Cinematic Giving: How to Have Christmas Just Like in the Movies

by HelenHighly

Movie Gift Guide: Where to get the goods to make your classic Christmas-movie memories come alive.

The stuff that dreams are made of.

The unforgettable hat, the shining toy train, the pair of ice skates, as depicted by cinematic magic – these items have come to represent Christmas Joy itself. Don’t just watch them on television, bring them home for the holidays (or get them online and have them delivered while you stay home and watch the old movies that made them iconic). This guide points you to the websites that sell the items that our cherished old movies made symbolic of Peace on Earth and Goodwill to Men.

Macy's vs Gimbels in "Miracle on 34th St."

Macy’s vs Gimbel’s in “Miracle on 34th St.”

A Miracle on 34th Street

This film has been a perennial holiday favorite since its debut in 1947. No one has ever played Santa Claus more convincingly than Edmund Gwenn. I’s a movie filled with the exciting clamor of Christmas shopping and our yearning for just the right gifts.

Kris Kringle: “What do you want for Christmas, Peter?”
Peter: “A fire engine, just like the big ones only smaller, that has a real hose that squirts real water. I won’t do it in the house, only in the backyard, I promise.”
Harried Mother: “Psst! Psst! Macy’s ain’t got any. Nobody’s got any.”
Kris Kringle: “Well, Peter, I can tell you’re a good boy. You’ll get your fire engine.”
Peter: “Oh, thank you very much! You see? I told you he’d get me one.”
Harried Mother: “That’s fine. That’s just dandy. Listen, what’s the matter with you? Don’t you understand English? I tell you nobody’s got any. I’ve been all over. My feet are killing me. A fine thing, promising the kid.”
Kris: “You don’t think I would’ve said that unless I’m sure? You can get those fire engines at…”

Peter’s dream fire truck.

Peter’s dream fire truck.

To get a fire engine with a working pump, as Peter specified, find the Bruder brand, which is sold at Target, Walmart and on Amazon. The Bruder water-spraying truck comes in a range of sizes, starting at $60. If you want the biggest and best – with an integrated water tank that can be easily filled, fully functioning nozzle, a removeable light and sound module, telescoping ladder with rescue basket that swivels 360⁰, realistic driver’s cabin with doors that open, an opening hood to reveal the engine block, plus four extendable support legs to ensure vehicle stability in any situation, you’ll find it online at Amazon when you search for “Bruder Mack Granite Fire Engine Truck w/ Working Water Pump, Lights & Engine Sounds.” Also:

  • The NYFireAndPolice website store sells a big line of fire-and-police-related gifts, including T-shirts, sweatshirts, hats and toy police cars and fire trucks. They even have a section dedicated to children’s gifts with clothing in children’s sizes (and an NYPD teddy bear). It’s good to buy local and authentic, so this website is worth a visit, but they don’t sell the exact fire truck that Peter wanted.
  • If you want a true, detailed replica of a fire truck from your city – from New York to Philly to Chicago to L.A., plus many more, go to the Code3FireTrucks These metal, die-cast trucks are more than just toys; they are limited-edition, historic collectibles – for the little boy in our hero-loving grown men.
  • The FDNY Shop sells a an authentic replica of the 70’s FDNY Valiant Mack Pumper from the Bronx that “has been weathered to appear as if returning from a hard fought fire. Each model is unique.”
Ice skating and Christmas go together.

Ice skating and Christmas go together.

The other item that a child requested from Santa in Miracle on 34th St. was a pair of ice skates. These skates are what set the story of the movie into action, as Kris, the store-Santa working for Macy’s, dares to tell the mother of this little girl that she’ll find a better pair of skates at the competition, Gimbel’s. That puts Santa in trouble with his bosses, but it ultimately proves ingenious, because it makes customers like this one love Macy’s all the more.

Shopping Mother: “Imagine a big outfit like Macy’s putting the spirit of Christmas ahead of the commercial. It’s wonderful. I never done much shopping here before, but from now on, I’m going to be a regular Macy customer.”

Get your daughter high-quality skates, because as Kris says, “their little ankles want protecting.”

  • For a traditional figure skate with a classic look (rather than the latest styles that look more like ski boots), look for DBX Traditional Figure Skates, which are sold at Dick’s Sporting Goods.
  • For a full selection of traditional skates made from real leather, such as the top-notch Riedell brand, along with detailed information on choosing just the right skate, go to the website for FigureSkatingStore.

