Saturday, February 4, 2012

Christmas Holiday (1944)

“It was nice meeting you, Lieutenant. It was even nicer of you to listen to me. Good luck.” 

            A while ago I read a book called The Star Machine by Jeanine Basinger. The book is about the studio system and how the heads of the studios massed produced their stars. They would get a new actor and put them in several types of films to see what type of character the audience liked to see the actor/actress in. Sometimes they even went against type just to try something new. One example Basinger brought up was Deanna Durbin and Gene Kelly in Christmas Holiday. Christmas Holiday is considered a noir… Gene Kelly and Deanna Durbin in a Film Noir you say?! Why yes I do! These are people associated with light and sweet musical comedies not dark dramas with twisted characters and murders.
            Lt. Charlie Mason has just graduated from the military academy in West Point on Christmas Day. He has plans to fly out to San Francisco to see his fiancée but he gets a letter from her saying she has married someone else. A friend of his tells him to stay in New York but Charlie is angry and wants to have it out with his former fiancée. On the way there is a bad storm and the plane has to land in New Orleans.
            A reporter named Simon Fenimore is at the hotel the soldiers are staying at. There really is no story just the fact that it had to land because of bad weather nothing of real interest. Fenimore sees that Charlie is upset over something so he takes the kid out for a drink at a local nightclub. Fenimore knows the head of the nightclub very well and asks if a girl named Jackie Lamont (Durbin) can keep the lieutenant comfortable and entertained. The singer and the lieutenant get to talking.
            They both go to midnight mass. As the mass progresses Jackie gets very upset and starts to cry. After the mass they get something to eat. Jackie explains the reason why she cried was because she felt guilty she felt if she went she would be forgiven. She starts by telling Charlie her real name is Abigail Manette. She was married to a man named Robert Manette (Kelly) until he killed someone and was sent to jail. She changed her name so she could find work. Abigail and Robert were married for six months until one night he came home really late and the next day he and his mother were acting strange. Mother and son would not tell her what was going on. There was a stain on his paints and the mother threw them in the incinerator. The police start coming to the house looking for Robert then finally when he is arrested they look for the money he stole.
            It gets late. Charlie wants to go back to his hotel, Jackie tells him she will stay at the café until the morning when the next bus comes around. Charlie will have none of that and invites her back to his room. The next morning Jackie tells Charlie how she and Robert had first met a concert. They dated for a while before he asked her to marry him. His mother approved of the marriage because she thought Abigail would change her irresponsible son. Jackie even says that had his mother told her everything about Robert that day who knows how different things might have turned out. Robert takes her to a bar where he places his bets for what he says is the last time. But that did not turn out in a good way, Robert went right back to gambling. At the trial his mother hits Abigail because she feels that the girl was not strong enough for her son or really saw what he did.
            That night the papers report that Robert has escaped from jail. Charlie brings Jackie back to the nightclub and Robert is there waiting for her. She tells him she wants to go with him but he replies that he feels that she has been living fine without him. Before Robert can get his revenge he is shot and killed by a police officer.
            I do not even know why this is even considered a Film Noir to me it is just a drama. Deanna Durbin kind of has the look of a femme fatale but she is not I have read she is considered one but there is no way she is. I have only seen clips of her musicals and Durbin was very cute she was a good actress but I think I like her more as a dramatic actress. The girl really did have talent. There was a few times where her acting felt a little flat but for the most part I really liked her. At just twenty-two Durbin was beautiful and that voice! She sang “Spring Will Be Late This Year” and “Always” which was an absolutely beautiful song. Gene Kelly to me is not one of the greatest actors ever his dancing and singing made up for his acting at times. He was ok but his looks were perfect because you could believe looking at him that deep down he was a really nice guy but he just made bad, irresponsible choices in his life. All the characters felt empty because they were not very well fleshed out and explained. It felt like there was something missing with every single character.
            This is an early directorial by Robert Siodmak who would go on to make the incredibly amazing Film Noir The Killers with Ava Gardner and Bert Lancaster. The film definitely has his noir touch but that is it just a touch.
            I liked watching Christmas Holiday. The only complaint I have is that the script was a bit and the characters were not very well written. But what we are given to view is not bad. The story is not hard to follow. I always love a good flashback I liked how they went out of order instead of starting off when they met. I really liked seeing Gene Kelly and Deanna Durbin going against type. For Deanna Durbin it worked for Gene Kelly not so well. At least give Christmas Holiday one viewing.
            The film is currently available to view on youtube.

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