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Thursday, February 22, 2024

Second anniversary of World War III

 


Today, February 24, 2024, marks the second anniversary of World War III.  Those who do not acknowledge it as such or think of it only as an escalation of the Russo-Ukranian War of 2014 have their heads in the sand, or their hands in a foreign adversary's pocket.  But future historians will record it as such.  

We can send arms now to Ukraine (and nearly 90 percent of that money stays in the U.S. to pay American manufacturers to replace our old supplies and stockpiles with new ones), or we can pay in American lives months down the road.  We had the same choice in the late 1930s and we blew it, largely because of the greed and stupidity, and outright bigotry, of radical right isolationists, and for many of them, a sick and slavish love of authoritarianism.  America First equates to Fascism First.  

Slava Ukraini!

The Negro Soldier - 1944


The Negro Soldier
(1944) – was a groundbreaking film for its almost astonishing portrayal of Black Americans as just Americans, with as deep a sense of responsibility for fighting a war against fascism and as profoundly courageous as their so-often portrayed white fellow citizens in inspirational films of this period.

The “inspirational films” are, of course, commonly referred to as “propaganda,” but since that word has an obvious negative connotation, I prefer to separate the wheat from the chaff and state simply that many of these World War II films were actually less about the evil enemy (propaganda) and more about our resolve to stand for integrity and justice (inspiration).

That the portrayal of Black Americans without stereotype in this movie is astonishing is, just as obvious, due to the overwhelming stereotype and often outright negative imagery of African Americans since the start of cinema.  We know that, while prejudice did not end with the conquering of our enemies in World War II, the end of the war nevertheless did mark a beginning of a more introspective examination in movies of racial injustice that slowly began to change the mood in this country.  Many historians would point to the fact that Black Americans, having contributed to the victory, were not willing to continue being treated as second-class citizens and a foolish, even ugly, stereotype.


I think, however, part of the change in society had seeds that were sewn not only by returning Black veterans but by movies of this type.  Though The Negro Soldier was not the only one of this genre, it was, and is, a fine movie that left a positive impression with the white civilian population.   It was not originally meant for them but meant only for Black recruits to inspire them to be good soldiers, but so pleased were they with the representation of themselves, that it was decided to show it to white soldiers as well, and then to the general public.  It was received very well, and in its own quiet way, made, I think, an important contribution not only to the war effort, but to the peace that followed.  Today, it is part of the National Film Registry in the Library of Congress.

Produced by Frank Capra as a follow-up to his Why We Fight series, this short documentary was made under the auspices of the War Activities Committee of the Motion Pictures Industry, commissioned by the U.S. War Department.  It was directed by Stuart Heisler and the script was written by Carlton Moss, who also appears in the role of a minister.

Mr. Moss came from the theatre.  After college he was one of the leaders of the Negro Theatre Unit of the Federal Theatre Project, one of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration endeavors to employ writers, artists, directors, actors during the Great Depression.  Moss was recommended to help run the Negro Theatre Unit by John Houseman, who was leaving that role.


The Negro Soldier
begins with a Black congregation singing in a packed downtown church, and Carlton Moss is the minister who addresses them from the pulpit.  He is not fiery or emotional, but quiet, professorial, and those of us who are fans of Mrs. Miniver (1942) (a much more famous film roundly referred to as “propaganda”) may recall the vicar played by Henry Wilcoxon.  His “Wilcoxon speech” at the end of the movie has a different tone that the words of Preacher Moss, but Moss’s sermon is just as important and necessary to hear.  Like the “Wilcoxon speech,” it is good for the soul.


First he gestures to the service flag hung in church with stars for members who are now in the military and he points out members of the congregation who are in uniform, welcoming them and including among them, a woman who is a WAC.  There is a sense of equity here not only for African Americans but for Black women, in particular.

Heavyweight champion Joe Louis is recalled for his symbolic trouncing of the German Max Schmeling in the ring, and both were now in the uniform of their respective countries “fighting for the real championship of the world.”