Just for fun, it’s also worth mentioning one of my favorite quotes from Miracle on 34th Street: “There’s a lotta bad ‘isms floatin’ around in this world, but one of the woyst is commercialism. Make a buck, make a buck…” says one of the greatest shopping movies of all time. (wink)

The Bishop’s Wife

The Bishop's Wife gets a new hat,

The Bishop’s Wife gets a new hat,

Maybe you can’t have Cary Grant and his angelic charm, but you can get a charming hat like the one he bought for Loretta Young in the 1948 film, The Bishop’s Wife. In this timeless Christmas tale, a bishop, played by David Niven, is trying to get a new cathedral built, which depends on the financial support of a domineering and selfish old woman. The bishop prays for divine guidance. An angel (Cary Grant) arrives, but his guidance isn’t about fundraising. It’s more about paying attention to the bishop’s lonely wife and tending to her happiness, which includes the purchase of a hat that she admired in a store window but was too meek to buy for herself. The hat is purchased and the strained marriage re-ignited. We are all mere mortals after all, and mortal flesh likes a pretty hat. To get a life-changing hat for your loved one, visit:

  • America’s oldest hat maker, Bollman Hat Company, offers an exclusive vintage collection of women’s headwear. They have chosen one hat for each decade since their inception in 1868 in Adamstown, PA, USA, beginning with an 1860’s bonnet, and including a 1920’s flapper hat, a 1930s aviator hat, and even a 1960’s Jackie hat. Their 1940’s hat, however, is based on “Rosie the Riveter” and not exactly the type to make a woman’s heart melt.
  • To find a dress hat that might have been worn by a beautiful woman like Loretta Young in 1948, go to Village Hat Shop. The site also includes a History of Hats section that is fascinating and fun.

Holiday Affair

Timmy and his train set in "Holiday Affair"

Timmy and his train set in “Holiday Affair”

This 1949 romantic comedy stars Janet Leigh and Robert Mitchum. Leigh plays a war-widow with a wistful devotion to her child, an adorable tousled tot who covets an expensive, electric train. Set during the Christmas shopping season, both main characters are working in department store jobs and struggling financially while they fall into a love triangle that involves the buying and returning of the train set – twice. Finally, it is little Timmy who takes his train back to Crowley’s department store and tearfully asks for a refund so that Steve (Mitchum) will not be left penniless. The story ends with the child not getting the gift he originally wanted, but instead getting a new father who he loves. If your child already has a father he loves, maybe he could use an electric train set:

  • The Lionel brand (the one in the movie) has a Winter Wonderland Train Set (now w/Bluetooth!) that is guaranteed to get you in the Christmas spirit with its smoke-puffing steam locomotive pulling festive, green and red train cars around white tracks. The set includes a Sleigh Bells & Co. boxcar, Whimsical Winter Mix tank car, Winter Wonderland caboose and a sound system with steam chuffing, whistle, bell and user-activated announcements. It’s everything a train-loving child could want on Christmas morning, except for the three AAA alkaline batteries (not included).
  • For a more year-round and high-end electric train set, go with the Bachmann brand. The Rail Chief Ready To Run Electric Train Set has 130 pieces that include a diesel locomotive with operating headlight, open quad hopper car, gondola car, plug-door box car, and off-center caboose. It features an oval of snap-fit E-Z Track, signal bridge, 36 miniature figures, 24 telephone poles, 48 railroad and street signs, power pack and speed controller.
What is better than a train running on its track around a Christmas tree?

What is better than a train running on its track around a Christmas tree?

