Today is the tenth day of Christmas during PEPS’s “The Twelve Days of Christmas with the Code.” I want to thank all my readers who have read, liked, and commented on my nine articles during the series. Today, I am going to write about another Yuletide classic, A Holiday Affair from 1949. This Christmas classic is set during the holiday season, and it ends on New Year’s Eve. This RKO picture with Robert Mitchum and Janet Leigh is one which teaches a valuable lesson about generosity and finding happiness in the present.
A pretty young war widow, Connie Ennis (Janet Leigh), buys an expensive, deluxe toy train set from a big New York department store, Crowley’s. The salesman in the toy department is Steve Mason (Robert Mitchum), a cavalier and clever young man who is suspicious when Connie knows everything about the product, has the exact price including tax, and doesn’t want any gift wrapping. After buying the train, Connie goes to a phone booth and calls Fisher and Lewis. It is obvious that she works for that store as a comparison shopper; that’s why she bought the train and knew all about it. The next thing we see is Connie arriving home. Her adorable six year old son, Timmy (Gordon Gebert), greets her happily, calling her Mrs. Ennis. She is tired, but she is so glad to be home with “her fella,” Mr. Ennis. Timmy is excited when he sees the big toy train package, since he thinks it’s for him. His mother tells him that it’s just for the store. While she is getting dinner ready, he sneaks into the bedroom and peaks at the package. He is thrilled when he sees the train, since it is just what he’s wanted for months. When he hears his mother coming, he quickly puts the bow back on. Later, when he sees that his mother has put the package in the living room, he asks her if she’s going to give it to the landlady so that he can’t peak at it. She tells him again that it isn’t for him, and he believes her this time. He sadly goes to his room. That evening, Carl Davis (Wendell Corey), Connie’s lawyer beau, comes over after dinner. As he and Connie wash the dishes, he asks her if she has made up her mind about marrying him yet. Even though he has waited two years for her already, he says that he is willing to give her more time. The next day, Connie returns the train to Crowley’s. She is helped by the same employee, who says that he has identified her as a comparison shopper. He tells her that the procedure is for him to report her. This will put her out of commission in that whole store and make her loose her job. She tells him about her son, and at first he doesn’t believe her. When she says that her husband died in the war, he feels sorry for being sarcastic. He gives her back her money for the item and asks her never to return to his department. She thanks him gratefully and leaves. Unfortunately, a floorwalker overheard the conversation. Soon after, Connie is in another department buying an extra large men’s union suit. Suddenly, Steve comes up behind her and acts like he is her husband. Of course, that makes the comparative purchase a little difficult, since Steve certainly is much smaller than the size she is supposed to buy. While the confused salesman goes to look for the size, Steve tells Connie that he got fired because he didn’t report her. She feels terrible, but he asks her to go to lunch with him at his favorite restaurant. She agrees. When the salesman returns, he holds the huge garment up to Steve and says, “Madame, I ask you!” Steve agreeably replies, “I like ’em loose.” His favorite restaurant turns out to be Central Park, where he eats hot dogs and popcorn by the seal enclosure. During the two hours he and Connie share in the iconic outdoor setting, he tells her that his goal in life is to build boats. Every time he gets $100 together, he sends it to a friend of his in California. When he gets enough money together, he intends to go out there and become part of the business. When she has to continue her comparison shopping for the day, Steve goes with her. He helps her for the rest of the day. When they are rushing to catch a bus, he gets separated from her. She soon realizes that she is on the bus, but he and several of her packages are not. That evening, Timmy and Carl are decorating the Christmas tree. Connie arrives and says that she lost some packages, but she doesn’t mention Steve. At a very inopportune moment, Steve walks in with the packages, commenting that that will be the last time he picks up a girl at Christmas before he sees Carl there. Connie clumsily explains how she met Steve, seeming very embarrassed. As Timmy gets ready for bed and Connie mixes some drinks, Steve and Carl