Christmas Holiday (1944)

Film Review

CHRISTMAS HOLIDAY

Release Date: 7 June, 1944

Studio: Universal

Director: Robert Siodmak

Starring: Deanna Durbin, Gene Kelly, Gale Sondergaard

Synopsis

The plane of Lt. Charles Mason, a soldier going to San Francisco for Christmas, is diverted to New Orleans. Lt Mason meets Simon Fenimore, a newspaperman who takes him to a brothel for drinks and entertainment. Simon introduces Mason to singer Jackie Lamont. Mason takes her to midnight mass. During the mass, Jackie breaks down into uncontrollable crying. Afterward she explains to the lieutenant the reason for her unhappiness. Her real name is Abigail Manette. Several years previously she met a charming man, Robert Manette, at a concert. They started seeing each other and married. He lived with his mother in a slightly decayed mansion, and Abigail moves into the house. Robert's mother acknowledges that her son is weak and shiftless, and she hopes that Abigail can help him to be more responsible. Abigail loves Robert but is unable to change him. One night he comes home with blood on his clothes. He has murdered a bookmaker. His mother burns his bloody pants and hides the money he stole. Eventually Robert is arrested and convicted of murder. His troubled and unstable mother argues with Abigail who moves away. Abigail becomes Jackie and works in the brothel. The lieutenant sympathizes with her.

The next day, the lieutenant and the reporter visit Jackie at the brothel. Manette has broken out of jail, and police surround the place waiting for him. He sneaks past the police. Abigail runs to him saying that they must leave at once. Robert berates her for working in the brothel and says that she does not care about him. She tells him that she works there as a type of self-punishment because she could not help him. He does not accept her explanation and threatens to shoot her. A policeman approaches, sees Manette, and shoots him through the window. Robert dies in Abigail's arms telling her that she can let go now.

Discussion

This oddly named film is Deanna Durbin's only drama. She convincingly conveys her character's unhappiness and sense of guilt. Music is minimized, and Durbin sings only two songs. The Irving Berlin classic Always signifies her unremitting devotion to her husband. Manette, Kelly's character, is weak, shiftless, deceitful and murderous. Throughout his career, Kelly mixed dramatic films among his musical comedies, but he never played a more unsympathetic or unrepentant character than this one. Kelly's mother, played by Sondergaard, has a complex and unhealthy relationship with her son and falsely berates her daughter-in-law for her inability to cure the son's problems. Sondergaard, with her sharp features, hard voice, and piercing look, intensely portrays the mother. She was easily typecast into this type of role.