Two warmly winning comedies in the Twilight Time hi-def Blu-ray library could readily add laughter to your holiday season…but not particularly because they’re abundantly stuffed with Christmas cheer. Indeed, both share the Christmas Eve blues. In director Nora Ephron’s summer hit Sleepless in Seattle (1993), widower Sam Baldwin (Tom Hanks) is still in grief when he calls in to a nationally broadcast radio talk show on Christmas Eve to open up about the special love he and his late wife shared. But who could know that Ms. Right might be listening in on the opposite coast in, say, Baltimore, having a solitary Christmas Eve of her own? In the world of romance movies, that’s not only possible but probable, here not only in the winsome person of Meg Ryan, who turns out to be the perfect candidate as the next Mrs. Baldwin, but also in the female characters’ obsession with and the homage screenwriters Ephron, David S. Ward and Jeff Arch pay to director Leo McCarey’s An Affair to Remember (1957), which sets up a rather quiet Yuletide for its stricken heroine Deborah Kerr but pulls her true love Cary Grant out of its happy-reunion giftbag on Christmas morning. Moral is: Bummer holidays will give way to a better future.
Christmas in Manhattan can be magical, unless you’re a rambunctious teenager who, in cahoots with her best friend, roams the city in an obsessed quest to shadow their common crush: a not-so-talented concert pianist striving not-so-valiantly to be a ladies man. In director George Roy Hill's The World of Henry Orient (1964), from the pen of another wise and witty Nora, Nora Johnson (collaborating with her father Nunnally Johnson in adapting her novel), the fixation of Marian (Merrie Spaeth) and Val (Tippy Walker) for lothario Henry (Peter Sellers) is rather innocent. When December rolls around and Val’s neglectful, well-to-do, constantly traveling parents (Angela Lansbury and Tom Bosley) come home, it turns out to be something guilty when on Christmas Eve, Val glimpses someone unexpected as odious Orient’s latest conquest. A not-so-Merry Christmas turns out to be a bonding experience for one newly aware parent and one newly loved child. Val feels at the movie’s conclusion that she’s “awfully happy in a sad sort of way.” In some of the most rewarding comedies, an occasional dip into It’s a Wonderful Life-like depths of despair makes the laughter more honest and the happy ending more exuberant. Both Sleepless in Seattle and The World of Henry Orient have extra goodies under their respective TT Blu-ray trees and despite their occasional somber moments are wonderful tales that radiate comfort and joy.