Andy Hardy & Sherlock Holmes bring Christmas cheer to Turner Classic Movies
(See previous post: “Classic Christmas Movies: Remember the Night Returns + Largely Forgotten Oscar Nominee on TCM.”) Now, It’s a Wonderful Life fans shouldn’t despair. Frank Capra’s “inspirational” horror show isn’t listed on Turner Classic Movies’ Christmas cheer schedule further below, but there’s something that feels just as heartwarmingly creepy: George B. Seitz’s Love Finds Andy Hardy (1938).
A low-budget release that seems to have been set in an alternate universe, Love Finds Andy Hardy – toplining youthful, All-American lovebirds-to-be Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland – helped to solidify the popularity of the Andy Hardy series, which had begun the previous year with Seitz’s A Family Affair.
Less prone to give you nightmares is TCM’s Christmas Night Sherlock Holmes series, including A Study in Terror (1965) with John Neville, and the little-seen (and for a while considered lost) Sherlock Holmes’ Fatal Hour (1931) with Arthur Wontner.
Never heard of Arthur Wontner? Me neither. But perhaps it’s time we did.
Rediscovering Arthur Wontner
After playing Harry Blyth’s pipe-smoking detective Sexton Blake in London in 1930, veteran British stage and film actor Arthur Wontner (1875–1960) was cast in no less than five British-made Sherlock Holmes movies between 1931 and 1937:
- The Sleeping Cardinal (in the U.S., Sherlock Holmes’ Fatal Hour).
- The now lost The Missing Rembrandt (1932; in the U.S., Sherlock Holmes and the Missing Rembrandt).
- The Sign of Four: Sherlock Holmes’ Greatest Case (1932).
- The Triumph of Sherlock Holmes (1935).
- Silver Blaze (1937; in the U.S., Murder at the Baskervilles).
In 1933, Vincent Starrett wrote the following in his book The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes:
“[Arthur Wontner] has been seen in two pictures, at this writing, in America – The Sleeping Cardinal and The Missing Rembrandt – but presumably there are others in the making. Since [William] Gillette there has been no such Sherlock on the stage or screen. For two hours, in a darkened theater, one almost wavered in one’s allegiance to Gillette.
“Surely no better Sherlock Holmes than Arthur Wontner is likely to be seen and heard in pictures, in our time. Sentimentalized, as is imperative, his detective is the veritable fathomer of Baker Street, in person. The keen, worn, kindly face and quiet, prescient smile are out of the very pages of the book. And the direction of [The Sleeping Cardinal and The Missing Rembrandt filmmaker] Mr. Leslie [S.] Hiscott is notably intelligent. In spite of modernization, the tales ring true – so deft, so unobtrusive are the inevitable symbols of immediacy.”
Once again, whether as entertainment or historical curiosity, The Sleeping Cardinal is not to be missed.
See also: William Gillette in long-thought-lost Sherlock Holmes silent.
One of Woody Allen’s best movies & Best Actress Oscar co-winner Katharine Hepburn
And finally, Christmas cheer or no, here are a couple of early December goodies on TCM:
- Dec. 8: Woody Allen’s witty, genuinely nostalgic, semi-autobiographical comedy Radio Days (1987), featuring a first-rate cast: Mia Farrow, Seth Green, Julie Kavner, Josh Mostel, Michael Tucker, Dianne Wiest. One of Allen’s very best efforts, the underrated Radio Days is far superior to at least four of that year’s five Best Picture Oscar nominees. (For the record: Moonstruck, Broadcast News, Fatal Attraction, and the eventual winner, The Last Emperor. The jury is still out in regard to Radio Days vs. John Boorman’s unusual, humorously nostalgic, World War II-set Hope and Glory.)
- Dec. 12: Anthony Harvey’s stagy but widely acclaimed New York Film Critics Circle Best Picture winner The Lion in Winter (1968), from an Oscar-winning screenplay by James Goldman (based on his own play). In the cast: Best Actress Oscar winner Katharine Hepburn (who tied with Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl), Best Actor Oscar nominee Peter O’Toole, future Best Actor Oscar winner Anthony Hopkins (The Silence of the Lambs, 1991), and future James Bond Timothy Dalton (The Living Daylights, Licence to Kill).
TCM’s classic Christmas cheer
Below is TCM’s classic Christmas Cheer schedule this December 2009. It includes their Yuletide-focused Thursday primetime (up to Dec. 24) and Dec. 25 programming.
8 p.m. A Christmas Carol (1938).
Cast: Reginald Owen. Gene Lockhart.
9:15 p.m. Little Women (1949).
Cast: June Allyson. Rossano Brazzi. Peter Lawford. Janet Leigh. Elizabeth Taylor. Margaret O’Brien. Mary Astor.
11:30 p.m. Tenth Avenue Angel (1948).
Cast: Margaret O’Brien. Angela Lansbury.
1 a.m. 3 Godfathers (1948).
Cast: John Wayne. Pedro Armendáriz. Harry Carey Jr.
3 a.m. Hell’s Heroes (1930).
Cast: Charles Bickford. Raymond Hatton.
4:30 a.m. Bush Christmas (1947).
Cast: John Fernside. Chips Rafferty.
8 p.m. It Happened on Fifth Avenue (1947).
Cast: Don DeFore. Ann Harding. Charles Ruggles. Victor Moore. Gale Storm.
