I’ve been away from my blogging due to Thanksgiving and travels, celebrating my parents 50th Wedding Anniversary, and getting the house decorated, cleaned for Christmas, and getting my gift shopping done. Now that a lot of those activities have been dealt with, the quiet voice in my mind began to grow louder, “Get back to your Blog!” Hence today’s offering.
There have been a lot of movies made with Christmas as the theme or as the backdrop. Many of these films are fan favorites: It’s a Wonderful Live, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, Elf, just to name a few. I decided that for today’s purpose I was going to focus on some delightful Christmas movies, classics in their own right, but ones that might not be as well known to the movie viewing public.
First up, 1940’s Beyond Tomorrow. It stars some of Hollywood’s best character actors in their Senior years: C. Aubrey Smith, Charles Winninger, and Harry Carey(former silent film star). These three elderly gents portray life-long friends, engineers by trade, now retired and living in a NYC mansion. They have a devoted housekeeper in Madame Tanya(another great character actress, Maria Ouspenskaya) and butler, Josef(Alex Melesh).
It’s Christmas Eve, the three friends are about to enjoy a wonderful meal prepared for them by Madame Tanya, but they admit to one another that they are lonely, they’d enjoy the meal more if guests could join them. They decide to gather their wallets, putting $10 and their business cards into each one, and plant them around the neighborhood. Whoever returns the wallets will be invited to stay for dinner. Michael(Winninger) is the optimist of the three men and he’s sure someone will return a wallet. George(Carey) is the pessimist of the group and is sure no one will. Chadwick(Smith) is the happy medium between the other two men’s personalities. Two of the wallets are returned, one by a young Texan, James Houston(Richard Carlson), a struggling singer and the other by Jean Lawrence(Jean Parker), a clinic employee. The two young adults agree to stay for dinner and it’s obvious that they are falling in love! They also become good friends with the three elderly gents and all seems cozy and right with the world.
The movie takes a jarring turn when the three elderly gents tragically die in a plane crash! Their ghosts come back to their mansion and only Madame Tanya can sense their presence. Michael, in his will, had left Jimmy some bonds that he is able to use to launch his singing career and he also draws the attentions of a radio star, Arlene Terry(Helen Vinson). Ghost Michael can see that Arlene is no good for Jimmy, and that Jean still loves him and is crying over him a lot. He is bound and determined to find a way to reunite the young lovers before he has to go to Heaven. It’s a sweet little film with an endearing cast. From an original story and screenplay by Adele Comandini, directed by A. Edward Sutherland, you can catch it via TCM on Thursday, December 18th, but you will have to set your dvr as it’s airing at 2:15 am Eastern/1:15 am Central. Beyond Tomorrow is also available to purchase at Amazon, at TCM’s Shop, and a kind soul has put the entire movie on Youtube.
My second movie to recommend is 1949’s Holiday Affair. If the Hallmark Channel made romantic Christmas movies in 1949, this would have been at the top of their list! Janet Leigh portrays Connie Ennis, a young war widow with a 6 year old son, Timmy(Gordon Gebert). She is employed by a large NYC department store as a “comparison buyer”; she pretends to shop at rival stores studying and taking notes about their merchandise, how it’s displayed, priced, and evaluates their sales staff. One day she is at rival store Crowley’s and she is pretending to be interested in buying a toy train. It’s the Christmas season, and the toy area is jam-packed with other shoppers. The store clerk, Steve Mason(very handsome Robert Mitchum) wonders why this lady shopping for a toy train asks no questions about it and just buys it. When Connie gets home she tries to hide the train as she is to return it the next day as part of her research on Crowley’s, and she doesn’t want Timmy thinking the train is for him. That evening also brings by a visit from lawyer Carl Davis(Wendell Corey) who decides that after months of dating Connie, he is ready to propose to her. Connie is in a dither, and after Carl leaves, she asks Timmy his opinion and he promptly tells her she shouldn’t marry Carl.
The next day, Connie tries to return the train at Crowley’s without a receipt. Steve has to handle the transaction and he says it’s against store policy to refund buyer’s money without the receipt. Connie admits she is a comparison buyer and Steve threatens to turn her in to the store detective. Connie then explains about being a widow with a son, and Steve reimburses her with money out of his own pocket. A store manager finds out what Steve’s done and he is promptly fired. Steve smoothly asks Connie to go for lunch with him and over lunch, she discovers Steve’s story and his ambitions to return to California and start up a sailboat building business with a friend.
This is one of those boy meets girl, boy loses girl, will boy get girl back? Steve knows what he wants his future to look like. Carl wants Connie to be his wife. Connie is the character who doesn’t know which step to take. She still has feelings for her dead husband, Carl seems like a safe choice to make as he has a good job but Timmy doesn’t like him, and then there is Steve, handsome, brash, and exciting. TCM is going to air Holiday Affair twice: Sunday, December 21 at 4:00 pm Eastern/3:00 Central and on Thursday, December 25th at 12:15 pm Eastern/11:15 Central.
Holiday Affair was written by Isobel Lennart and directed by Don Hartman. It is available to buy via Amazon, TCM’s Shop, and again, it’s been put on Youtube!
Mitchum, Gebert, Leigh, and Corey in a scene from Holiday Affair