MIDDLETOWN: VERY MERRY MATINEES

Reginald-Owen-right-with-Leo-G-Carroll-as-Marley’s-Ghost-in-A-Christmas-Carol-1938Marley’s ghost rattles old Scrooge in the 1938 MGM treatment of A CHRISTMAS CAROL, one of several holiday-themed films screening for free this month of Mondays at Middletown Library.

The ongoing series of free movie screenings continues apace at Middletown Township Public Library here in December — with the holiday season setting the theme for the next several Monday afternoon offerings, as well as the debut of a New Film Fridays series in the week to come.

Showing at 2:30 pm this Monday, December 8 is the 1938 version of A Christmas Carol, one of the screen’s first full-length treatments of the Charles Dickens chestnut. Produced by top Hollywood studio MGM — albeit with a second-string cast that featured character actor Reginald Owen in a rare starring turn as Ebenezer Scrooge — the film’s not without its charms, even if it creaks and groans in comparison with Alastair Sim’s nuanced 1951 turn in Scrooge. Then on Friday, December 12, the new series kicks off with the final(?) film of the late Robin Williams — A Merry Friggin Christmas, in which a father and grown-up son (Joel McHale of Community and The Soup) are forced to go on a desperate road-trip in an effort to salvage the holiday for their family of misfits. Released just last month, the black comedy screens at 2 pm — with more movie merriment around the corner.

Movie Mondays resume on December 15 with a Jimmy Stewart Christmas classic — no, not that one, but the equally worthy The Shop Around the Corner, the romantic comedy-drama from great director Ernst Lubitsch that finds Jimmy and Margaret Sullavan curiously cast as a pair of gift-shop clerks in 1930s Budapest, who inadvertently fall in love pen-pal style. They’re given super support by Frank (Wizard of Oz) Morgan in a gem of a picture that reveals new riches with each viewing.

The afternoon of December 22 offers up an offbeat choice — It Happened on Fifth Avenue, a rarely revived 1947 comedy in which a hobo (Victor Moore) commandeers the Manhattan mansion of a millionaire (Charles Ruggles), who finds himself inadvertently hosting a haven for homeless veterans and other lost souls. The series wraps up on December 29 with a lingering bit of Yuletide cheer and an appropriate look to the year ahead, when Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire co-star in Holiday Inn — a slight but snazzy musical tour around the calendar, equipped with a goofy plot about a hotel open only on holidays, and a set of Irving Berlin standards highlighted by the debut of “White Christmas” (although the blackface number “Abraham!” might be a little tough to swallow anymore).