“war stories” series we did a couple weeks ago, with its examination of a war widow still fighting the good fight on the home front. The trouble is, the war’s over and she cannot make herself move on.
A war widow, Janet Leigh still keeps the lamp in the window by subconsciously, and sometimes consciously, raising her boy to be a replacement for his father, and by not allowing a new husband and father a place in her heart.
I like the scene where Mitchum and Corey ruminate on how it doesn’t seem to snow as much as when they were kids, and how Corey muses it might have something to do with the atom bomb.
As we mentioned in our last post on “The Shop Around the Corner”, we’re looking at a commercial Christmas in these posts. What had been a cozy and quaint 1930s gift shop on a snowy Budapest side street in that movie becomes a bustling downtown post-war department store here. The kind of scene for which many old movie buffs are, in these days of mega malls and online shopping, nostalgic for, despite how the inconvenient dressing up and taking a cab downtown would seem today.
We love this old stuff, but I wonder if we have the guts and stamina, and patience for it?
Particularly clever is the use of electric trains, the iconic Holy Grail of Christmas presents, and also a foreshadowing of a cross-country train trip Mr. Mitchum intends to take to start his life over.
His dream is to travel to California and work at a boat building business, but he needs the dough to get there. Still, he buys Timmy the train he won’t otherwise get for Christmas, and puts himself next in line behind Wendell Corey for Janet Leigh’s hand in marriage. If she can just realize the fact that she’s free to marry.
It’s also a punch in the gut for Wendell Corey to have to sit through it, for Janet Leigh who fears it, and for her in-laws, who gamely suffer the logical discussion of who is better to be their grandson’s next father, a replacement for their son.
Another good scene is when Mitchum calmly blasts her between the eyes with self knowledge at its most uncomfortable, of what she is doing to herself and her son by not letting go of her widowhood.
Just before the end credits roll, we see a real train trip and watch Robert Mitchum take off on his new life adventure, but not alone. Just as at the beginning, the camera pulls back and the train cleverly becomes a toy again on a new train setup with tiny palm trees of his California destination. It’s like “Holiday Affair Meets Gumby.”
In this previous post, we covered how most Christmas-themed movies were not released during the holiday at all.
Thanks for shopping with me this week. And for carrying the packages. You can put them down, now. For those who celebrate Christmas, I wish you a peaceful and pleasant holiday.
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