Movie Gift Guide: Where to get the goods to make your classic Christmas-movie memories come alive.
by Helen Kaplow, as HelenHighly
“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 old movies on TV). 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.
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. And it’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…
- New York or Chicago Fire-and-Cop Shop websites: ChicagoFireAndCopShop and NYFireAndPolice. These stores sell a big line of fire-and-police-related gifts, including T-shirts, sweatshirts, hats, Christmas ornaments, and toy police cars and fire trucks. It’s good to buy local and authentic, so these websites are worth a visit, but they don’t actually sell the exact fire truck that Peter wanted.
- To get a fire engine with a working pump, as Peter specified, you must find the Bruder brand, which is sold at Target and Amazon. The Bruder water-spraying truck comes in a range of sizes. Do a Google search for: “Bruder MAN Fire Engine with Water Pump.” If you want the biggest and best – with a 3-stage telescoping ladder that extends to over 4 feet tall and swivels 360⁰, plus a realistic driver’s cabin with doors that open, you’ll find it online when you search for “Bruder MACK Granite Fire Engine with Water Pump.”
- If you want a true, detailed replica of a fire truck from your city – from New York to Chicago to L.A., plus many more, go to the Code3FireTrucks website. 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 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 customers like this one wind up loving 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 FigureSkatingStore.
The Bishop’s Wife
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 is 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, which is now celebrating its 145th year and offering 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 1860s bonnet, and including a 1920s flapper hat, a 1930s aviator hat, and even a 1960s Jackie hat. Their 1940s hat, however, is based on “Rosie the Riveter” and not exactly the type to make a woman’s heart melt.
- To find a fancy 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.
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 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:
- Lionel has a Christmas Dream Kit train set, complete with all the train cars, tracks, and accessories you will need, including Christmas Wreath Clock Tower, plus train-themed stockings and ornaments for your home.
- 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 a 47” x 38” inch 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. Sold at the Bachmann Trains website and also at Toys R Us.
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 that 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 someone you love in a magical shawl this year:
- Try Etsy and search for “lace shawl” and then refine your search by selecting “Handmade” on the left sidebar. There are lots of people selling handmade shawls that you’d never find in a mainstream retail store. Some will even make custom shawls to order. On Etsy, you get to see who makes the item, so you can select a sweet old lady like Cary Grant’s mother, if you want.
Shop Around the Corner
This classic holiday tale has been so loved that even Tom Hanks took a chance at a re-make, 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 is able to sell one of the musical cigarette boxes, the owner hires her. This 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 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.
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.”
Click: Another clever gift guide to check out, by Jennifer Picht at TimeOut New York. I especially like the suggestions for Your Drunk Uncle.