For the third and final part of our Christmas-themed triple-feature, we’ve got the 1949 Christmas comedy Holiday Affair, starring Robert Mitchum, Janet Leigh and Wendell Corey!
War widow Connie Ennis (Janet Leigh) works as a comparison shopper to support herself and her six-year-old son, Timmy (Gordon Gebert). She has been going with lawyer Carl Davis (Wendell Corey) for some time, but is reluctant to accept his proposal of marriage. Her life changes when, as part of her job, she buys an electric train set from Crowley’s department store. Unable to do anything further with the train set (since it is late in the day), she brings it home with her. Timmy discovers it and thinks (quite happily) that it is for him until she mentions needing to take it back the next day. When she tries to return it, she has to deal with the same clerk who had sold her the train, Steve Mason (Robert Mitchum). He had been suspicious that she was a comparison shopper from the start, and threatened to out her as such (which would have resulted in her being fired). However, after hearing about her struggles, he decides not to turn her in and gives her a refund (which results in him being fired by an eavesdropping floorwalker). With nothing else to do, Steve decides to help Connie out, although they get separated at a bus by the Christmas rush. With a little detective work, he catches up to her later at her apartment, although his presence causes trouble, as Carl is also there. In the process, Carl ends up leaving after he and Timmy fight (and Connie intervenes on Timmy’s behalf). Before leaving himself, Steve talks with Connie, making known his observations about how she is trying to keep her husband alive by making Timmy over into his image, which makes Connie angry. Steve quickly says goodbye to Timmy and learns how Timmy was really hoping for the electric train set for Christmas. Fast forward to Christmas morning, and there is a special present under the tree, which turns out to be that train! Timmy is ecstatic, but his mother, upon realizing who it was from, seeks out Steve to try to pay him for it. He refuses, so she gives him a necktie originally intended for Carl. Connie decides to tell him that she has finally accepted Carl’s proposal of marriage, prompting a rebuke from Steve about not letting go of the past (which, again, makes Connie angry). She leaves him again, intending for that to be it. But, will his words sink in, or will she stay with a man she doesn’t really love?
In the late 1940s, actor Robert Mitchum was enjoying success in film noir while working at RKO studios. His success was briefly slowed down when he was arrested for possession of marijuana in 1948. After serving a brief prison sentence, he was back to work at RKO. While his films after his arrest were hits at the box office, Howard Hughes still insisted on trying to soften Robert Mitchum’s image by casting him in a romantic comedy (based on a story by John D. Weaver). The film was not a success at the box office, but it has found greater popularity by frequent television showings around the holidays.
I was first introduced to this film through a four movie DVD set of Christmas movies (which included It Happened On Fifth Avenue, the main reason I bought the set). I enjoyed the movie then, and I still do now. For me, this movie is a wonderful time capsule, one that encapsulates so much of what Christmas means to me. Every character in this movie is a human being with flaws, and yet, they all seem to be decent people (well, with the exception of the “hobo” who gets Robert Mitchum’s Steve in trouble with the law). There’s a lot of stuff that happens in this movie that I couldn’t even dream of seeing be reality nowadays, whether it be Gordon Gebert’s Timmy going off on his own to try to return the train at the department store, or being able to see the department store owner (who gives him the refund after hearing his story, even though the train was accidentally broken due to the pushing and shoving of other customers in the store). Overall, it’s just nice to see people being nice to each other, and being full of the Christmas spirit (instead of the greed and unkindness that would seem normal now), and with great performances all around, I have no trouble whatsoever recommending this wonderful Christmas classic!
What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2020) with… Holiday Affair (1949)
This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Warner Archive Collection, with the Blu-ray utilizing a new transfer. This new transfer is a definite improvement over the previously available DVD, with better detail and a much crisper picture. I would certainly recommend the recent Blu-ray (which also includes, as an extra, the Lux Radio Theatre adaptation with Robert Mitchum and Gordon Gebert reprising their roles from the movie) as the best way to enjoy this wonderful Christmas movie!
Film Length: 1 hour, 27 minutes
My Rating: 9/10
List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections
Janet Leigh – My Sister Eileen (1955)
Wendell Corey – The Killer Is Loose (1956)
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