Happy New Year with the Code!

This article is specifically dedicated to films which honor the celebration of the New Year. Most, if not all, of these films are Christmas films, as well. However, not all Christmas films contain a New Year’s Eve or Day scene. Please pardon any redundancy between this article and the Christmas film article.

1. Holiday (1938): This charming film has the perfect timing for the holiday season. Even its name speaks of celebration and the joy of life. In this Capra-like film, which is my personal favorite, Cary Grant plays Johnny Case, a handsome young businessman who has worked since the age of ten to earn a decent living. Now that he has earned some real money, he is eager to begin really living by quitting his job to enjoy and discover the true meaning of life and the new ideas in the world. The film begins on Christmas Day, even though the only hints that this is true is the Christmas carols being sung in church and the time relation to New Year’s Day. Johnny has met, fallen in love with, and become engaged to a beautiful girl named Julia Seton. They met at Lake Placid, but he visits her house as soon as he returns to New York City. He is shocked to learn that she is the daughter of an extremely wealthy banker. At first he is pleased, but he soon realizes that there will be many complications before her stoic father consents to their union. Before Julia goes to “break the news to Father” at church, Johnny meets Linda, the “mad sister,” who is charmingly played by Katharine Hepburn. She is an impetuous dreamer, but she, unlike her obedient, level-headed sister, is unhappy and dissatisfied with the formality and falseness of the New York cafe society. She immediately accepts Johnny as a brother, saying that he was “like spring; he’s a breath of fresh air.” When Johnny returns to the house that afternoon, he is sent to the playroom, which is Linda’s sanctuary and her late mother’s favorite room. Since Julia has not yet returned from church, Linda and Johnny exchange memories, wishes, and dreams in the only warm and love-filled room in the mansion, which Johnny calls “a museum.” They are joined by Linda’s sottish brother, Ned, played with pathetic genius by Lew Ayres, who could have been a great musician and composer “if Father hadn’t interfered.” At first he is apathetic to Johnny, but he soon begins to help Linda prepare their future brother-in-law for the conflict with their unemotional father. After the men have left to prepare for the interview, Linda privately asks Julia to let her give an intimate engagement party for them in the old playroom on New Year’s Eve. Julia happily agrees. At first Mr. Seton is skeptical of Johnny’s qualifications as a husband for his middle child, but that evening he defers to his favorite child’s wishes. He, like Julia, sees Johnny’s potential as a banker and “young wizard of finance;” they both are unaware of his plan to go on holiday. Mr. Seton says that he will give a party on New Year’s Eve to announce the engagement. Though Julia coldly mentions Linda’s desire to give a party, she does nothing to stop the affair from becoming what Ned calls “a first-class funeral.” The New Year’s Eve sequence is the climax of the film. It vividly portrays the miserable, shallow lives that the Setons and their friends live. Julia and Mr. Seton revel in the opulence and try to include Johnny while Linda hides sulkily in the playroom and Ned drinks himself into oblivion. A clear contrast is painted between the genuine, kind, fun-loving couple Nick and Susan, a poor professor and his wife who are Johnny’s dearest friends, and Mr. and Mrs. Seton Cram, the Setons’ “terrible cousin” and his sickening wife, whom Linda call “the witch and Dopey.” On that same evening, Ned reveals Linda’s plans for the evening and her reason for avoiding the party. Johnny is surprised and upset by his future bride and father-in-law’s harsh treatment of his new friend. When Johnny’s big business deal comes through on New Year’s Eve, everyone realizes that Johnny has a different plan for their lives than Julia and her father have. Can Johnny persuade Julia to leave her stoic existence in high society and have fun with him, or will he have to become a miserable banker like Ned to have the woman he loves? Perhaps Linda is the only one who can help him now. Join us in watching this tomorrow to see what happens in director George Cukor’s brilliant, witty masterpiece.

