Reading & Movie Watching Suggestions For Cold Winter Nights

Dec 22, 2012 | 2012 Articles, Movies, Mysteryrat's Maze

by Brenda Williamson

Brenda shares with us in her first article in KRL, some perfect reading & movie watching suggestions for the cold winter nights–some are mystery, some are not! If you’re looking for things to do over your holiday vacation, or while you are stuck indoors because it’s too cold outside–check these out! There is quite the variety. Use the link below to purchase any of these items and a portion goes to help support KRL.

Show time: buttered popcorn specials

We’re No Angels
(1955) starring Humphrey Bogart, Peter Ustinov and Aldo Ray. My pick for top Christmas movie, this fun 1890s romp includes life in colonial French Guiana and the escapades of three escaped convicts from nearby Devil’s Island. Posing as handymen, they are hired and taken in by a pleasant, but gullible shopkeeper and his family. They soon come to the aid of the shopkeeper who is under threat of foreclosure from a villainous and Scrooge-like cousin.

Her Alibi (1989) starring Tom Selleck, William Daniels, Paulina Porizkova and James Farentino makes me laugh every time I think of it. Not at all about Christmas, it has action, mystery and many laughs. Private eye writer Phil Blackwood played by Tom Selleck has a bad case of writer’s block and looks for help from “court rats” who recommend a case in which a beautiful foreign girl (Paulina Porizkova) is accused of killing a young man. James Farentino is the suspicious police detective; William Daniels is Blackwood’s disgruntled editor anxious for this book to be a success, lest his career go down the tubes with his writer’s, to whom he says, “Frankly, what I like about your writing is the predictability.” Mystery Writers of America supplied some of the props.

His Girl Friday (1940) starring Rosalind Russell and Cary Grant. Showcasing many great character actors, including Gene Lockhart and John Qualen, the black and white noir-like film provides a humorous look at reporting and corruption in “the good old days.”

My Man Godfrey (1936) starring Carole Lombard and William Powell. Set in the 1930s, this screwball romantic comedy depicts life among the wildly rich including social commentary and conscience along with humor and a bit of mystery.

Matt Frewer’s three Sherlock Holmes television movies including A Royal Scandal. Matt Frewer is a perfect Sherlock Holmes though I would not have predicted that, putting a bit of humor into his take, yet keeping to the story as I remember it in the film A Royal Scandal. Definitely worth seeing.

Without A Clue (1988) starring Michael Caine and Ben Kingsley. Another Sherlock Holmes movie with a twist you won’t see coming, this film is a treasure too many have not yet seen.

Charade (1964) starring Audrey Hepburn, Cary Grant and Walter Matthau. Mystery, intrigue, and mayhem made amusing by the great cast, with nice views of Paris, too.

Some Like It Hot (1959) starring Marilyn Monroe, Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis, Joe E. Brown, and a great cast of character actors, including George Raft and Nehemiah Persoff. You won’t go wrong in selecting this one for a laugh. California natives and fans of Some Like It Hot may already know the background hotel is the Hotel del Coronado though fans of Disney’s Epcot may also note the resemblance to the gorgeous retro-looking Disney Grand Floridian Resort & Spa.

Cat Ballou (1965) starring Jane Fonda, Lee Marvin, Michael Callan and Dwayne Hickman. This wonderful send-up of Westerns, with its tale of murder and revenge is exciting from beginning to end. The theme song sung by Nat King Cole and Stubby Kaye will stay with you through the holidays.

Excalibur (1981) Starring Nigel Terry, Helen Mirren, Nicholas Clay, Cheryl Lunghi and Nicol Williamson. I love the lavish, lush, magical cinematography. Sometimes I watch this movie just for that, sometimes for Merlin’s (Nicol Williamson) wonderful and varied expressions of disgust, exasperation and surprise. There are violent scenes that some might find upsetting.


The Complete Poems and Songs of Robert Burns – something for everyone. My father first read “Tam O’Shanter” to me at age seven (on Halloween) but I still get different things out of it in different readings decades later. Burns said that he would take an old tune and compose his lyrics to that. “Auld Lang Syne” for example is set to the tune of an old Scottish drinking song. “Holy Willie’s Prayer” has the same poetic rhyme and meter as Thomas Gray’s “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard.”

The English Country House Murders, edited and introduced by Thomas Godfrey – a collection of short stories that introduces you to great writers such as Wilkie Collins, John Dickson Carr, Ngaio Marsh, P.G. Wodehouse, Chesterton, Dorothy L. Sayers, among others.

Lillian Stewart Carl’s The Blue Hackle has Jean Fairbairn and Alisdair Cameron planning to marry on the Isle of Skye. It should be read in winter with hot chocolate to keep you warm in the cold Scottish climate. This wasn’t the first in the mystery series, but easily readable as a standalone, it is set on New Year’s Eve weekend and is good for a cozy December read.

The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle. If it has been awhile, it is time to read and savor it again. Often, there is a fire lit at 221-B Baker Street so you can get in a December mood.

House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz – While sitting by that fireplace, you might also want to read Anthony Horowitz’s worthwhile update of Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic detective. It has plenty of mystery, intrigue and cold, foggy nights.

Brenda Williamson lives in Mississippi with her husband, Civil War author David Williamson, and their cat, Wilde Oscar (a Katrina-rescue cat who is working on his memoirs). Learn more about David’s books on his website.


  1. It’s nice to see that someone agrees with me that “We’re No Angels” is the best Christmas movie ever.

    • These are really fine choices, Brenda. I’m not familiar with any of the movies made after about 1965 or so…but love the choices—all of ’em—from the 60s and before.

  2. Great picks, Brenda! Haven’t thought about Her Alibi in forever!!


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