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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Christmas Movies and Small Business

I love watching Christmas movies. But how do business owners and executives fare in these holiday films?

Well, I wrote an SBE Council Cybercolumn on the topic and thought it would be worth passing on today. Here’s my take:

How Do Business Owners Fare in Holiday Flicks?

Business owners have not exactly been portrayed in a kind light on television and in the movies in recent times. They usually get painted as greedy, treacherous, even murderous types.

At first glance, it does not appear that business fared much better in some of the classic holiday movies. After all, "A Christmas Carol" gave us the miserly Scrooge and "It's a Wonderful Life" offered the evil Mr. Potter.

However, a closer look at Yuletide flicks, in fact, reveals businessmen to be characterized as more nice than naughty.

For example, Bing Crosby plays not only a crooner, but an innkeeper in "Holiday Inn." Bing is joined in this fun, musical romp by Fred Astaire and Marjorie Reynolds. The story revolves around Crosby's inn in Connecticut that he only opens for dinner and dancing shows on about 15 holidays throughout the year.

Along similar lines, Crosby starred with Danny Kaye, Vera Ellen and Rosemary Clooney in "White Christmas." In this case, Crosby and Kaye are entertainers with their own production company, who wind up helping their former commanding officer save his inn up in Vermont.

Another fun Christmas film is remembered by very few as a Christmas film. In "The Thin Man," Nick and Nora Charles are a wealthy married couple having loads of fun throwing parties, drinking martinis, cracking wise, solving a murder, and living on a business inheritance.

One certainly cannot forget "Miracle on 34th Street." Considering that the existence of Santa Claus is proven with the help of Macy's and other New York City department stores, one would have to generally classify "Miracle on 34th Street" pro-business.

Meanwhile, in contrast to the world's most successful homemaker/businesswoman of the 1990s, Martha Stewart, in the 1945 "Christmas in Connecticut," Barbara Stanwyck plays a magazine columnist who writes like an expert on domesticity, but in reality knows nothing about homemaking. In this romantic comedy, the restaurateur, Felix, has a huge heart, and even the overpowering magazine owner, Mr. Yardley, proves to be a good guy.

But even when we get back to "A Christmas Carol" and "It's a Wonderful Life," business owners actually get a fair shake. After all, let's remember that "A Christmas Carol" is story about redemption. Scrooge went from "bah humbug" to becoming a man of great generosity who it was said always knew how to keep Christmas.

Finally, in my all-time favorite "It's a Wonderful Life," it is true that the warped, frustrated Mr. Potter lies beyond redemption. However, this one bad businessman is more than offset by a host of good folks operating businesses, including Mr. Gower and his drug store, Mr. Martini and his bar/restaurant, Ernie and his taxi, Sam Wainwright and his plastics factory, and of course, George Bailey (played wonderfully by Jimmy Stewart) and his building and loan business.

So in the end, the classic Christmas films generally treat business owners kindly. Not only are they portrayed as hard-working and generous, but a few can even belt out some great tunes as well.


Raymond J. Keating is chief economist for the Small Business & Entreprenuership Council.

(Originally published on December 22, 1999.)

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