I never thought of The Lion In Winter as a Christmas movie, but it is. Well, it’s certainly set at Christmas time. Henry II inviting estranged wife Eleanor of Aquitaine over to his vast Norman castle for gift exchange and feasting and fucking in High Medieval style. He even lets her out of jail for the holidays though sends her back come the New Year. There’s murder and mayhem and some gloriously wrought English (which almost none of them could speak, actually) and an enormous meal with apalling table manners. Still, it’s hardly a film that brings to mind tree trimming or Silver Bells or waiting for Santa to bring the presents from Amazon. But there it is on TCM, between Christmas in Connecticut and Holiday Affair. Perhaps there is Christmas in it. Katherine Hepburn’s Eleanor saying “he came down from the north with a mind like Aristotle and a form like mortal sin; we shattered the Commandments on the spot” could be an earthier I Saw Mommy saw kissing Santa Claus when you think about it, if you’re sleazy enough, and Peter O’Toole’s Henry bellowing “I hope we never die!” in the final scene could stand for the immortality of Santa Claus, who doesn’t, though Santa is more likely to bellow a “Merry Christmas to all”, which is what I’ll say too, in this tawdry plague year.
This Merle Haggard Christmas album begins with a cheery If We Make It Through December and stumbles along in boozy haze till everyone’s miserable. His rotten kid is demanding a puppy and tell me that’s not the most self pitying Silent Night ever. And that’s just one side. Think I’ll flip it over and see if he gets insulted by a drunken Santa. It ends with Daddy Won’t Be Home Again For Christmas, which hopefully is about prison. I’ll probably be playing this every Christmas.
Peace by the Rotary Connection is still my fave Christmas LP, a psychedelic hippie stoner funky soul celebration of my fave holiday, complete with groovy Hendrix inspired guitar and Santa so stoned he can’t find the door and comes down the chimney. Minnie Ripperton sounds great on it too. Recommended. I found my unopened copy for a dollar.
(Facebook post around Christmas 2015 regarding a photo posted by John Altman.)
I believe, and in keeping with the season, batsman Rona Anderson was the fiancée that Alistair Sim spurned for greed in that anti-capitalist epic Scrooge. Funny how the great American Christmas movie, It’s A Wonderful Life, is also anti-capitalist (and blatantly redistributionist). Perhaps it’s a running theme in classic old Christmas films, from Scrooge to Meet John Doe, The Man Who Came to Dinner, It Happened on Fifth Avenue, Holiday Affair, Miracle on 34th Street and of course It’s A Wonderful Life. But then Donna Reed was never photographed playing baseball with the Yankees in short shorts. Nor was Monty Woolley. Though if there’s a point here I’ve already forgotten it.