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Posted on Sat, Dec 25, 2010 : 6:01 a.m.

Holiday memories: Some favorite moments from seasonal movies and TV specials

By Staff

Since a big part of the season involves holiday-themed movies and TV specials, asked some members of the local arts and entertainment community to name one of their favorite on-screen holiday moments, and why it resonates. Here are their responses, along with clips from some of them. And please share your own favorite in a comment at the end of the post.

Russ Collins, executive director, Michigan Theater: "Back in the late 1970s, before I even started working at the Michigan Theater, my girlfriend and I went to see “Meet Me In St. Louis” at Ann Arbor’s grand old movie palace. Although not a full-out Christmas movie, “Meet Me in St. Louis” is a musical, organized around holidays as well as the opening of the 1904 World’s Fair — held, conveniently, in St. Louis. It stars Judy Garland and features many great songs including “(Clang, Clang, Clang Went the) Trolley Song” and “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.” If I remember correctly, the print of the film shown that night was missing the “Trolley Song” scene, which we didn’t even realize until the film was nearly over. After the credits rolled and the house lights came up, we walked out of the theater on to Liberty Street in the heart of Ann Arbor to discover it was snowing — a perfect, fluffy Hollywood type snow. The Christmas lights and street lamps glowed and were reflected beautifully in the wet streets as the snow fell gently all around us. It was a most beautiful holiday moment. “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” remains one of my favorite holiday songs and romantic memories. So, best wishes for a merry little Christmas, to you and yours and see you at the movies!"

Carla Milarch, executive director, Performance Network Theatre: "The part in 'Elf' (yes, 'Elf') where everyone joins in singing 'Santa Claus is coming to Town.' Because singing loud for all to hear really is the best way to spread Christmas cheer."

Robb Woulfe, executive director, Ann Arbor Summer Festival: "Miracle on 34th Street" — "I love the scene in the 1994 remake where Susan sees Kris Kringle communicating with a young deaf girl and begins to wonder if perhaps he's the real deal. That moment absolutely captures the magic of when belief begins. And that shot of the deaf girl's face, when Santa starts to talk to her in sign language, is totally worth the trip to Blockbuster."

Martin Bandyke, morning host on radio station WQKL (107.1-FM, "Ann Arbor's 107one"): "My favorite Christmas moment is definitely 'A Charlie Brown Chrismas,' which I first saw when it premiered on CBS back in 1965. As funny as it is poignant, the show really captures the holiday spirit. Plus it has that way cool soundtrack by the Vince Guaraldi Trio."

Chris Farah, Ann Arbor native screenwriter/director ("Answer This!"): "One of my favorite moments … comes in the Bill Murray movie 'Scrooged' — actually, the whole movie is a favorite moment for me — when at the end of the film, Murray breaks the fourth wall and talks directly to the audience, asking everyone to join him and the cast singing 'Put a Little Love in Your Heart.' I remember seeing that movie for the first time as a little kid with my brother and my mom when we were visiting my grandparents in Grand Rapids, and I was blown away that the movie was actually talking to me — could they really do that? — and that everyone in the theater did exactly what he asked and joined in. I relive that amazing moment every time I watch the movie. Oh, I also like the part where Billy Murray wants to staple little mini antlers to the heads of mice."

Guy Sanville, artistic director, Purple Rose Theatre Company: "In my humble opinion, 'It's a Wonderful Life' is the greatest movie ever made. There are 2 moments in it that stand out for me: at the soda fountain, early in the movie, when George and Mary are about 12. George is sitting next to her at the soda fountain and she whispers into his bad ear, 'George Bailey, I'll love you till the day I die.' The other is the two of them talking on the phone to Sam Wainwright when George is overcome by his feelings for Mary. He drops the phone takes her in his arms and kisses her. The film says so many things about how one life touches so many, about the idea that love can conquer all, and the absolute power of hope."

