Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Five more classic films that could run on holidays

“The Ten Commandments” pulled off another of its holiday ratings miracles over the weekend, delivering ABC’s best non-sports Saturday since — the last time ABC aired “The Ten Commandments” about a year ago. It also pulled off ABC’s best non-sports Saturday among the younger viewers who are the currency of broadcast TV since the network aired the flick “Transformers” on Christmas Day of 2010. ABC’s 32nd broadcast of “The Ten Commandments,” the 1956 Cecil B. DeMille biblical flick that stars Charlton Heston, scored 7 million viewers in primetime Saturday night.
So did you watch The Ten Commandments this year? I didn't sit through the whole thing, but I had to see the parting-of-the-Red-Sea scene at least. It's remarkable that this old chestnut continues to get plenty of mileage, and the pairing of this movie with the Easter/Passover holiday season is obviously integral to its longevity. Regular people will say things like, oh, I don't like those old films; they're too corny, they're in black-and-white, they're not as good, blah blah blah - and yet they'll gather round the TV for one during a particular holiday, whether it's this or It's a Wonderful Life during Christmas. This makes me wonder: what other classic films could be tied to a holiday?

They need to be films that everyone knows, or at the very least, have stars that everyone knows. They don't have to have a direct correlation to a holiday (Life isn't really a Christmas movie, for example), but it certainly helps. They need to be able to play on free TV - ABC shows Commandments every year - so that it can have the widest audience. They should probably be feel-good movies as well, or at the very least, they should end on an up note. And they absolutely should remain in black-and-white (unless, y'know, they were originally shot in color). Here's what I came up with:

- Yankee Doodle Dandy for Independence Day. Duh. This one's a no-brainer. I watched it again recently and enjoyed it every bit as much as I did the first time I saw it. When I was in video retail, I would play it if I was working on July 4th. It's hard to see how anyone could resist a movie like this: yeah, the patriotism stuff is over-the-top, but if that sort of thing can't play on America's birthday, when can it play? Besides, it's so awesome to see Jimmy Cagney dance.

- To Kill a Mockingbird for Martin Luther King Jr. Day. To be honest, I don't feel comfortable about this choice. Given the parameters of this experiment that I set for myself, it fits perfectly, but I would much rather see a movie like Do The Right Thing playing on MLK Day instead - a movie written and directed by a black man. Still, it would never play on free television given its language, even though that language is necessary to the story. So I figure it's either Mockingbird or something horribly outdated and schmaltzy, like - ugh! - Guess Who's Coming To Dinner

- The Great Escape for Memorial Day. Um, don't hit me, but I've never actually seen The Great Escape... but I do know how highly regarded it is as a war movie! It's got manly men doing stuff! It's got Steve McQueen on a motorcycle! And most importantly, it's got American soldiers (and others) resisting the Nazis and being heroes, and let's face it, what better time would a movie like this play than on a holiday devoted to those who served this country in times of war? Plus, it's in color.

- Casablanca for Valentine's Day. This is another questionable choice, I think. To me, this is a war movie with romance added, but I suspect many, many more people see it as a romance movie with some war stuff added. Who's right? I say we both are. Still, when you think of the great movie love stories throughout history, few can top this, so I guess my view of it doesn't count for a hill of beans in this crazy old world. Besides, if any movie should be available to watch every year on free TV, it's this one.

- Holiday for New Year's Eve. Perhaps not as well known as these other movies, but it's got two of the all-time biggest, most beloved movie stars ever in a light romantic comedy with a New Year's Eve scene in it. I think if it were played often enough on New Year's Eve, it could catch on. Besides, it's called "Holiday"; I kinda think it deserves to be associated with an actual holiday, don't you?

So what do you think?


  1. re: "The Great Escape": They threw a couple of Yanks in there to make it commercial, but the actual events involved Brits and Canucks. My husband went to high school with the son of one of the guys. But, hey, it doesn't really matter because it is one top-notch, kick-ass movie. You must see it and you must see it soon.

    I get where "To Kill a Mockingbird" has the recognition factor with the Oscar win and the book is probably required reading in school. The earlier (1949) film "Intruder in the Dust" based on a Faulkner novel has a somewhat similar sort of theme, but although I think it should be better known I must admit it doesn't have the draw of "Mockingbird".

    "Yankee Doodle Dandy" could almost get a girl to change her citizenship. How about "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" as back-up?

    I missed "The Ten Commandments". I didn't check the schedule and just expected it to be on on Sunday. Drat!

  2. It was on Sunday, at least here in the US. I guess they ran it both nights.

    I saw 'Intruder in the Dust' in my film history class in college. It is a good movie; wish I had thought of that when I wrote this.

    If I knew more about Canadian holidays, I might've included one here just for you! Perhaps you could suggest something for Boxing Day?

    1. When I saw the last bit on Saturday I never thought they were going to air it on Sunday. Can't believe I missed it twice!

      I'm having trouble thinking of a Boxing Day movie ("The Set-Up"? Ha. Ha.) On November 11th we celebrate Remembrance Day so any WW1 movie would be appropriate.

    2. GRAND ILLUSION, perhaps? It's even French.

  3. Great picks, Rich! I think Ben-Hur would've been an equally excellent choice for Easter as the message speaks about redemption and forgiveness.

    I like the idea of To Kill a Mockingbird for MLK Day and Casablanca for V-day, I think Roman Holiday would be perfect for V-day as well :D

  4. ROMAN HOLIDAY! Another one I shoulda thought of!

  5. Here in Brazil, for the almost 4 years I've been a classic movie fan, Ten Commandments was never shown on Easter - I have never even watched it! On the oter hand, Ben-Hur is an Easter tradition and I always manage to watch a bit of it. In Oscars weekend, Ben-Hur is also shown.
    Last year a movie channel showed When Harry Met Sally on New Year's Eve (something proper) and Lawrence of Arabia n January 1st (not so proper, but I loved it). Another channel always starts the year with Charlie and the chocolate factory (the Gene Wilder version).

  6. That reminds me a little bit of how I'd grow up with monster movies on Thanksgiving - King Kong, Godzilla, stuff like that.


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