Jesse Owens, likewise, is recalled for his triumphs, along with Ralph Metcalfe and other team members, over the track and field German competitors at the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games.  Having thus far made the connection between the phony declarations of the superiority of the Aryan race,  Preacher Moss then quotes from Hitler’s memoir, Mein Kampf.

Moss refers to it as “The gospel according to Hitler.”  He reads a passage wherein Hitler outlines his desire to conquer by force, and as regards to themselves as Black Americans, of the folly of America to “train a born half-ape.”


This is perhaps the most startling image, to hear the vile words of an evil man read calmly from the pulpit in a house of worship, insulting to the congregation, but this has an even greater effect than angry outcry.  It is as if the evidence is put on display in court.  The camera shows us closeups of many faces in the congregation.  Here, too, is a kind of judicial proof.  They are human beings and they are not stereotypes

Then the minister takes us through United States history and Black participation in every major event from the Boston Massacre, the Battle of Lexington-Concord, Bunker Hill, Valley Forge, battles of the War of 1812, pointing out with images perhaps revelatory to those in the theater audience who were unaware of the longstanding and unbroken involvement of African Americans in the history of the nation.  We catch a glimpse of Black faces peering out from broad-brimmed hats and bonnets on covered wagons heading West as pioneers.  These people are part of history but were not part of history books for likely a majority of the theater audience.

Moving closer to the present day, Black soldiers are seen in the Spanish-American War and in World War I.  Then Moss moves on to images of notable Black Americans in fields of science, literature, art, finance, medicine. 

In the present war, Dorie Miller, who was awarded the Navy Cross for heroism at Pearl Harbor, and who died in battle the year before this film was released, is briefly mentioned, as well as the Tuskegee pilots, but the film shifts at this point from these noble images to the equally noble if mundane review of a new recruit’s experiences.


A mother in the congregation reads aloud a letter from her son, who recently entered the Army.  She is Mrs. Bronson, played by Bertha Wolford or Woolford (who seems to have had uncredited parts in only three other films, including Night and Day, covered here). 


The flashback scenes show her son arriving on the train platform with other men, including white recruits, as they shed civilian dress and go through the process of induction.  They are interviewed, taught military courtesy, yelled at by sergeants, stumble around marching, until they finally become soldiers.  


On leave, he attends a dance and there is the romantic image of him dancing with a lovely young woman.  He also observes WACs in training and offers his admiration for them in his letter to his mother.

His next post, he hopes, will be officer’s candidate school.  He is no stereotype, nor is his quietly proud mother, nor is anyone in the congregation.  Over 900,000 African Americans served in the military in World War II all over the globe.  One of the few complaints of the film is it does not stress the injustice of a segregated military.  Nevertheless, the film leaves its audience, as all good films should, with something to think about and to broaden their minds.

Have a look at The Negro Soldier here on YouTube.


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Our greatest gift from the Greatest Generation was freedom from fascism. Relive, and celebrate, how evil was faced, discussed, dramatized...and fought. Classic films were Hollywood's weapon.

Get your copy of my book Hollywood Fights Fascism here at Amazon in print or eBook, or here at Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo, and a variety of other online shops.

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Jacqueline T. Lynch is the author of Ann Blyth: Actress. Singer. Star. and Movies in Our Time - Hollywood Mirrors and Mimics the Twentieth Century and Hollywood Fights Fascism and Christmas in Classic Films. TO JOIN HER READERS' GROUP - follow this link for a free book as a thank-you for joining.



Thursday, February 15, 2024

Hollywood actresses model military uniforms...


 

Four Hollywood stars model the new fashions in this November 1944 Photoplay spread.  Laraine Day shows the Women Marines uniform on the far left.  Next to her is Jeanne Crain in the uniform of a SPAR, which was the U.S. Coast Guard Women's Reserve.  Next is Gloria DeHaven as a WAC -- Women's Army Corps.  On the far right is Joyce Reynolds in a WAVES uniform - Women's Naval Reserve (or Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service).

