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Classic 1940s Christmas Movies

Updated on July 10, 2014

Classic 1940s Christmas Movies

Gather the kids and the grandparents, pop the corn, pour the hot chocolate and gather around the television for a fun family evening this holiday season. These classic Christmas movies from the 1940s are timeless in their entertainment and make for a wonderful family evening together. From old to young, your entire family will be delighted to see some of the most famous actors of Hollywood in these wonderful films of yesteryear.

Start a new tradition this holiday season! Instead of going out to see new Christmas movies, why not revisit some of your favorites and learn what the blockbusters were in your parents or grandparents day? Great for a grandparent-grandchild activity, or for sparking conversations about family history, a classic Christmas movie night is a wonderful way to celebrate family and the holiday season.

Top Ten Christmas Movies From The 1940s

It's a Wonderful Life (60th Anniversary Edition)
It's a Wonderful Life (60th Anniversary Edition)

George Bailey has so many problems he is thinking about ending it all – and it’s Christmas! As the angels discuss George, we see his life in flashback. As George is about to jump from a bridge, he ends up rescuing his guardian angel, Clarence. Clarence then shows George what his town would have looked like if it hadn’t been for all of his good deeds over the years. Will Clarence be able to convince George to return to his family and forget suicide?

The Bells of St. Mary's
The Bells of St. Mary's

After watching director Leo McCarey's 1945, black-and-white ode to sentimentality, it's intriguing to note how everything old becomes new again. As evidenced by 1998 box-office fare such as Stepmom and One True Thing, the "disease of the week" mentality has been tugging at filmgoers' hearts for decades. The Bells of St. Mary's is the "sequel" to McCarey's Oscar-winning Going My Way, for which star Bing Crosby incredulously took home a Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of the paternal priest, Father O'Malley. But in The Bells of St. Mary's, Crosby's undernourished, laconic technique barely registers against the luminous, playful gravity of Ingrid Bergman, who embodies the heart of a faith-abiding but forward-thinking nun named Sister Benedict. O'Malley is transferred to her poverty-stricken school, and the two square off, ultimately forming a respect and liking for each other despite the fact that the good Sister has taken ill with tuberculosis and Father O'Malley must send her away from her beloved parish to save her life. Sure, The Bells of St. Mary's feels outdated and even trivial in light of the successors to its throne, but it's still a contender. McCarey had the touch for striking a chord that hearkens back to everything we didn't get as kids. He fills a need, as it were, with his ability to reveal our human frailties. Too, he's got Ingrid Bergman, who makes us fondly remember every teacher who lovingly and patiently made a difference in our lives. The Bells of St. Mary's recalls better days and romanticizes a gentler way of being, as suggested when Sister Benedict, after overhearing Father O'Malley remark that sometimes a man must fight his way through life, offers simply in response, "Why not make him think his way through instead?

Miracle on 34th Street
Miracle on 34th Street

Six year old Susan has doubts childhood's most enduring miracle Santa Clause. Her mother told her the "secret" about Santa a long time ago, so Susan doesn't expect to receive the most important gifts on her Christmas list. But after meeting a special departement stare Santa who's convinced he's the real thing, Susan is given the most precious gift of all - something to believe in.

Holiday Inn (Special Edition)
Holiday Inn (Special Edition)

In 1942, Fred Astaire and Bing Crosby teamed up at Der Bingle's Paramount Pictures for Holiday Inn, a black-and-white musical that proves more entertaining than Crosby's color semi-remake White Christmas in 1954. Astaire and Crosby play partner/rival song-and-dance men who compete for the hand of their performing partner, played by Virginia Dale. After Crosby loses, he moves to the Connecticut countryside where he creates a resort that is only open on holidays and puts on the shows with the help of Marjorie Reynolds. Dumped by Dale, Astaire makes a drunken arrival at the inn on New Year's Eve and dances with Reynolds. He decides she'll be his new partner, but doesn't remember what she looks like, setting off a frenzied search at every subsequent show while the once-bitten Crosby does his best to steer him off track. The theme gives Irving Berlin an excuse to craft or recycle a number of holiday-themed songs, such as (in the former category) "Washington's Birthday" or (in the latter) "Easter Parade." The most famous of the new material, of course, is "White Christmas," which became one of the bestselling songs of all time and the title song of Crosby's 1954 film. Astaire and Crosby also team up for "I'll Capture Her Heart," which playfully contrasts the stars' specialties, and Astaire's "It's So Easy to Dance with You" became one of the signature songs of his post-Ginger Rogers career. Astaire and Crosby teamed up again for Blue Skies in 1946

Christmas in Connecticut (1945)
Christmas in Connecticut (1945)

Journalist Elizabeth Lane is one of the country's most famous food writer. In her columns, she describes herself as a hard working farm woman, taking care of her children and being an excellent cook. But this is all lies. In reality she is an umarried New Yorker who can't even boil an egg. The recipes come from her good friend Felix. The owner of the magazine she works for has decided that a heroic sailor will spend his christmas on *her* farm. Miss Lane knows that her career is over if the truth comes out, but what can she do?

