Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Christmas treats

TV is awash at the moment with Christmas movies - glutinous, sentimental TV movies - there are even whole channels devoted to them. I ignore all these -we will always want to see IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE or MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET or even WHITE CHRISTMAS or MEET ME IN ST LOUIS (not a Christmas movie as such, as it covers all 4 seasons, but it does have that great Christmas song sung by Judy...). There are though one or two movies I discovered that are worth seeing, and starring some of our favourites here at The Projector.
I nominate CHRISTMAS EVE, starring Loretta Young and Trevor Howard, and THE GIFT OF LOVE: A CHRISTMAS STORY with Lee Remick and Angela Lansbury. And for a real movie, Spence and Kate in DESK SET (above) - which has a great long Christmas party scene. Roll them ...
Loretta was the great depression waif back in the 1930s and very prolific - 7 or 8 movies in 1933 alone. I love her in those Pre-Codes like MIDNIGHT MARY or the 1936 LADIES IN LOVE - as per revews at Loretta label. (The later Loretta became an Iron Butterfly and was less interesting). Here she is Amanda, a beautiful old lady in CHRISTMAS EVE, in 1986. Amanda is a wealthy widow at loggerheads with her banker son who is trying to remove her from control of the family firm as she persists in using real money to give to the poor and not tax-deducting it. Then it turns out Amada has a fatal illness [no sniggering at the back Martin Bradley!] with not much time left. When her doctor tells her, her reaction is "Well I never thought I was immortal". 
Her faithful butler is none other than Trevor Howard, also touching and frail here after his hell-raiser days. When she tells him of her condition and how he has to help her, as they go out every night helping the poor and homeless, is perfectly played by the two veterans. She decides to use her remaining time to re-unite her grandchildren with their father and bring the whole family together for Christmas Eve. Does it happen? It may sound gruesomely sentimental but it is anything but in the seasoned hands of veterans like Young and Howard and a good supporting cast. Directed by Stuart Cooper. Howard died 2 years later in 1988, aged 74 Young died aged 87 in 2000. 

Lee Remick and Angela Lansbury are paired again in the 1983 telefilm THE GIFT OF LOVE. (They were previously in THE LONG HOT SUMMER in 1958, and that 1964 Sondheim musical ANYONE CAN WHISTLE). 
After experiencing several stressful situations within a short time --including the failure of the family business and the loss of her mother-- Janet Broderick becomes ill. Falling into a deep sleep, she dreams of returning to her hometown, taking her children with her to meet her deceased loved ones. Perhaps, during a Christmas reunion with her beloved family, she will find the answer to coping with her troubles.
This is a glutinously sentimental story mainly in soft focus about a family facing hard times and the intervention perhaps of family ghosts... Lee is wonderfully attractive and fascinating as usual as the disillusioned wife whose mother Angela Lansbury dies after two scenes, but returns as Lee dreams most of the following with a visit to her old family home where mother and father and spinster aunt are all present. Its nicely resolved with her children and husband, and expertly put together by old hand Delbert Mann (MARTY, SEPARATE TABLES etc). It remains a superior telemovie though, we can watch Lee and Angela in anything. 
DESK SET is a pleasure now, as I posted here a year or so ago.. I like it a lot, maybe the best of the Tracy-Hepburns after WOMAN OF THE YEARADAMS RIBPAT & MIKE .... its from a talky play (by Phoebe and Henry Ephron) and the subject must have been topical back in the 50s - those new big computers coming in taking over office jobs. Like Fox's WOMAN'S WORLD it is also another great New York movie, and Kate and her office girls, led by Joan Blondell, are a great gang. Spence is amusing and droll too as they suspect he (and his new computer) is going to make them all redundant. Theres reams of dialogue, including that nice long scene on the cold office roof, and that one at Kate's apartment - another Apartment We Love - with its cosy fire, chairs and bookshelves. We want to live there!
Gig Young is Kate's on-off boyfriend - a task he previously played for Bette and Joan. There is a great long Christmas scene as the office party gets underway and Kate plays drunk nicely - she and Joan Blondell get nicely tipsy together, and Kate even sings "Night and Day". She is for once given a decent wardrobe of nice dresses and coats and looks great, particularly in that red coat and gloves.. DESK SET, directed by Fox regular Walter Lang, is a pleasure any time, and Leon Shamroy makes it look good. (As I mentioned before, the young Lee Remick was up for the small part played by Dina Merrill, as her first movie role, but she wisely opted for A FACE IN THE CROWD instead, making a sensational debut there). Its a Christmas treat, put it on. 


  1. I am not sure this old Scrooge could take any of these! The only Christmas film I really like is BAD SANTA!