Women were encouraged to do their bit in many civilian endeavors during World War II, and for the first time, also encouraged to join the military.  Perhaps Photoplay thought they might like to choose a branch of service based on the style of uniform.  It has been well documented that war movies usually increased recruitment among the men.  We don't know the effect this feature article might have done for female enlistment, but the ladies look swell.

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Our greatest gift from the Greatest Generation was freedom from fascism. Relive, and celebrate, how evil was faced, discussed, dramatized...and fought. Classic films were the weapon.

Get your copy of Hollywood Fights Fascism here at Amazon in print or eBook, or here at Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo, and a variety of other online shops.

  ************

Jacqueline T. Lynch is the author of Ann Blyth: Actress. Singer. Star. and Movies in Our Time - Hollywood Mirrors and Mimics the Twentieth Century and Hollywood Fights Fascism and Christmas in Classic Films. TO JOIN HER READERS' GROUP - follow this link for a free book as a thank-you for joining.


Thursday, January 18, 2024

Requiescat in pace - Bill Hayes


Bill Hayes, longtime cast member of the daytime drama Days of Our Lives, passed away at 98 years of age.  Remarkably, fans of the show will note he worked right up until the end -- appearing at the annual Christmas episode with his wife and castmate Susan Seaforth Hayes (reportedly, they were introduced to each other by castmate Macdonald Carey).  (The program left broadcast television in 2022 but continues streaming on NBC's Internet "Peacock" channel.)

Mr. Hayes very kindly allowed me to interview him on Ann Blyth for my book, Ann Blyth: Actress. Singer. Star. in 2014.  (Has it really been ten years?)  He was charming, funny, and gracious.  I enjoyed talking with him very much and listening to his memories of his career in theatre and television.

He first appeared with Ann Blyth in the summer theatre production of Brigadoon in 1968 at the St. Louis Municipal Opera (MUNY), and in 1985 they appeared opposite each other in Song of Norway at the Long Beach Civil Opera.  In 1992, they formed a cabaret act and sang together at New York's exclusive Rainbow & Stars room atop Rockefeller Center and continued to play other dates across the country in the early 1990s.

His contribution to my book was invaluable, and I'll carry the warm memory of my chat with this dear man always.  My heartfelt condolences to his family and loved ones.  As Ann Blyth is still with us, this is, undoubtedly, her loss as well.

For more on Bill Hayes' long career, have a look at this article in The Hollywood Reporter.


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Our greatest gift from the Greatest Generation was freedom from fascism. Relive, and celebrate, how evil was faced, discussed, dramatized...and fought. Classic films were the weapon.

Get your copy of Hollywood Fights Fascism here at Amazon in print or eBook, or here at Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo, and a variety of other online shops.

  ************

Jacqueline T. Lynch is the author of Ann Blyth: Actress. Singer. Star. and Movies in Our Time - Hollywood Mirrors and Mimics the Twentieth Century and Hollywood Fights Fascism and Christmas in Classic Films. TO JOIN HER READERS' GROUP - follow this link for a free book as a thank-you for joining.



Thursday, January 11, 2024

Singing on set...and goodbye to a beloved star.


I wanted to share with you this great video on YouTube by Mark Milano on his Broadway Classics channel, posted recently on Facebook.  It's a compilation of movie scenes where singing was live and not lip-synched to audio playback, as was and is the usual custom for film.  I was pleased to see the Jane Wyman and Bing Crosby duet of "In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening" among them from Here Comes the Groom (1951).  This was mentioned on my previous post on that movie here.

Other gems are when Ethel Waters sings "His Eye Is on the Sparrow" in Member of the Wedding (1952), and Julie Andrews singing "Jenny" in Star! (1968) in an acrobatic circus skit.  

