With Christmas Day right around the corner, two meals to prep for, gifts to wrap, stockings to stuff, and more goodies to bake, this will probably be my last post until January 2015. I decided it would be right and fitting to write about a short film that I saw on Turner Classics last year in December, Warner Brothers 1945 Star in the Night.
Star in the Night, is a modern(1945 modern) re-telling of the Nativity story. It was written by Robert Finch and Saul Elkins, produced by Gordon Hollingshead, and directed by Don Siegel. It was Siegel’s first film to direct and it touched so many audiences and the Motion Picture Academy that it won the Oscar for Best Short Subject in 1946. Siegel went on to direct more films, including the first Invasion of the Body Snatchers, several Clint Eastwood starring movies, such as Dirty Harry, and John Wayne’s last movie, The Shootist.
A Star in the Night is set on Christmas Eve, at a diner/motel in a small Southwestern US community. Instead of 3 wise men who see a star in the sky and follow it, we meet 3 cowboys riding the range late at night who see the light from the motel’s”Star” sign and follow it to find hot coffee and a warm place to get away from the night’s coldness. The motel owner, Nick Catapoli, is a bit of a grump/scrooge. He’s tired, wants to just close up for the night and go to bed. He’s grumbling about how people treat each other nowadays, poorly in his opinion. His wife, Rosa, is much more optimistic about life than Nick is, and she bustles about greeting all who enter the motel and doesn’t want to close up early. Besides the 3 cowboys, there is a traveling salesman drinking coffee, a hitchhiker-who challenges Nick on his dire views of mankind, a lady complaining about the noise from a traveling singing group(whom we hear but don’t meet) who are next to her room, a traveling married couple, and then we meet a young couple who need a place to stay, Jose and his very pregnant wife, Maria.
As soon as Jose receives some hot coffee and Maria is looked in on, it is quickly discovered by Rosa that the young woman is in labor! The negative views, bickerings that were going on, complaints by motel guests-the negativity abruptly stops and all jump in to help this young couple. Alls well that ends well, and Nick gains a much better outlook about his fellow man.
I was not familiar with any of the cast members other than J. Carroll Naish, who plays Nick. Naish was one of Hollywood’s excellent character actors, and despite being of Irish descent, he was often called upon to play Spanish or Italian characters due to his olive skin tone and black hair.
I have posted the link from Youtube, where a very kind soul has put Star in the Night in order for it to be viewed. With this, I will sign off and wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!