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Holiday Affair - A Love Triangle at Christmastime

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Dusty is an avid classic movie fan who wants to share movie stories and evoke conversation about them.

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Robert Mitchum, Janet Leigh and others

Robert Mitchum, Janet Leigh and others

Cast

Holiday Affair

1 hr. 27 mins Comedy, Drama, Romance 1949 7.1 stars

Director: Don Hartman

Cast: Robert Mitchum - Steve Mason

Janet Lee - Connie Ennis

Wendell Corey - Carl Davis

Gordon Gebert - Timmy Ennis

Griff Barnett - Mr. Ennis

Esther Dale - Mrs. Ennis

Henry O’Neill - Mr. Crowley

Harry Morgan - Police Lieutenant

Note: Spoiler alert. This review reveals the outcome of the movie

Connie Meets Steve at Department Store

Janet Leigh and Robert Mitchum

Janet Leigh and Robert Mitchum

Synopsis Part I

This Christmas classic opens up with a snowy train scene at a station named Palm Beach. This does not sound like a snowy place so it is immediately puzzling. The camera pans back to reveal that it is a model train set in a department store and the snow is fake snow being shaken out of a box by the salesman, Steve Mason. The scene is actually set in a New York department store. Scores of shoppers young and old crowd around to watch the demonstration. One of them is a woman named Connie Ennis. She insists on buying the train set without any need of Steve’s sales pitch, in fact, she has exact change. This raises Steve’s suspicion that Connie is a “comparison shopper”, something department stores frown upon.

Connie is a widowed woman with a young son named Timmy and he wants a train for Christmas more than anything else. Although Connie brings the train set home and it is wrapped with a bow in an unmarked box, she tells Timmy not to peek, that the box is not for him. And of course any young boy who has been told not to peek will do precisely just that. He peeked, saw it was a train and grew ecstatic, but couldn’t explain why he was ecstatic to his mother.

The next day as per her duties as a comparison shopper she returned the train for a refund. At this point Steve, who suspected what she was up to should have turned her in, but he didn’t. His supervisor watching the whole transaction, however, fired Steve for letting Connie off.

He later caught up with Connie in another department and helped her to avoid the same type of problem. He then went and had lunch with her. Throughout the afternoon Steve helps Connie with her comparison shopping, but on the bus ride back to Connie’s, with Steve carrying half of her purchases, Steve and Connie are separated due to the over crowded bus. Connie continues on back home. Waiting there for her is her boyfriend, Carl and her son Timmy. Naturally he is happy to see her and they kiss; the camera shows Timmy’s displeasure.

A little later Steve shows up with the purchases. What follows is an awkward conversation between Carl and Steve. But when Steve meets Timmy they hit it off right away! Timmy says something out of line getting mad at Carl. Connie reacts by sending Timmy to his room. Carl then leaves. Next it’s Steve’s turn to get into a conflict which he does by psychoanalyzing Connie explaining her problem, from his perspective of course. He accuses her of living in the past with regards to her deceased husband resulting in her pushing Carl away and her parentifying Timmy to some extent (for instance referring to him as the man of the house all the time – he’s only 6 years old). This psychoanalysis results in an argument and Steve leaves, but not before he says good bye to Timmy and not before Steve kisses Connie.

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The next scene shows Connie and Carl dining in a nice restaurant, a romantic restaurant. Here, to Carl’s surprise, Connie asks him to marry her!

An Awkward Conversation

Wendell Corey and Robert Mitchum

Wendell Corey and Robert Mitchum

Synopsis Part II

On Christmas morning Timmy is up early and is very excited. He had opened a large gift and found it was a toy train. He woke his mother up because he could just not contain himself! Connie was perplexed because she hadn’t purchased the train. She concluded that it must have been Steve and she resolved to confront him and make him take it back. She found him in the park feeding squirrels and biding his time. When Connie implored him to take the gift back he declined stating that the gift was from one friend to another. Plan B was to offer Steve a gift – a loud tie which Connie had taken from among Carl’s boxes. With a new tie Steve removed the one he had been wearing and gave it to a homeless man. Shortly afterwards a little girl on roller skates came up and gave Steve a salt and pepper set which the homeless man had her deliver to him.

Connie’s in laws came for Christmas dinner, but just before the meal a policeman came to the door because Steve had been charged with a theft. Evidently the salt and pepper set had been stolen. Connie, Carl (who is a lawyer) and Timmy all went to court to argue for Steve’s innocence. It’s a comically awkward scene given the parties involved, but in the end Steve is exonerated and allowed to go free.

Afterwards Steve came back for Christmas dinner. At the dinner speeches were made. Connie’s father-in-law stood to say a few things and Carl stood to say a few things. Then Steve stood up and basically said that Carl was a very nice man, but that Connie should marry him, Steve!

Connie rejects the idea and once again Steve leaves. But in the next scene a dejected Timmy is walking into the Crowley’s department store to return the train set, because he knows that Steve needs the money. Timmy, because of his age, is able to see the owner himself, Mr. Crowley. He explains his situation and Mr. Crowley agrees to refund the money. He then drives Timmy home where Connie and Carl are desperately searching for hm.