2. Holiday Inn (1942):  This is the perfect film for every holiday. It begins on Christmas Eve and features New Year’s Eve, Lincoln’s Birthday, Valentine’s Day, Washington’s Birthday, Easter, and Thanksgiving. Great stars adds to the classic dynamic of this fantastic holiday classic, which is full of songs, dances, and old-fashioned charm. Bing Crosby plays Jim, a night-club entertainer who is tired of performing. After the Christmas Eve show, he and his beautiful co-star Lila are going to get married and move to a farm in Connecticut. The only problem is that his other co-star, tap-dancer Ted, played by Fred Astaire, is also in love with Lila and has persuaded her to marry him instead. Their manager clumsily reveals the new arrangement minutes before Jim’s departure. Ted and Lila have decided to keep dancing, “dedicating their lives to making people happy with their feet.” Jim still retires to the farm to “just be lazy.” After a year of so-called laziness, he realizes that owning a farm is much harder than singing and dancing. On Christmas Eve he visits the still unmarried Ted and Lila at the nightclub, telling his old friend that he is going to turn his nightclub into Holiday Inn, a musical inn which is only open on fifteen holidays each year. The next day, a hopeful flower shop girl named Linda goes to the inn for a job as an entertainer. She says she “can sing a little and dance,” and Jim hires her for next week’s show. On New Year’s Eve, the inn officially opens, featuring dancing and singing waitresses, a beautiful singing hostess named Linda, and a charming singing owner named Jim. They sing the theme song and “Let’s Start the New Year Right,” a rare alternative to Auld Lang Syne. On the same evening, Lila leaves Ted for a Texas millionaire, so he drunkenly goes to the inn and dances a great routine with Linda. The next morning, he and his manager are desperate to find out who the girl is, since they want her to be Ted’s new partner. Jim is eager to keep his new sweetheart secret, knowing Ted’s habit of stealing his women, and pretends that he doesn’t know her identity, either. The year passes with lots of wonderful singing, fantastic dancing, and charming trickery. On the next New Year’s Eve, Linda and Jim are reunited, and fickle Lila returns to Ted. The inn opens with a lot of merriment and love.

3. Remember the Night (1940): This is a romantic drama with elements of tender comedy in it. On Christmas Eve, Jack Sargent, the efficient assistant district attorney played by Fred MacMurray, is prosecuting a beautiful lady shoplifter, Lee Leander, who is played by Barbara Stanwyck. She stole an expensive bracelet from a jeweler, but her lawyer is trying to convince the jury that she was hypnotized. Sargent makes sarcastic, witty comments to his assistants throughout the lawyer’s dramatic performance. Seeing that the jury is beginning to look sentimental, Sargent gets the case postponed, since he knows he can get her convicted easier after Christmas. He feels guilty that she will be spending Christmas in jail, so he posts a bond with evil-minded Fat Mike. He is unhappily surprised when she is brought to his apartment just as he prepares to leave for Indiana. He tries to convince her that she is not obligated to stay and that he has no interest in her, but that makes her not want to leave. Since she has no money for food, he takes her to a restaurant, where they exchange views and discuss theories about her dishonesty. When they realize they are both Hoosiers, Jack offers to bring her to spend Christmas with her mother, who lives near his, then pick her up on his way back. She is very moved and accepts his offer. They experience many comical, difficult, and charming situations during their journey, and they grow increasingly fond of each other. When they visit her mother, they find a cruel, ruthless woman who despises her daughter and her late husband. She viciously recounts an incident of borrowed money in Lea’s youth, and Jack realizes that she ran away and turned to crime because her mother called her a thief in front of the whole town. Jack saves Lea by pretending that they were only stopping on their way to another destination. He brings her to his home, where she is greeted by his wonderfully kind mother, played by Beulah Bondi, his sweet spinster aunt, Emmy, and their lovably lazy houseboy, Willy, played by Sterling Holloway. She is showered with attention, affection, and gifts as she spends her first happy Christmas in a real home. Mrs. Sargent is pleased by the attraction she sees between her son and the beautiful lady until Jack tells her the truth about Lea. She finds it hard to believe, but she finally concludes that she didn’t have enough love as a child. She continues to treat their guest with love and consideration throughout her week-long visit with them. Their last night in Indiana is New Year’s Eve, which, I might add, is the same New Year’s Eve as the one in holiday. They celebrate with an old-fashioned barn dance, for which Aunt Emmy dresses Lea in a beautiful Victorian dress, complete with beautifully feminine underpinnings. Jack is smitten with her, and when Auld Lang Syne is sung with all its melancholy beauty, they kiss amid the fallen streamers. Mrs. Sargent is concerned, so she has a little chat with Lea about how hard Jack has worked to get to be assistant district attorney. Although she is fond of Lea, she knows neither of them wishes to see Jack’s career ruined by romantic scandal. Lea agrees, and they leave the next morning. They return by way of Canada, where they have a romantic scene in front of the frozen Niagara Falls at night. Jack says that now that they are in Canada, he cannot force her to return to New York City. He offers to marry her right then. Will Lea accept his offer and jump bail? If she returns to the city, will she be convicted, or can Jack get her acquitted? You have to watch it to see. All I will say is that Mr. Breen must have approved of this heart-warming holiday classic, which teaches the true meaning of guilt, penance, love, redemption, and the importance of a caring, wise mother.

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