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CHRISTMAS MOVIES — 1980!

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Dec. 4, 2015

EDITOR’S NOTE: A column I wrote a couple of weeks ago in the Deseret News observed that so-called ‘Christmas movies’ are an odd lot, but ’twas ever thus. Here’s my Dec. 5, 1980, weekend cover story for the D-News, headlined ‘The stars are big and bright for the Christmas season.’ How many of these are even remembered today? Only the season’s biggest hits, all comedies: ‘9 to 5,’  ‘Stir Crazy’ and ‘Any Which Way You Can’ were all in the top 5 of the year-end box-office tally (‘The Empire Strikes Back’ was No. 1), with ‘Seems Like Old Times’ and ‘Popeye’ in the top 20. (‘The Jazz Singer’ and ‘Flash Gordon’ made it into the top 25; the rest were much lower.)

The stars come out in great numbers every Christmas – the movie stars that is.

And this year is no exception.

In addition to old favorites like Jane Fonda, Sir Laurence Olivier, Clint Eastwood, Shirley MacLaine, Marlon Brando, Elizabeth Taylor, Kim Novak, Gene Wilder, George C. Scott, Goldie Hawn, Richard Pryor and Chevy Chase (take a breath!), we will be graced with the starring debuts of such big-screen newcomers as Neil Diamond, Robin Williams, Sam J. Jones and Dolly Parton.

There are comedies, romances, remakes and sequels (and possibly even an original idea or two), as well as outer-space adventures, slapstick comedy teams and live-action comic strips, and the music covers all bases: country-western, 1950’s pop, hard rock, soft rock and even musical comedy.

Oh, yes. Bo Derek shows up, too.

“The Atristocats,” Walt Disney’s animated feature, is the only major re-release of the lot, and though you may have read about them, Jack Lemmon in “Tribute,” Robert DeNiro in “Raging Bull” and Richard Dreyfuss in “The Competition” have opened exclusively on the coasts to qualify for Oscar consideration but won’t hit Salt Lake theaters until February.

So here, alphabetically according to opening dates, are the new Christmas pictures to be served up this holiday season by Hollywood:

Flash Gordon – See the review on yesterday’s theater pages.

Popeye – Co-produced by Paramount and Disney, this live-action version of the comic strip is directed by Robert Altman, scripted by Jules Feiffer and has songs by Harry Nilsson. It stars Robin Williams as Popeye, Shelley Duvall as Olive Oyl and Paul Dooley as Wimpy.

    

Stir Crazy – Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor team up again (after “Silver Streak”), this time as innocents imprisoned for a bank robbery they didn’t commit. Directed by Sidney Poitier.

Any Which Way You Can – Sound like “Every Which Way But Loose”? It’s supposed to. Clint Eastwood is reunited with the cast of his 1978 blockbuster, along with more country-western stars and, of course, Clyde the orangutan.

Inside Moves – John Savage is a disabled victim of attempted suicide who befriends a group of handicapped misfits at a California bar. Harold Russell is featured in his first role since his Oscar-winning performance in 1946’s “The Best Years of Our Lives.”

A Change of Seasons – University professor Anthony Hopkins has a fling with student Bo Derek, prompting wife Shirley MacLaine to take vengeful action in this comedy.

The Formula – Based on the popular novel. George C. Scott is an L.A. cop after a killer when he stumbles on an old WWII plot involving synthetic fuel and oil magnate Marlon Brando.

The Idolmaker – Ray Sharkey is a songwriter at the end of the 1950s who creates singing idols in the mold of Presley. Features original music in the ’50s pop style.

The Jazz Singer – A remake of the original “talkie,” with Neil Diamond singing 10 of his own new songs as a cantor’s son trying for rock stardom. Sir Laurence Olivier is his father and Lucie Arnez is Diamond’s lady love.

The Mirror Crack’d – Angela Lansbury is Agatha Christie’s amateur detective Miss Marple, with the likes of Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, Kim Novak and Tony Curtis as murder suspects.

9 to 5 – Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton are working girls who seek vengeance on their male chauvinist pig boss Dabney Coleman in this black comedy.

Private Eyes – Tim Conway & Don Knotts team up again (after “The Apple Dumpling Gang” movies and “The Prize Figher”) in this spoof of Sherlock Holmes and other murder mysteries. Conway co-wrote the script.

Seems Like Old Times – Neil Simon tackles a 1930s-style old-fashioned screwball farce, with Goldie Hawn, Chevy Chase and Charles Grodin as Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant and Ralph Bellamy … or perhaps Myrna Loy, William Powell and Jack Carson or. …

First Family – Bob Newhart is the U.S. President, Madeline Kahn is the First Lady and Gilda Radner is their daughter in this Buck Henry comedy.

After a summer chock full of miserable movies many of these look like they’ll be a breath of fresh air. Whether we’ll still feel that way after we’ve seen them is a question only the admission price can answer.