Connie and Carl drive over to Steve’s to return the money. Before they go into the building Carl realizes that Connie’s heart is leading her towards Steve. Carl explains his thinking in the format of a legal case. Connie goes up to Steve’s apartment alone and returns the money to him. Steve once again explains Connie’s problem of settling on a suitor – more psychoanalysis. He explains that he is leaving on a train that very night for California.

Back at Connie’s Timmy tells her that when he grows up he’ll marry and leave her. At that point she realizes that she needs to follow her dream and that dream is being with Steve in California so she packs herself and Timmy up. They meet up with Steve on the train, destinies settled.

Steve Talks to Timmy

Robert Mitchum and Gordon Gebert

Robert Mitchum and Gordon Gebert

Analysis Part I

Robert Mitchum is usually in the role of the gruff tough guy so this used his talents in a way we’re not used to. A romantic comedy, really? Yet the characteristic Mitchum toughness and brashness remained present, if not perhaps a little hidden. The scene when he first meets Wendell Corey’s character shows a wonderful awkwardness portrayed by two great actors with particular restraint, for Mitchum, from his usual role.

Once past the unusual casting the movie is a delightful Christmas tale about a young widow, Connie Ennis whose circumstances are pushing her to move onward in her life, to turn the page after the death of her husband – a war casualty. Her son, Timmy is eager for her to make that move when Steve comes into the picture. Connie had been dating Carl, but that relationship lacked something and it was stagnant. So when Steve showed up it was like a breath of fresh air into the household. Timmy noticed this immediately. For Connie the two men, Carl and Steve, were a romantic choice. For Timmy the choice was who would be the better step dad. The hand of fate put a thumb on the scale in this situation on a number of occasions as Steve was quick to enumerate in one scene. He pointed out how he had left them several times only to be brought back by unforeseen circumstances.

The rivalry between Steve and Carl is calm. They each think highly of the other and Steve, the new comer, is more than willing to step aside and not interfere with the established Carl-Connie relationship … with one quite noticeable exception which will be discussed later.

No, the real conflict is within Connie’s heart and it’s not just between Steve and Carl. Her deceased husband is in that mix too. Steve points this out to her on more than one occasion. He seems to have great insight into the inner workings of Connie’s emotions. Steve knows that neither he nor Carl are in competition with each other for Connie’s affections as much as with the deceased husband.

Both Steve and Carl play the analyst at various points throughout the movie. Steve, as mentioned previously, discusses with Connie her unwillingness to let go of her past and move into her future, and eventually she will be convinced of her need to do that by Timmy when he reminds her that one day he’ll grow up have a wife of his own and Connie will be left lonely. Carl also has a scene in which he analyses Connie’s behavior. As Carl is a divorce lawyer he summarizes Connie’s affections in the form of a legal case. He concludes that Connie is really more interested in Steve than him, based on the evidence he introduces into the conversation. Connie is reluctant to admit to Carl’s conclusion but we the audience know that his summation is correct.

The Courtroom Scene

Wendell Corey, Janet Leigh, Gordon Gebert, Harry Morgan, Robert Mitchum

Wendell Corey, Janet Leigh, Gordon Gebert, Harry Morgan, Robert Mitchum

Analysis Part II

The chemistry of the love triangle is revealed in the gravitational pull exerted upon Timmy. Though not his intent Steve draws Timmy to himself by paying attention to him, treating him as a father would treat a son. Carl does not draw Timmy to himself, but instead his actions are centered solely upon Connie with Timmy being an appendage. I may have exaggerated a bit there, but clearly Timmy could relate much better with Steve than with Carl.

We are also drawn in the same way. It seems obvious to anyone who watches this move that the better match for Connie is Steve and not Carl. Connie is a bit slow to come to this conclusion, but of course when she does the movie is over.

The Christmas season is a key factor in the plot. This story could never have happened at any other time of the year. The catalyst of the entire story centers on two toy trains. The first is for the purpose of comparison shopping and the second is for the purpose of doing a kind thing.

There are several key scenes that jump out as you watch the movie. Some of the best are the scene where Timmy treks a long way through the city to return a toy train to the department store, Crowley’s. He wants to talk to Mr. Crowley himself and explain why he wants to return the train. It reminds adult viewers of how a child thinks.

Another scene is the comical scene in the courtroom where Steve is being falsely accused of theft. Oddly enough Carl serves as Steve’s lawyer. It is a comedic situation since Steve and Carl are at cross purposes with regard to Connie.

Christmas dinner serves up the most deliciously dramatic scene of the entire movie where Steve stands to make a speech as others at the table are doing. It is supposed to be a few words about what he is thankful for, but he uses it as an opportunity to propose to Connie, publicly! In my opinion that’s the biggest punch of the movie.

Finally, the movie climaxes with words of wisdom which Timmy utters to Connie which cause her to drop all the pretending and the hiding behind her deceased husband’s memory. She takes Timmy and in an act of extreme impulsivity she boards a train bound for California, the same train that Steve is riding on as he leaves town. It’s midnight at New Years; the champagne is flowing, the streamers are flying and Connie and Timmy meet up with Steve on that train at that time.

A new year brings a new beginning. The End.

The Dramatic Christmas Dinner

Gordon Gebert, Robert Mitchum, Janet Leigh

Gordon Gebert, Robert Mitchum, Janet Leigh

Movie Trailer

Steve Helps Connie with her Comparison Shopping

Steve Talks with Timmy

The Dramatic Dinner Scene

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