An Affair to Remember

This 1957 film, starring Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr, is universally considered to be one of the most romantic movies of all time. In the final, tear-jerking scene on Christmas Eve, Cary Grant brings his dead grandmother’s shawl as a gift to Deborah Kerr, who has been hiding herself (and her paralysis) from Grant for six months. Grant plays a painter, and he has painted a portrait of Kerr wearing the shawl his grandmother wanted her to have. The entire impossible love story turns on this beloved shawl; due to the gift, the painting is revealed, the wheelchair is revealed, and the couple’s true love is confirmed. To wrap the woman you love in a magical shawl this year:

  • Go to Etsy, search for “lace shawl” and then refine your search by selecting “Handmade” on the left sidebar. (Click the links above to see the results for the search I already did, but the results will change over time.) There are lots of people selling handmade shawls on Etsy that you’d never find in a mainstream retail store. Some will even make custom shawls to order. On Etsy, you also get to see who makes the item, so you can select a sweet old lady like Cary Grant’s grandmother, if you want.
The lace shawl in "An Affair to Remember"

The lace shawl in “An Affair to Remember”

It’s a Wonderful Life

This fantasy Christmas drama, written and directed by Frank Capra in 1946 and starring Jimmy Stewart, is often declared the best Christmas movie of all time. Readers of this article will no doubt know the story and remember the key, most-endearing moment in its resolution when George Bailey finally returns home to his loving family after his frightening odyssey. The silver-bell ornament on the Christmas tree magically rings, and little Zuzu Bailey exclaims, “Look, Daddy. Teacher says, ‘every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings.’” Then we know that Clarence has become an angel and all is well.

Traditionally, bells are rung during Christmas to announce the arrival of the season and proclaim the birth of Christ. Ringing of bells can be traced back to pagan winter celebrations. During those times, noisemakers were used to scare away evil spirits in the night. Among those early noisemakers were bells. But it wasn’t until It’s a Wonderful Life that a ringing bell signaled an angel getting its wings, and Christmas bells and angels have been connected in the American consciousness ever since Clarence was redeemed.

  • Capture the joy of the movie and own a piece of history with a keepsake ornament fashioned after the exact bell in the movie – an authentic silver-plated Bevin Bell inscribed with “It’s a Wonderful Life.” It comes with red satin cording for hanging on the tree.
  • Hallmark offers a tree-ornament bell without the movie name inscribed, for those who prefer to keep the movie name as an intangible memory.

Shop Around the Corner

This classic holiday tale from 1940 has been so loved that is was remade into a musical in 1949 (starring Judy Garland) and even Tom Hanks took a chance at a re-make in 1988, updating the role that Jimmy Stewart originated. But the initial version took place in a Budapest gift shop, where Stewart worked as the head salesman, Alfred Kralik. The shop owner and Kralik get into an argument over the owner’s idea to sell a cigarette box that plays music when opened. Kralik thinks it’s a bad idea. Then, Klara Novak (Margaret Sullivan) enters the gift shop looking for a job. Kralik tells her there are no openings, but when she tells the owner that she likes the idea of the box because to her it seems “romantic” and makes her think of “moonlight and… um, music and cigarettes,” he takes a liking to her. When she is able to sell one of the musical cigarette boxes on the spot, the owner hires her. (She is able to sell the box by telling a shopper it’s a box for candy. Kralik responds, dryly, “people who like to smoke candy and eat cigarettes will love it.”) The disagreement over the box sets the two romantic leads at odds and begins the adversarial love affair that ends, of course, with Christmas joy and unity. To get a musical cigarette and/or candy box for your strong-willed love:

  • Go to MusicBoxAttic, where they sell all sorts of music-playing boxes, even those with twirling ballerinas, like so many of us adored as children.
  • Or search on Etsy or eBay to find a vintage music box that was actually designed for cigarettes, some with nifty, carousel dispensers. I bet you can even find one made in Hungary or Austria, similar to the one in the movie. (Links above show the results of my search, but remember that every day will give a different search result.) Here’s one I just found on Etsy that looks quite a bit like the one in the movie.

Remember the Night

It’s Christmas eve in New York City and a fabulously well-dressed woman is trying on a bracelet in a 5th Avenue jewelry store. “Glorious, madam, isn’t it?” says the clerk as he snaps the expensive bracelet on her wrist. It’s beautiful and shiny, mesmerizing to the eye, but she’d like to see another one, she tells the clerk, and as soon as his back is turned, she’s gone, and so is the bracelet.

Barbara Stanwyck steals a bracelet for Christmas

Barbara Stanwyck steals a bracelet for Christmas

Out on the street the focus remains on the bracelet until the shot widens and Barbara Stanwyck is finally revealed. She enters a pawn shop, where the clerk quickly passes around her to bolt the door shut and phone the police. Fred MacMurray plays John Sargent, a hard-charging DA who is assigned to prosecute Lee Leander (Stanwyck). The trial begins just before Christmas, and rather than face a jury filled with the holiday spirit who might be overly lenient, John has the trial postponed on a technicality.

