It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas! Leaves are falling, lights are going up, and the sudden change in temperature has many of us exclaiming, “Baby, it’s cold outside!” This festive time of year has provided us with memorable holiday-themed movies that portray the splendor and childhood wonder of Christmas. While some Christmas classics gave us beloved songs like “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” others have drawn inspiration from our favorite holiday music, sometimes adopting the song title as their own.
This Friday we unwrap an early present with one of the first Christmas movies of the year, Last Christmas. You may recognize the title from the hit song performed by the English pop duo Wham! In preparation for the upcoming release of Last Christmas, we take a look at some other Christmas songs that lent their name to theatrically released movies.
This song claims a special spot on our list as the only one in which the original performer played the main character of the corresponding movie. Bing Crosby performed the Irving Berlin song for the first time on Christmas Day, 1941, later recording the classic with Ken Darby Singers and the John Scott Trotter Orchestra for an album of the musical Holiday Inn (1942). “White Christmas” has since become the world’s best-selling single, estimated at over 50 million copies sold worldwide.
The movie White Christmas was released thirteen years later in 1954 and became extremely popular with audiences on its way to becoming the highest-grossing musical at that time. Crosby stars alongside Danny Kaye as a song-and-dance team that become romantically involved with a sister act with whom they join forces to save their former commanding general’s failing Vermont inn. Featured among a litany of songs performed by the famous American singer Bing Crosby is a new version of the title track, “White Christmas.”
Written by Billy Hayes and Jay W. Johnson, “Blue Christmas” was first recorded by Doye O’Dell in 1948, but it would take a king to make it a bona fide holiday classic. Enter Elvis Presley, who made the track famous in his 1957 LP Elvis’ Christmas Album.
You’d think such an iconic song performed by Elvis Presley would’ve made it to a theatre marquee here in the United States, but it was a Japanese sci-fi movie that adopted the title in 1978. Far from the genre you’d expect to be associated with the title, Blue Christmas (originally titled ブルークリスマス Burū Kurisimasu) tells the story of a UFO appearance on Earth that results in witnesses having their blood turn blue. Mankind turns against these “blue bloods” as panic and hysteria lead to persecution.
I’LL BE HOME FOR CHRISTMAS
Lyricist Kim Gannon and composer Walter Kent originally wrote “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” to honor soldiers overseas during WWII who dreamt of returning home for Christmas. In fact, the holiday classic is sung from the point of view of a soldier writing a letter to his family. This is another in a long line of tracks that has Bing Crosby to thank for bringing it to prominence as he recorded the song in 1943 with the John Scott Trotter Orchestra.
Walt Disney Pictures brought the title to life in their 1998 family comedy about a college student named Jake (Jonathan Taylor Thomas) who must make it from his campus in Los Angeles, California to his family’s home in Larchmont, New York in time for Christmas dinner. It’s not exactly the warmth of home that beckons but his father’s Porsche, the prize for arriving on time. However, during the long, cross-country journey, Jake finds the true meaning of Christmas.
RUDOLPH, THE RED-NOSED REINDEER
I bet you’re already humming this tune in your head, right? Who doesn’t love the classic Christmas jingle about Santa’s young buck who rises to lead Jolly Old Saint Nick’s sleigh? The character of Rudolph was first introduced in a 1939 story by Robert L. May, leading to May’s brother-in-law Johnny Marks adapting the story into a song of the same name, “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” Although first sung by Harry Brannon in early November 1949, the song hit No. 1 in the U.S. charts during Christmas thanks to Gene Autry’s performance. The song is still beloved to this day by both young and old, as evident by its reaching #36 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 2018.
I know what you’re thinking, but the selected movie is not the classic stop-motion animation from 1964. That was a television special, but the title popped up again in the form of a theatrically released animation in 1998. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Movie stars Kathleen Barr as the voice of the older Rudolph alongside celebrities John Goodman, Debbie Reynolds, Bob Newhart, Richard Simmons, Whoopi Goldberg, and Eric Idle.
DECK THE HALLS
Originally titled “Deck the Hall,” this traditional Christmas carol features a melody that dates back to sixteenth century Wales! Although it began as a New Year’s Eve carol, Scottish musician Thomas Oliphant penned the English-language lyrics in 1862, and it is now synonymous with the Christmas season. The carol has even provided us the iconic phrase, “Tis the season.”
Anyone who has ever trekked through feet of snow or braved rickety ladders to string up yards of Christmas lights can relate to the 2006 family comedy Deck the Halls. Danny DeVito and Matthew Broderick star as neighbors who clash over Christmas decorations in an effort to be the predominant “Christmas Guy” in town and have their house be seen from space.
The most recent of the Christmas classics on our list, “Last Christmas” is arguably the most famous single from English pop duo Wham!, consisting of George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley. The song was released as a single in 1984 then again as part of their third and final studio album Music from the Edge of Heaven in 1986. George Michael wrote, produced, and performed the song in addition to playing every instrument on the track.
Inspired by the Christmas classic, and featuring additional music from George Michael and Wham!, this romantic comedy follows Kate (Emilia Clarke), a young woman embroiled in a series of bad decisions, the latest of which makes her one of Santa’s elves in a year-round Christmas shop. Then Tom (Henry Golding), a charming young man who seems too good to be true, walks into Kate’s life and sees through her troubled façade. As London transforms into the most wonderful time of the year, everything seems to be going right for Kate and Tom despite the many barriers that threaten their relationship. Kate begins to learn that sometimes, “you just gotta have faith.”
If you’re a fan of Christmas movies or the songs of George Michael and Wham!, you won’t want to miss Last Christmas, coming to Regal this Friday, November 8th.