Judge Dylan Charles is still looking for some new Christmas movies to watch.
• "Six kids on a true and wonderful adventure"—All Mine to Give
• "Baby, you're just what I want for Christmas"—Holiday Affair
• "Make yourself at home for the holidays!"—It Happened on 5th Avenue
• "The Story of a Woman Who Defied Convention"—Blossoms in the Dust
Year after year, my family watches the same few holiday movies over and over again. There's only so many times a body can watch White Christmas before they want to chuck it right out the window and just watch Die Hard, another great Christmas movie, instead.
So I welcomed Warner Brothers Classic Holiday Collection, Vol. 2, a whole mess of Christmas movies that I've never seen before, prepackaged for my convenience. There's just one tiny little problem, albeit a crucial one. Seventy-five percent of these movies have jack-all to do with Christmas.
Facts of the Case
Warner Brothers Classic Holiday Collection, Vol. 2 features four movies:
• All Mine to Give: Mamie (Glynis Johns, The Cabinet of Caligari) and Robert (Cameron Mitchell, Carousel) Eunson are Scottish immigrants trying to start a new life in 1850s Wisconsin. They flourish with six new additions to the family. But when tragedy strikes, it's going to take a Christmas miracle to make sure things turn out all right.
• Holiday Affair: Connie Ennis (Janet Leigh, Psycho) is a struggling single mom trying to raise her son. Her upcoming marriage to Carl (Wendell Corey) could give her the financial security she needs, but she is drawn to Steve Mason (Robert Mitchum Cape Fear) a down-and-out ex-soldier who buys her son a train set he can ill afford.
• It Happened on 5th Avenue: Jim Bullock (Don DeFore) is an unemployed soldier who's just been kicked out of his $40-a-week apartment. He finds refuge in a millionaire's summer home with the help of a friendly neighborhood hobo. Soon the house is bustling with people, including the millionaire himself who's living there in disguise.
• Blossoms in the Dust: Edna Gladney (Greer Carson, Pride and Prejudice) takes up the cause of illegitimate children in Texas during the first half of the twentieth century. Her Texas Children's Home and Aid Society helps those children find a home when all others would reject them.
I'm not that picky about my Christmas movies, but I do expect at least one of the following things: Baby Jesus, Santa Claus, a Christmas miracle, or some kind of personal growth through the magic of Christmas. You can't just throw a Christmas tree in the corner and call it a day, by God. Only one of these movies fits my stringent requirements and that's All Mine to Give. The others are above-average movies that have little to do with the holiday season. Shame on you, Warner Brothers.
Now, ignoring the blatant false advertising on this holiday movies collection, this is a decent collection of family-friendly movies, although they're all lightweights. There's nothing in there that's going to shake, rattle, or roll you. It's pleasant fluff.
Blossoms in the Dust, for instance, was about a woman who stood up against the establishment to try and guarantee a better life for all those children who have illegitimate scribbled all over their birth certificates. Instead of an exploration of what she was truly up against, there are a few scenes of snobby, elitist women turning their noses up at Gladney and only one or two indications of how damning illegitimacy could be in the 1910s. When one of the characters commits suicide because she finds out she's illegitimate, it's hard to understand why she takes such a drastic way out. Blossoms in the Dust glosses over the ugliness and goes for the heartstrings and fuzzy feelings instead. While there's nothing inherently wrong with this approach, it lessens the accomplishments of Mrs. Gladney somewhat and makes for a less powerful film overall.
Nonetheless, it does succeed in being heartwarming without making one gag and that's a plus, I suppose. But take note that I didn't mention Christmas.
All Mine to Give succeeds at both delivering the Christmas and the goods, but the ending is lacking. The trials and tribulations of this family that the film follows over the course of nearly two hours are resolved in less than 20 minutes with almost an absurd lack of trouble. The goal is to find six homes for six children in a fair-sized frontier town and they manage to do it before suppertime. I'll just chalk this up to a Christmas miracle and leave it at that.
Holiday Affair, in spite of its name, could have taken place during Easter—or anyone else's birthday. And once again, it's not a terrible movie. But it's lacking a truly whiz-bang script. It is kind of like a screwball comedy, except it's not very screwball. Robert Mitchum isn't well-suited for those kind of shenanigans, but he's perfect for the laidback and unflappable Steve Mason. He might even be overkill, like bringing a gun to a knife fight. Holiday Affair didn't really need to crack out Robert Mitchum for this role. And Janet Leigh doesn't have much do except fret about which man she wants. I have a hard time accepting this as a genuine problem. Gee, two awesome guys fighting over the same woman, whatever shall she do?
It Happened on 5th Avenue is another mild comedy, with simple gags and mistaken identity providing the humor. I found myself siding with poor Donald O'Connor, the rich man who unknowingly hosts a bevy of homeless GIs. He's forced to play butler for them while they eat all his food and smoke all his good cigars. The fact that he didn't call the police within 10 minutes is a testament to the charms of Gale Storm (winner of greatest stage name ever), who plays his daughter. Storm was a star of the small screen who, like Mitchum and Leigh, is underused.
There's also the small matter of a large, unresolved plot point. Storm's character, also in the mansion under an assumed name, falls in love with Jim, who doesn't know who she is. But it's never explained, when, if and how she reveals her identity to him. Of course, I doubt that knowing that would have changed the outcome of the movie one iota. It's nothing if not predictable. My ma watched the first 30 minutes with me, correctly predicted the ending, and left the room.
Warner Brothers wasn't altogether generous with the features, unless you're a big fan of French subtitles. A single theatrical trailer is the only thing to occupy your time after you're done with the films proper. It's a good thing then that it's such a clean presentation of all four movies, but still, even one small featurette explaining why Blossoms in the Dust is packaged as a "bonus disc" on the box would have been nice.
When all is said and done, this is a collection of fluffy, unheavy fare. You're not going to be challenged or depressed or weighted down with complex moral issues. They're perfect entertainment for a cold winter night when you don't have very much else to do, which I guess is the most you can ask from a movie for the holidays.
Judge Charles is not beginning to feel a lot like Christmas and so finds this Holiday Collection guilty. As it's close to Christmas, he'll let it off with a warning.
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Scales of Justice, Blossoms In The Dust
Perp Profile, Blossoms In The Dust
Studio: Warner Bros.
Distinguishing Marks, Blossoms In The Dust
Scales of Justice, It Happened On 5th Avenue
Perp Profile, It Happened On 5th Avenue
Studio: Warner Bros.
Distinguishing Marks, It Happened On 5th Avenue
Scales of Justice, Holiday Affair
Perp Profile, Holiday Affair
Studio: Warner Bros.
Distinguishing Marks, Holiday Affair
Scales of Justice, All Mine To Give
Perp Profile, All Mine To Give
Studio: Warner Bros.
Distinguishing Marks, All Mine To Give
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