Top Five: Musical Moments from Christmas Films

Amanda Kirkham

The Holiday season is here! With it comes the shopping rush, bright decorations, and holiday movies (the best part, really). Everyone has their favorite film centered around winter festivities and everyone has a list of those favorites. In an attempt to do something different, I thought I would focus attention on some particularly memorable musical elements of these movies. Here are my Top Five Musical Moments from Christmas Films.

5. About A Boy (2002)

This is kind of a sneaky pick. It tells the story of an unlikely friendship between an immature young man and the boy who teaches him how to grow up. Though most of the story happens throughout the rest of the year, there are two scenes that take place at Christmas, and there is a song, the royalties of which Will (Hugh Grant) lives off of, that make it a holiday film. The song “Santa’s Super Sleigh,” written by Will’s father, is a kitschy Christmas song everyone but Will loves. While I could pick one of the scenes featuring the song (there was one where Will hears it early in the season while grocery shopping and is visibly upset, and another during which it is sung to him once he tells other characters about it), I’m choosing a musical scene that features a non-holiday themed song. After a series of uncomfortable events, Will and Marcus (a young Nicholas Hoult) are going through a phase where they aren’t speaking to each other. Will has an epiphany and realizes that Marcus is rather important to him. He rushes to the talent show Marcus has naively entered, and saves him from social embarrassment by making a fool of himself instead, singing “Killing Me Softly,” with eyes closed, in front of Marcus’s school. It is all kinds of uncomfortable while being entirely heartwarming.

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4. Love Actually (2003)

Another British film, and another Hugh Grant pick. Love Actually is an excellent ensemble film about different relationships and the chaos of the holiday season. One of the non-romantic storylines is that of singer Billy Mack (Bill Nighy) and his manager, Joe (Gregor Fisher). Joe is trying to keep Billy’s comeback alive, despite Billy’s seemingly disinterested attitude. One of Joe’s strategies is to have Billy do a Christmas cover of The Troggs’ “Love Is All Around,” substituting the word “Christmas” for “Love.” While recording the song, Billy keeps messing up the lyrics because he’s so used to the original. After a few bad takes, Billy lets out a slew of curse words and finally focuses to get the right version down.

3. White Christmas (1954)

Bob Wallace (Bing Crosby) and Phil Davis (Danny Kaye) are successful showmen tricked into attending a show with an act featuring the sisters of one of their old war buddies. The sisters have lured them there in the hopes that they will see their talent and invite them to join their show. Phil sees that Bob is attracted to the older sister and in an attempt to set his friend up, convinces him to join the girls on their trip to their next gig at an inn in Vermont. They discover that the innkeeper is the General from their old World War II outfit. The film is a musical and there are many elaborate song and dance numbers that evoke the Christmas spirit. However, I believe that the most memorable number is when Crosby and Kaye lip sync to the sisters’ duet, in order to distract a debt collector looking for the girls, while they escape. The song is all about the love of sisters and it is the women’s voices playing over the speakers, with Crosby and Kaye wearing a few of their accessories, dancing along and making fools of themselves.

2. “One More Sleep ‘Til Christmas,” The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)

I’m not sure there is a version of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol as sweet and endearing as The Muppet Christmas Carol. They turned it into a musical and have Kermit as Bob Cratchit and Michael Caine as Scrooge (talk about perfect casting). All of the songs are wonderful but the number where Cratchit (Kermit) is walking home Christmas Eve is particularly engaging. The song, “One More Sleep ‘Til Christmas” was written by Paul Williams, the same genius behind “The Rainbow Connection.” Kermit sings about the joy the holiday brings, and the anticipation the night before, capturing perfectly the feeling we all get as the holiday approaches. That feeling of excitement and wonder is made so much more magical with the Muppets.

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1. “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,” Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)

This is my favorite Christmas film. A family learns they must move to New York at the end of the year because of a job opportunity the father takes. Throughout the film they struggle all year to come to terms with this. Though one of the daughters, Esther (Judy Garland) is herself upset about the move, on Christmas Eve she sings a song to her younger sister, Tootie (Margaret O’Brien), in order to try and console her. The song she sings, which happens to be my favorite Christmas song, is “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” written for the film by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane. It is melancholy and has often been labeled one of the most depressing Christmas songs. The lyrics talk of having to “muddle through” tough times, and the possibility of never seeing old friends again, all in the hopes of a better future. It is a very sad song and Garland’s low, emotive voice is perfect at translating the mood of it onto the screen. While the holidays are often a bit stressful, this song, and the scene itself are reminders that if this has been a rough year, you always have loved ones to turn to for comfort.

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