engage in some hilariously awkward small talk. Soon after, Timmy comes out to say goodnight. When talking to Steve, he becomes hostile and aggressive toward Carl. Carl tries to take control of the situation by picking up Timmy and carrying him toward his bedroom. He starts to kick and yell. Connie becomes defensive and says, “Carl, take your hands off my boy!” Carl puts Timmy down and leaves. Connie tells Timmy, who is grinning about making Carl leave, to go to his room. Now that they are alone, Steve tells Connie that she is trying to make Timmy into her husband. He says that she should stop trying to hold onto something she’s lost; she should live in the present. She gets annoyed with him. Before leaving, he asks to say goodbye to Timmy. She lets him. When he is in Timmy’s room, they find out that they have a lot in common. Timmy quickly grows to love Steve, since he is a lot like him. Timmy tells Steve about the train he really wanted, and Steve encourages him to never stop wishing for things he wants; if you aim above the moon, you have a better chance of hitting it! Before leaving, Steve goes into the kitchen, kisses Connie without any warning, and wishes her a merry Christmas. When Connie and Carl go to dinner soon after that evening, she says that she wants to marry him. When he asks what made her make up her mind, she says that she doesn’t want any more uncertainty in her life. They plan their wedding for New Year’s Day. On Christmas morning, Timmy wakes his mother up really early because he is so thrilled. He jumps on her bed and thanks her again and again, but she doesn’t know why he is so happy. When she goes into the living room, she sees the train set up. She learns that the package was in the hall with a card from Santa Claus. Some of Timmy’s comments make her realize that only Steve knew that he wanted the train, so he must have bought it. She is troubled about the fact that Steve bought such an expensive present for Timmy. When she tells Carl about the situation on the telephone, he advises her to give the generous dreamer the money for the present. She agrees, but that is easier said than done. It won’t be easy for her to find Steve; even when she does find him, he may not accept the money willingly. Despite many attempts to leave Connie’s life, Steve finds that strange little things keep bringing them back together. Will he ever decide to stay in Connie’s life permanently? Will she choose the sensible, stable Carl or the romantic, impulsive Steve? Will she ever be able to find happiness in the present, or will she keep living with only a memory? Watch the movie to find out!
This is a marvelous picture. It is filled with a lot of sincerity, tender humour, and warmth. Timmy’s interaction with his mother and Steve is very sweet. He is an excellent young actor. This is the tenderest role in which I have seen Robert Mitchum. He is so kind and generous. One of the funniest moment in this picture is the scene in which Carl and Steve are trying to make conversation with each other. They take turns saying “Is that so?” and “That’s right.” The funniest line has to be Steve’s, “I like ’em loose.”
I love the scenes in Central Park by the seal enclosure. I’ve seen the real location in New York. It looks a little different now, but it is instantly recognizable. The Christmas setting of this movie is really charming. It is a great Yuletide picture, but you could enjoy the excellent acting and the sweet story any time of year. Like all good Code films from the Breen era, this film is one which has maturity and innocence at the same time, since it depicts real life while being free from offense.
Today is January 3. Although this is a Christmas film article, I can’t neglect to mention the fact that it is the birthday of Mr. Breen’s youngest child, Thomas E. Breen. He was an actor who was born in 1924. He died in 2000. His first credited role was Denis Mulvy in Luxury Liner from 1948. It is a supporting role, but he is very good in it. His only leading role was in The River from 1951. If you want to get a sample of this actor’s talent, watch Luxury Liner, as I did this morning in honor of his birthday. I hope that you will love the lively, lighthearted musical with Jane Powell, George Brent, and Lauritz Melchior as much as I do.
Please come back tomorrow for the eleventh day of Christmas! I’ll be reviewing another Christmas classic. If you have liked this series, please share the original “Twelve Days of Christmas with the Code” article on social media. Also, join twenty-three other people in liking our Facebook page. I’ll see you tomorrow!
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