And now, in the final part of this year’s grand holiday film revue, here are two more movies that come under the heading of Christmas flicks.
Beware, My Lovely (1952)
This film definitely isn’t your standard holiday fare. In fact, it’s barely a Christmas movie, because it takes place at Christmas. There are a lot of parts with kids and gifts and a Christmas tree. But that’s about it.
Now, in the film, Howard Wilton (played by Robert Ryan) works as a handyman. And right away, we know he has a screw loose isn’t quite right in the head, because he finds the woman he worked for dead in a closet. And he freaks out and runs away—hopping a train out of town like a hobo.
So, I thought, okay … maybe he didn’t do it, but just has blackouts and isn’t sure if he did it. But then he’s hired by the widow, Helen Gordon (played by Ida Lupino) to do chores around the house. While things start out fine, it doesn’t take long for them to unravel. And Helen, being the nice lady she is, keeps telling Wilton that … ahem! … he could use some help, maybe? Like from a shrink? (Although, she’s calls it a doctor.) Well, you can imagine his reaction. It’s not especially warm and welcoming.
Here’s the thing about this film. It builds tension rather nicely, but kind of peters out at the end. Because rather than defeat her antagonist, Helen pretty much just outlasts him. And matters resolve a bit too conveniently. Ultimately, it’s an engaging, but just okay, film. Still I thought I’d mention it, because 1) I love both the actors; 2) try naming another film noir Christmas movie and 3) who else would write a review about this tiny little film which runs a compact 77 minutes?
Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
It would be sacrilege not to mention this film. It is, in fact, my favorite holiday movie.
From the opening scenes, where Kris Kingle (played charmingly by Edmund Gwenn) takes the reins from the drunken Santa to the big finale, where little Susie Walker (played by a young Natalie Wood) gets her Christmas wish, the movie is everything a holiday film should be.
Maureen O’Hara is awesome as Susan’s practical mother, Doris Walker. And John Payne is fantastic as the lawyer Fred Gailey who makes sure that Kris Kringle and little Susie get to spend lots of time together, allowing Santa to pollute her little mind with … imagination.
Some of the lines are priceless:
Fred: That baseball player sure looks like a giant to me.
Susan: Sometimes people grow very large, but that’s abnormal.
Fred: I’ll bet your mother told you that, too.
Fred: Your Honor, every one of these letters is addressed to Santa Claus. The Post Office has delivered them. Therefore the Post Office Department, a branch of the Federal Governent, recognizes this man Kris Kringle to be the one and only Santa Claus.
Judge Harper: Uh, since the United States Government declares this man to be Santa Claus, this court will not dispute it. Case dismissed.
Susan: It’s a progressive school.
Kris Kringle: Oh … a progressive school.
Plus, how can you not like a film in which a lawyer proves there really is a Santa Claus? With a government agency’s help, no less.