Christmas is a time of iconic films such as “Miracles on 34th Street,” “A Christmas Story” and “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.” In order to find a Christmas movie I had never seen before, I had to go all the way back to 1949 for this month’s “From the film archives” column.
“Holiday Affair” is a classic Christmas film starring Robert Mitchum and Janet Leigh. It takes place in a time much different than our own, when “the war” was only a few years past, couples slept in separate beds (at least on TV) and everything was bought at Macy’s.
Leigh plays Connie, a single mother who has fallen on difficult times since her husband died during World War II. She works as a comparison shopper, meaning she gets paid to buy products from competing stores to compare their quality and price to her employer’s items.
Carl, played by Wendell Corey, is a divorce lawyer who has been dating Connie for almost two years. He has proposed to her several times, but Connie has yet to say yes.
Enter Steve, played by Mitchum, who is a cashier at the local mall. He realizes Connie is a comparison shopper, but instead of reporting her to his bosses, he lets her go after she tells him about her son Timmy. Steve soon finds himself unemployed for violating store policy.
What follows is a somewhat predictable story. Steve proposes as well, and Connie finds herself debating on whether to marry a homeless man or a successful lawyer.
While “Holiday Affair” is not an unique story, it does encompass the Christmas spirit in a wonderful way. Mitchum and Leigh are good actors, but the real show-stealer is Gordon Gerbert, who portrays Connie’s young son Timmy.
A comical character with a heart-of-gold, Timmy often instigates the awkward moments between Connie’s two suitors, while serving as a reminder of the husband she lost to the war. In one funny scene, Timmy reminds Connie’s entire family the gift she gave to Steve was originally intended for Carl.
Most of the “Holiday Affair” will seem familiar to other romance movies, but what I found interesting is the sense of struggle throughout the movie. Connie toils away at a job offering little-to-no security and paying very low wages. Steve finds himself an unemployed dreamer. And both cope with losses they experienced during the war.
Though it is clear from the beginning Connie does not love Carl, his steady income and secure lifestyle make him an incredibly tempting choice.
Despite the serious overtones, “Holiday Affair” offers a good deal of comic relief. The back-and-forth between Carl and Steve is hilarious at times. The two find themselves eating a Christmas Day meal together, and at one point Carl is even forced to defend Steve in court against false allegations related to his unemployment.
In today’s world of wanton consumerism, “Holiday Affair” is a great reminder of Christmas ideals. It manages to be funny, heartwarming and inspiring even though it is set in a time period difficult for many.
It is a holiday classic, and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for something more than the routine Christmas movies.
Andrew Akers is a part-time reporter for The Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.