It's Gonna Take a Miracle
George Bailey, Kris Kringle, Charlie Brown—when you think of Christmas movies certain names instantly spring to mind. But there are some relatively unsung holiday heroes who deserve a little more recognition at Yuletide. Click though for 15 of them, starting with a precocious young character who was deeply skeptical about the whole thing.
Susan Walker (Natalie Wood)
"Miracle on 34th Street" (1947)
Few things are more life-affirming than watching this beautiful—if astoundingly cynical—second-grader being won over by a bearded old man who might actually be the real Santa.
Private Phil Davis (Danny Kaye)
"White Christmas" (1954)
Basically a loosely constructed remake of "Holiday Inn," except this time Crosby's pal (Kaye) is true blue. In the end, Danny not only gets the girl he loves (Vera-Ellen), he makes it his business to see that Bing and her sister (Rosemary Clooney) get together, too. On Christmas Eve, natch.
Uncle Billy (Thomas Miller)
"It's a Wonderful Life" (1946)
We don't care if he did lose the Building and Loan's $8,000, prompting his nephew George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) to ponder suicide and get into all sorts of other trouble. Billy has a heart of gold, and we love him.
Sister Mary Benedict (Ingrid Bergman)
"The Bells of St. Mary's" (1945)
The good sister contracts tuberculosis but doesn't know it. Father O'Malley (Bing Crosby) reassigns her to a better climate but doesn't say why. She's heartbroken, thinks she's being punished for disagreeing with the priest over school matters. But O'Malley can't let her leave this way, and tells her she is very ill and being sent away for her own good. This tearjerker gets us every time.
Esther Smith (Judy Garland)
"Meet Me in St. Louis" (1944)
Judy debuted the classic "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" for this movie, and it was—and still is—a beautiful thing to hear. A year later, she married the film's director, Vincente Minnelli, father to Liza.
Jim Hardy (Bing Crosby)
"Holiday Inn" (1942)
The poor guy gets dumped by his fiancée for his friend (Fred Astaire), on Christmas Eve no less! Then he leaves the nightclub life and moves to a farm in Connecticut. What's not to love? This is where Der Bingle first sang Irving Berlin's "White Christmas," the biggest holiday hit—the biggest hit of any kind—in history.
Sam the Snowman (Burl Ives)
"Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" (1964)
This TV special was produced as part of the "General Electric Fantasy Hour" series. Sam not only narrates the story but belts out a few tunes as well, most notably "A Holly Jolly Christmas." Burl Ives' voice got deep down inside of us. And stayed there.
Holly Gennaro-McClane (Bonnie Bedelia)
"Die Hard" (1988)
New York detective John McClane (Bruce Willis) flies to Los Angeles to reconcile with estranged wife Holly. He arrives at the office tower where she works just before a group of heavily armed terrorists take Holly and her co-workers hostage. Did we mention it's Christmas Eve?
The Grinch (Boris Karloff)
"How the Grinch Stole Christmas" (1966)
Ah, that voice. And he both narrates and provides the voice of the Grinch. This 26-minute animated TV short was one of Karloff's last roles (he died three years later). He and kids go way back, too: Karloff hosted his own children's radio show in the late-1940s and early '50s.
Silas Barnaby (Henry Brandon)
"Babes in Toyland" (1934)
Barnaby holds the mortgage on the shoe in which Bo Peep lives with her mother—and threatens to foreclose on the shoe unless the pretty young girl becomes his bride. The Laurel and Hardy movie is more associated with Thanksgiving than Christmas, we'll admit. Barnaby isn't the cheeriest character either, but he'll always be on our list of memorable ones.
Ralphie Parker (Peter Billingsley)
"A Christmas Story" (1983)
All little Ralphie wants for Christmas is a Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-shot Range Model air rifle. And his father, aka "The Old Man" (played by Darren McGavin), actually gives it to him! What could go wrong?
Ebenezer Scrooge (Alastair Sim)
"A Christmas Carol" (1951)
Tiny Tim warmed our heart, but no one can forget Dickens' Christmas-hating miser. In this case, it's not Ebenezer who's the unsung hero; it's Alastair Sim, who made the character his own. There never was—and never will be—a better Scrooge. End of discussion.
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