The Bishop's Wife
The Bishop's Wife

Heavenly bells are ringing, jubilant choirs are singing and Christmas joy is blanketing the world like freshly fallen snow. But the Yuletide spirit has yet to warm Bishop Henry Brougham's Victorian home. Struggling to raise funds for a new cathedral, the preoccupied young clergyman has neglected his loving wife Julia, and now only divine intervention can save their marriage! But the powerful and handsome angel sent from above has a mind of his own and teaching mortal Henry an immortal lesson inromance isn't all he's got planned! Starring Oscar(r) winners* Cary Grant, Loretta Young and David Niven, and featuring "a stellar supporting cast" (The Hollywood Reporter) that includes James Gleason and Monty Woolley, this delightful romantic comedy is wondrous, witty andtruly divine! *Grant, Honorary Oscar (1969); Young, Actress, The Farmer's Daughter (1947); Niven, Actor, Separate Tables (1958)

Christmas Holiday
Christmas Holiday

Dark drama follows the saga of a cabaret singer (Deanna Durbin) in WWII New Orleans who, through a series of flashbacks, relates to a stranded G.I. the sad story of her marriage to a murderous ne'er-do-well (Gene Kelly). Loosely adapted from W. Somerset Maugham's novel by "Citizen Kane" scribe Herman J. Mankiewicz, the film co-stars Gale Sondergaard, Richard Whorf. 93 min. Standard; Soundtrack: English.

Beyond Christmas - IN COLOR! Also Includes the Restored Black-and-White Version!
Beyond Christmas - IN COLOR! Also Includes the Restored Black-and-White Version!

A rare holiday treasure. This uplifting story begins on Christmas Eve in New York City, as three elderly businessmen prepare to enjoy a festive dinner together. In a show of holiday spirit, they receive visits from two kind-hearted strangers first a young man, then a young woman. Each has come to return a wallet they believe one of the gentlemen has lost. From this humble beginning, friendships are built, and romance ensues. Filled with heart and soul, this charming 1940 holiday classic is prefect for the Christmas season. In color for the first time and expertly restored, this film will surely become a part of your family holiday tradition.

Holiday Affair
Holiday Affair

One of the lesser holiday movies, this 1949 comedy stars Janet Leigh as a war widow who can't afford to buy her son a toy train for Christmas. A veteran (Robert Mitchum) who happens to be standing by in a department store overhears her plight and offers to purchase the toy, thus setting into motion a series of funny complications. Wendell Corey plays Leigh's suspicious, condescending boyfriend, whose jealousy compounds Mitchum's problems, and Harry Morgan is very good as a night-court judge trying to make sense of everything that happens. The movie didn't do so well at the box office at the time of its release, but it has gained an affectionate fan base over the years. Don't expect Miracle on 34th Street, but as a spirited lark for Yuletide, this is a lot of fun.

I'll Be Seeing You
I'll Be Seeing You

Oscar(r) winner* Ginger Rogers and Joseph Cotten top a stellar cast in this tender wartimelove story about two troubled strangers who meet by chance and try to crowd a lifetime of love and laughter into eight days. "Studded with brilliant performances" (Variety), I'll Be Seeing You "manages to ambush your emotions and hasten your heart beats" (Hollywood Citizen-News). After serving half of a prison sentence for accidental manslaughter, Mary Marshall (Rogers) is allowed a holiday furlough to visit her family. Keeping her history a secret, she falls in love with a kindhearted GI (Cotten) who's struggling to overcome shell shock. Both long for a normal life. But can they have it if he learns the truth about her? *1940: Actress, Kitty Foyle


Why were there so many Christmas movies in the 1940s?

In the 1940s, faced with the difficult days of World War II, Americans escaped by going to the movies. Christmas movies in particular brought a message of hope, peace, joy and humor - and of course, a hope for better days - that would sustain audiences facing challenging days ahead.

Watch What 1940s Moviegoers Saw That Christmas

A Retro Popcorn Popper For Your Family Classic Christmas Movie Night

Which is your favorite classic 1940s Christmas movie?

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    • profile image


      3 years ago

      Am I missing something? What list? Where?

    • tonybonura profile image

      Tony Bonura 

      5 years ago from Tickfaw, Louisiana

      Oh it definitely has to be It's A Wonderful Life. I have watched it every Christmas since I was discharged from the USAF. I never grow tired of it or bored with it and even manage to find new things I never noticed before.


    • eightieschild profile image


      6 years ago

      Great lens, that's already getting me into a Christmas mood in November. It's A Wonderful Life definitely has to be my favouite on this list.

      "Remember the Night" is another great old Christmas movie, which I think was probably from the 40s.

    • Tony Cooks profile image

      Tony Cooks 

      6 years ago

      What a great list of movies! I love Christmas in Connecticut and Miracle of 34th street. Feel good movies :-) Thanks for sharing JenOfChicago

    • garyrh1 profile image


      6 years ago

      Nice. I'm actually always surprised at how many great movies there were in the '40s because of the war.

    • Sylvestermouse profile image

      Cynthia Sylvestermouse 

      7 years ago from United States

      Oh, wow! Some of my all time favorite movies are featured here! Has it really been that long since they were made? Yikes! They are certainly better than what we are given today :)

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Really interesting lens!Miracle on 34th Street is also my favorite!

    • naturegirl7s profile image

      Yvonne L B 

      8 years ago from Covington, LA

      I love Miracle on 34th Street. It has just the right amount of Christmas magic.

    • Sami4u LM profile image

      Sami4u LM 

      8 years ago


      I am a fan of "It's a Wonderful Life" a really good classic 1940s Christmas movie.

    • Barkely profile image


      8 years ago

      Miracle on 34th Street is my favorite, but watching It's a Wonderful Life is another holiday tradition at our house:-)

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      You've named MANY of my favorites...It's a Wonderful life (with Zuzu and her petals)...the Bells of St.Mary with Fr.O'Malley! Holiday Inn and even more Bing! Luv it! Best of luck in the draw!


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