Ryan Pratt, Rave Motion Pictures on Carpenter Road: One of my favorites is the scene from "A Christmas Story" where Ralphie visits Santa at the mall, asks for a Red Ryder BB Gun, and gets the famous, "You'll shoot your eye out, kid" in response before being pushed down a slide. The movie has a lot of funny, memorable moments, but that one stands out for me. I can't help but laugh every time I see that scene.

Barton Bund, co-founder and artistic director, Blackbird Theatre: "You might not think of it as a Christmas movie, but there is a scene in 'Annie Hall' where Alvie and Annie arrive in Los Angeles at holiday time. They are driving in the blazing hot sun, under towering palm trees, and a children's chorus sings 'We Wish You A Merry Christmas.' It underscores, for me, the cynicism of the holiday, the absurdity of it, the strangeness, the surreal juxtaposition of holiday traditions against a very modern world. It's two things that never reconcile themselves. The only thing more strange was the Christmas I spent in Australia. We were all wearing Santa hats on the beach in full sun. Too absurdly wonderful."

Maggie Ladd, director, South University Art Fair: "Being British and having that slightly dark and dry sense of humor, my family and I like to watch the offbeat Christmas movies as well as the traditional. For your purpose, though, I'll stick to traditional. So I'll choose 'White Christmas,' with Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney, and the part where they sing 'Count your Blessings,' which is a really good way to be all year round, if we can remember to think that way!"

Donna DeButts, community relations coordinator, Ypsilanti District Library: "This task was harder than I first thought. I discovered that I am a true sentimental sap when it comes to Christmas movies. My favorites include: 'The Bishop’s Wife' with Cary Grant and Loretta Young, 'The Bells of St. Mary’s' with Bing Crosby and Ingrid Bergman, 'It’s a Wonderful Life' with Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed, 'Miracle on 34th Street' with John Payne, Maureen O’Hara and Natalie Wood, and 'White Christmas' with Danny Kaye and Bing Crosby. All of them are black and white except for 'White Christmas.' The common thread is the interaction with people that allows for a change in the way things are. I guess I truly believe that is possible and the holidays are a chance to try to affect change. They also explore the magical side of Christmas with angels and Santa Claus playing a major role in making dreams come true. "One of my favorite moments in 'The Bishop’s Wife' is when Dudley (Cary Grant) and Julia (Loretta Young) go on a taxi ride and end up in the park with the taxi driver ice skating. Dudley (an angel) makes everyone that he meets be their best and feel their best because he is kind, complimentary, and positive about the good in the world.

"In 'The Bells of St. Mary’s,' Ingrid Bergman, a Catholic nun, undertakes to teach a young man, who is getting beaten up regularly by the school bully, to box. Her instruction and then the subsequent view of her watching as her pupil implements their training is fun to watch. In Ingrid Bergman’s case it shows that good teachers see beyond a student’s performance in the classroom and look to help them solve the challenges that they face."


mike from saline

Sun, Dec 26, 2010 : 8:28 a.m.

I could not agree more with Guy Sanville [artistic director, Purple Rose Theatre]. The sceene with "George and Mary" on the telephone is the most intensly passionate love sceene ever filmed, in the greatest American movie ever made. I watch this movie every year, and every year I fall in love with Donna Reed, all over again.


Sun, Dec 26, 2010 : 12:02 a.m.

@ David, I was being facetious,but it was the 80's and we can't change what the major networks were feeding us.

David Briegel

Sat, Dec 25, 2010 : 11:47 p.m.

Yes I Can!!


Sat, Dec 25, 2010 : 11:02 p.m.

Emmett Otter's Jug Band Christmas and Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer. I used to hide behind the couch when the Abominimal made his appearance in Rudolph. Oh, and you can't forget the Loveboat Christmas specials.


Sat, Dec 25, 2010 : 1:12 p.m.

In "Miracle on 34th Street" I believe the little girl that Santa talks to isn't deaf but is Dutch. Susan is watching him talk to the little kids and a woman brings up a Dutch orphan, over from the war in Europe. Santa, knowing every language possible, begins to speak to her in Dutch. Susan, later asks her mother about it and her mother says something along the lines of "I speak French but that doesn't make me French."