grant,David Niven and Loretta Young. Terrific film remade limply for Denzel Washington.

    • Annette R. Smith profile image
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      Annette R. Smith 6 years ago from Grand Island, Florida

      @Lauren, thanks for reading my hub and sharing your personal recommendations. Great movies!

      @darkstar, I enjoy watching Barbara Stanwyck's movies, including "Christmas in Connecticut." I included this film in another hub: "Best Classic Christmas Movies Ever: A Baker's Dozen."

    • profile image

      darkstar 6 years ago

      How about Christmas in Connecticut?

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      Lauren 6 years ago

      Remember The Night and I'll Be Seeing You are two of my favorites as well. Star in the Night is wonderful too and actually available on DVD as an extra on Christmas in Connecticut. Great post!

    • Annette R. Smith profile image
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      Annette R. Smith 6 years ago from Grand Island, Florida

      Hello, lindacee. Thank you for reading my hub, and for sharing a couple of your favorite titles, too. The old black-and-white classics really are the best. I appreciate the encouragement!

    • lindacee profile image

      lindacee 6 years ago from Arizona

      Great movie choices! It's is nice to see a list of Christmas movies that are not the typical fare. I absolutely love Remember the Night and Holiday Affair (big fan of Fred MacMurray and Robert Mitchum.)And of course Penny Serenade with Cary Grant. Thanks for the suggestions and the super Hub!