Despite his rock-hard ethics, comical circumstances conspire to put Stanwyck and MacMurray together on a long road trip to Indiana (complete with cows invading the car). Sargent ends up taking this feisty shoplifter home with him to spend the holiday season with his small-town family, still wary of what terrible things she might do. She joins the family as they bake cookies, string popcorn on the Christmas tree, sing songs around the piano and proclaim their delight at whatever presents they receive, even if it’s the same gift they were given the year before.

Barbara Stanwyck wearing a Ruser necklace

Barbara Stanwyck wearing a Ruser necklace

In a classic holiday-spirit turn, John comes to realize the advantages his loving family have bestowed upon him once he sees how appreciative Lee is after they share with her the first, warm Christmas morning of her life. On the way back to New York, John tells Lee he loves her and tries to persuade her to jump bail and marry him on the spot, but she refuses, insisting she wants to prove her worth before she marries him, by doing the right thing and serving her time in jail.

Acclaimed screenwriter Preston Sturges summarized the film by saying, “Love reformed her and corrupted him.” You may not be able to give the gift of corrupting or reforming love this year, but that glittering bracelet is as appealing as ever.

  • William Ruser was a jeweler-to-the-stars whose clients included Barbara Stanwyck, Joan Crawford, Marlene Dietrich and Lana Turner; they wore Ruser creations both on and off screen. He famously crafted the jewelry Stanwyck wore in Sorry, Wrong Number. You can still occasionally find vintage Ruser jewelry collected from estate sales, at fine purveyors such as Hancocks of London. Click here for their detailed biography of Ruser and his work.
  • Celebrity Collections is selling an actual sapphire ring that Stanwyck wore when accepting her Oscar.
  • The Hollywood Collection website sells jewelry from legendary films and private collections from Hollywood’s most famed silver screen stars. Click here to check out their dazzling bracelets.

A Christmas Carol

"Christmas Carol" make turkey the meat for Christmas

“Christmas Carol” made turkey the meat for Christmas

Bitter and miserly Ebenezer Scrooge hates Christmas, calling it “humbug.” He refuses his nephew Fred’s dinner invitation and rudely turns away two gentlemen who seek a donation from him to provide a Christmas dinner for the poor. Scrooge is magically reformed in his sleep by three spooky spirits and awakens on Christmas morning with joy and love in his heart. He immediately purchases the largest turkey in town and sends it as a gift to the home of his overworked, underpaid clerk, Bob Cratchit, enabling a spectacular and joyous holiday feast. The gift proves Scrooge’s transformation, and turkeys ever after have come to represent generosity and compassion. Give the metaphorically and practically nourishing gift of turkey:

Turkey Christmas feast

Turkey Christmas feast

  • Harry and David offers a complete Christmas dinner you can send to a needy family or even your own. They’ve included everything one needs for a marvelous meal, from a ready-to-heat, all-natural turkey to delectable side dishes such as apple sausage stuffing, parmesan creamed spinach, brown sugar sweet potatoes and a creamy pumpkin cheesecake. You’ll also find classic turkey gravy and spiced cranberry chutney to add the perfect finishing touches. Arrives frozen and will need to thaw two to three days before re-heating and serving.
  • Send a Meal offers a fresh, ready-to-cook turkey with sides and dessert you can select for a custom meal shipped wherever you choose.
  • Or get the turkey already cooked for you by Whole Foods, as part of their complete, prepared Christmas dinner. But you’ll need to find a store near you and schedule to pick it up in person after you order it online.

Scrooge: (yelling out his window) “Hey, what day is it today?”
Boy: “Today is Christmas!”
Scrooge: “Thank heavens I haven’t missed it. Do you know if they’ve sold the prize turkey hanging in the poulter’s window? Not the little prize turkey, the BIG prize turkey.”
Boy: “The one as big as me? It’s hanging there now.”
Scrooge: “Go and buy it then!”

It’s Christmas, y’all. Go and get that prize turkey!

There is a way that only cinema can engrave on our hearts and make magic of mere objects. It’s more than just another gift; “It’s the stuff that dreams are made of.”

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