Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas At The Movies

Picture it, 1947, a cold and always dark city somewhere in New York, and Loretta Young is out in search of a Christmas tree.  There are many great old movies who's plots revolve around the celebration of Christmas, one is "The Bishop's Wife" with Loretta Young, Cary Grant, and David Niven.  And, in that movie is my favorite and I think the best of all movie Christmas trees.  Loretta buys the tree in the first scene at her local florist, ordering it to be delivered late on Christmas Eve... yeah, who waits to put up a tree on Christmas Eve these days?  At any rate, the tree eventually gets decorated in a "heavenly" fashion by Cary Grant.

Often in old movies and old t.v. shows as well, the trees seem to be of the same type/variety/species.  I think I can offer some insight to why Hollywood move and t.v. trees always see to be perfectly shaped with open spaces and completely horizontal branches.  The trees used are "Silver Tips" or "California Red Fir" trees.  In the past, it was the Christmas tree that everyone seemed to use in California.  With most old movies and t.v. show being filmed or taped in California... I am assuming that the prop departments simply chose the trees that were most readily available. 

One of the few pleasant memories I have of living in California was that these "perfect" trees were still available in the 1990's, sold mostly on corner lots and lumber yards and garden centers.  These trees were perfect for ornament hanging, open spaces for icicles to hang just right, and very fresh with long lasting qualities.  However, even in the late 1990's these trees were being phased out for the more desirable, fuller, bushier and more fragrant Douglas, Noble, and Frasier firs.  Well, times and tastes change.  But, of the seven. Christmases I spend in CA, three of those were "Silver Tip" trees.  Also, I will mention that the silver tips were very much more expensive than the more popular shorn and shaped trees from the tree farms.  Their growing cycle is much  longer than typical trees, and require the higher elevations of the mountains to grow, therefore harvesting and shipping were more expensive. 

Just about every year since then I have researched the Internet for a grower in No. California, Oregon or Nevada that has these Hollywood Trees, however, I have never had any success in finding a grower willing to cut and ship just one tree.

Posted below are some pictures I have found of silver tip trees on Google Image search, some are of other silver tip tree appearances in the movies, others are from growers.  Enjoy.
"Christmas In Connecticut"
1945 starring Barbara Stanwick and Dennis Morgan

An artificial Silver Tip... see how the ornaments hang just right...
from "A Summer Place" 1959 Warner Bros. Starring Sandra Dee and Richard Egan
"I paid $20 for it... it should last 10 years."

Here are some other examples of these great but scarce "silver tip" Christmas Trees...

Silver Tip tid bit of the day... like I said, I had three of these wonderful trees over the years... and, being in California, one year I decided to go as tacky as possible and have the tree flocked... and flock it they did.  By the time the flocking, lights, and ornaments were one, the poor thing was weighed down so much that most of the limbs pointed down to the floor.  I recommend that if you are going to flock, then flock a stronger tree!
Photo Credits:

The Bishop's Wife: from
A Summer's Place:
Holiday Inn:
Christmas In Connecticut:


  1. Christmas in Connecticut is my favorite Christmas time movie, with The Bishop's Wife and Miracle on 34th close behind. Haven't found CIC on the TV yet this year. We have hundreds of cable channels and can't find it anywhere.

  2. Wow! Only one comment? I adore this article. Growing up in Kentucky, we found California Silver Tips scarce. Most people made do with native cedar that smelled great by were difficult to decorate. We always bought from a tree lot though. One year my Dad brought one of these home and we kids screamed and cried. Then Momma decorated it and, VOILA! It was the most beautiful tree that we ever had. Every year thereafter, Momma tried to get a Silver Tip to no avail. These days, I look forward to seeing them in old movies.

    1. Sammy, thanks for your comment. I'm not the avid blogger I used to be, but I do check in from time to time. Have a Great Christmas this year and here's hoping your 2013 tree is as beautiful as the one you described in your comment/post. Merry Christmas! Terry