10 p.m. Fitzwilly (1967).
Cast: Dick Van Dyke. Barbara Feldon. Edith Evans.
12 a.m. Love Finds Andy Hardy (1938).
Cast: Mickey Rooney. Judy Garland. Lewis Stone. Fay Holden. Cecilia Parker. Ann Rutherford. Lana Turner. Don Castle. Gene Reynolds.
2 a.m. Susan Slept Here (1954).
Cast: Dick Powell. Debbie Reynolds. Anne Francis.
4 a.m. Little Women (1933).
Cast: Katharine Hepburn. Joan Bennett. Paul Lukas. Frances Dee. Jean Parker. Spring Byington. Douglass Montgomery.
8 p.m. Christmas in Connecticut (1945).
Cast: Barbara Stanwyck. Dennis Morgan. Sydney Greenstreet.
10 p.m. Holiday Affair (1950).
Cast: Robert Mitchum. Janet Leigh.
11:30 p.m. Never Say Goodbye (1946).
Cast: Errol Flynn. Eleanor Parker.
1:30 a.m. Period of Adjustment (1962).
Cast: Anthony Franciosa. Jane Fonda. Jim Hutton.
3:30 a.m. Beyond Tomorrow (1940).
Cast: Harry Carey. C. Aubrey Smith. Charles Winninger. Maria Ouspenskaya. Richard Carlson. Jean Parker. Helen Vinson.
Dec. 24 – Robert Osborne’s Christmas Cheer movies
8 p.m. Remember the Night (1940).
Cast: Barbara Stanwyck. Fred MacMurray. Beulah Bondi.
9:45 p.m. Christmas in July (1940).
Cast: Dick Powell. Ellen Drew.
11 p.m. Chicken Every Sunday (1949).
Cast: Dan Dailey. Celeste Holm. Colleen Townsend. Alan Young. Natalie Wood.
1 a.m. Meet Me in St. Louis (1944).
Cast: Judy Garland. Tom Drake. Margaret O’Brien. Lucille Bremer. Mary Astor. Leon Ames.
3 a.m. In the Good Old Summertime (1949).
Cast: Judy Garland. Van Johnson. Spring Byington. Buster Keaton. Liza Minnelli (bit).
5 a.m. The Shop Around the Corner (1940).
Cast: Margaret Sullavan. James Stewart. Frank Morgan.
Dec. 25 – Daytime programming
7 a.m. Little Women (1933).
9 a.m. A Christmas Carol (1938).
10:15 a.m. The Man Who Came to Dinner (1942).
Cast: Bette Davis. Ann Sheridan. Monty Woolley. Reginald Gardiner. Mary Wickes.
12:15 p.m. Christmas in Connecticut (1945).
2:15 p.m. Little Women (1949).
4:30 p.m. Holiday Affair (1950).
6 p.m. Susan Slept Here (1954).
Dec. 25 – Christmas Cheer with Sherlock Holmes: “Holmes for the Holidays”
8 p.m. The Hound of the Baskervilles (1939).
Cast: Basil Rathbone. Nigel Bruce. Richard Greene. Wendy Barrie.
9:30 p.m. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1939).
Cast: Basil Rathbone. Nigel Bruce. Ida Lupino.
11 p.m. The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970).
Cast: Robert Stephens. Colin Blakely. Genevieve Page.
1:15 a.m. Sherlock Holmes’ Fatal Hour (1931).
Cast: Arthur Wontner. Ian Fleming. Jane Welsh.
2:30 a.m. The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959).
Cast: Peter Cushing. Christopher Lee. Andre Morell.
4 a.m. A Study in Terror (1965).
Cast: John Neville. Donald Houston. Georgia Brown. Anthony Quayle.
More classic Christmas cheer
Below are a few other Alt Film Guide articles about movies offering Christmas cheer for all occasions.
- TCM’s Christmas movies: From Bette Davis & Gary Cooper to Santa Claus & Serial Killers.
- What Do Quakers Believe? Friendly Persuasion & the Lure of Violence.
- Christmas Films: Atypical Macho John Travolta + Whacked Sandra Dee.
- Stairway to Heaven & Hell: Orpheus & A Matter of Life and Death.
- Turner Classic‘s Dysfunctional-Family-Friendly Christmas cheer.
- War on Christmas movies.
TCM’s Christmas Cheer movie schedule via the Turner Classic Movies’ website.
Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney Love Finds Andy Hardy image: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.
Christmas cheer image of Reginald Owen as Ebenezer Scrooge and Gene Lockhart as Bob Cratchit in A Christmas Carol: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.
Charles Mortimer and Arthur Wontner The Triumph of Sherlock Holmes image: Gaumont British.
“Christmas Cheer: Andy Hardy & Rediscovering Sherlock Holmes Actor + One of Best Woody Allen Movies” last updated in April 2018.
That is a great list. It is still amazing the movies I find on other sites I haven’t seen.
Arthur Wontner has long been the connoisseurs’ Sherlock Holmes, partly because he looked so much like the Sidney Paget drawings in the Strand Magazine. He’s a rather more cuddly personality than the high-strung Holmes of Rathbone and Brett (that i tend to prefer), but he is very good, and even rewrote dialogue to be more true to the character. He also lived long enough and was fan-friendly enough to be honored by the London Sherlock Holmes society late in his life, where he recounted his affection for Holmes.