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The WPIX holiday classics: The great Christmas movies of Channel 11

WPIX has always been New York’s holiday station, and this trip down memory lane, curated by historian and author Robert Grippo, will bring back pleasant ghosts of Christmas past! Enjoy the gallery of classic studio and publicity shots of “Miracle on 34th Street,” “The Bishop’s Wife,” March of the Wooden Soldiers,” and “Scrooge.”

“Miracle on 34th Street” (1947)

This classic holiday treat was a staple on WPIX during the 1970s and early 1980s. The film had a perfect cast. It’s hard to believe that Dana Andrews — perhaps best known for his roles in “Laura” and another classic film on WPIX,  “The Best Years Of Our Lives” — was cast to play the part of Fred Gailey but just before filming John Payne was given the role,  joining Maureen O’Hara, Natalie Wood, and of course Edmund Gwenn — and the rest is history!

The cameras of 20th Century Fox were positioned at various points along the route of the 1946 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade to capture scenes for the film; in fact the early scenes featuring O’Hara and Gwenn filmed on 77th Street were filmed with as little takes as possible as not to halt the parade from stepping off on time.

Fox had pioneered filming on location in New York City, in 1944 and 1945, for the classic film “The House On 92nd Street” another film aired on WPIX, when PIX was king of the movies on TV! Filming on “Miracle” in NYC lasted 22 days before the cast headed back to Fox’s Studios in California to wrap the films shooting.

“Miracle On 34th Street” available on DVD and Blu Ray from 20th Century Fox Home Video

“March Of The Wooden Soldiers” (1934)

This is perhaps the most revered and cherished movie to air on WPIX — what would the holiday be without this genuine film classic?

Originally released as “Babes In Toyland” in NYC on Nov. 30, 1934, the film garnered outstanding reviews, a rarity for the feature films of Laurel and Hardy.  Although loved by the masses, the critics just didn’t get them.

The film’s Producer Hal Roach didn’t like the film much because Stan Laurel threw out the bosses (Roach) treatment, but Laurel and Laurel’s gag men created this wonderful fantasy! Did you know Henry Brandon was only 21 years old when he played the role of Barnaby? Brandon would go on to a great career in films for many years – check out his great performance as “Scar” in John Ford’s classic film “The Searchers.” (1956)

“March Of The Wooden Soldiers” available from MGM Home Video

“The Bishops Wife” (1947)

WPIX had the rights to air the films of Samuel Goldwyn for many years. How many remember WPIX’s airing of “Hans Christian Andersen,” “The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty,” “The Kid From Brooklyn,” and the genuine Christmas classic “The Bishop’s Wife.” This holiday treat aired on WPIX as a holiday tradition during the 1970s and early 1980’s.  We clearly remember the clips of Cary Grant decorating the Christmas Tree in a truly magical way to advertise the airing of the film.

What a cast — Cary Grant, Loretta Young, David Niven, Monty Woolley, James Gleason, and Elsa Lanchester and Gladys Cooper! There are some great behind-the-scenes stories too; after a few days of filming Grant and Niven flipped roles. Grant felt something was wrong with the parts and Goldwyn agreed so he started from scratch!

And this one too: After seeing the strange way the director Henry Koster was shooting scenes of Grant and Young in profile, Goldwyn went to the set and asked what was going on and Loretta Young said “I want the scenes to show my best side,” to which Goldwyn replied “Okay if we film half your face I’ll pay you half your salary!”

All accounts though relay this was a happy film shoot. Karolyn Grimes, who plays Debbie” in the film and also appeared as Zuzu in 1946’s “It’s A Wonderful Life,”says today the cast was great to be with and she loved working with Grant.

“The Bishop’s Wife” available from Warner Brothers Home Video

“Scrooge” (1951)

No one can say that this version is not the best! The most respected and best loved version of “A Christmas Carol” is this holiday chestnut starring Alastair Sim and a host of well-known British thespians including Kathleen Harrison, Mervyn Johns, Hermione Baddeley, Michael Hordern, and George Cole.

While filming the movie two notable people stopped by the set – Bette Davis who proclaimed herself one of Sim’s biggest fans and Monica Dickens, the great granddaughter of Charles Dickens who felt Sim’s portrayal of Ebenezer Scrooge would be the one all would be forever judged by and she was right, this is the version to watch! It’s recently been brilliantly restored!

Scrooge” 1951 on DVD and Blu Ray available from vcientertainment.com