Have a look at the video on YouTube here.




Also, we mark the passing of Glynis Johns, whose 100th birthday we noted in October in this previous post.  Well done, Sister Suffragette, on a long life and splendid career.





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Our greatest gift from the Greatest Generation was freedom from fascism. Relive, and celebrate, how evil was faced, discussed, dramatized...and fought. Classic films were the weapon.

Get your copy of Hollywood Fights Fascism here at Amazon in print or eBook, or here at Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo, and a variety of other online shops.

  ************

Jacqueline T. Lynch is the author of Ann Blyth: Actress. Singer. Star. and Movies in Our Time - Hollywood Mirrors and Mimics the Twentieth Century and Hollywood Fights Fascism and Christmas in Classic Films. TO JOIN HER READERS' GROUP - follow this link for a free book as a thank-you for joining.


Thursday, January 4, 2024

Public Domain Day - 2024



Happy Public Domain Day!

Time for our annual look at the films being released into public domain as of January 1st.  For 2024, we find ourselves in the toehold of the sound era with movies from 1928:


The Crowd, which we covered here in this previous post.

The Cameraman with Buster Keaton


The Man Who Laughs
- Conrad Veidt at his creepiest

The Wind - Lillian Gish (a movie I keep meaning to cover.  Maybe this year.)


The Last Command
- for which Emil Jannings won the first Best Actor Oscar.

Street Angel - with Janet Gaynor

The Circus - Charlie Chaplin, of course.

Speedy - Harold Lloyd's last silent feature

Should Married Men Go Home?  - first teaming of Laurel and Hardy.


And...believe it or not... we get Disney cartoons escaping from the tight hold of the Disney vault - the iconic Steamboat Willie and Plane Crazy.

For more on films, books, and music now entering public domain, have a look at this article by Jennifer Jenkins on the website: Duke Center for the Study of Public Domain.


Here's a look at our past posts on movies entering public domain:

Another Old Movie Blog: Public Domain Day - 2023

Another Old Movie Blog: Public Domain Day - 2022

Another Old Movie Blog: Public Domain Day - 2021

Another Old Movie Blog: Public Domain Day - 2020

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Our greatest gift from the Greatest Generation was freedom from fascism. Relive, and celebrate, how evil was faced, discussed, dramatized...and fought. Classic films were the weapon.

Get your copy of Hollywood Fights Fascism here at Amazon in print or eBook, or here at Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo, and a variety of other online shops.

  ************

Jacqueline T. Lynch is the author of Ann Blyth: Actress. Singer. Star. and Movies in Our Time - Hollywood Mirrors and Mimics the Twentieth Century and Hollywood Fights Fascism and Christmas in Classic Films. TO JOIN HER READERS' GROUP - follow this link for a free book as a thank-you for joining.

Thursday, December 28, 2023

Happy New Year!


My deepest thanks for the pleasure of your company in 2023, and best wishes to all for a pleasant and peaceful 2024!

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 24, 2023

Merry Christmas!

 A very Merry Christmas for those who celebrate!


Recently, I was interviewed by Gregory Wakeman for the BBC website on The Shop Around the Corner (1940)  which we previously discussed here.  Have a look at the article at this link.



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Get your copy of CHRISTMAS IN CLASSIC FILMS here at Amazon in print or eBook...

...and here at Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo, and a variety of other online stores.

  ************

Jacqueline T. Lynch is the author of Ann Blyth: Actress. Singer. Star. and Movies in Our Time - Hollywood Mirrors and Mimics the Twentieth Century and Hollywood Fights Fascism and Christmas in Classic Films. TO JOIN HER READERS' GROUP - follow this link for a free book as a thank-you for joining.




Thursday, December 21, 2023

Christmas Eve - 1947


 

Christmas Eve (1947) coasts on its title and its setting on Christmas Eve to enter the hallowed sphere of yuletide movies, but it’s not very Christmas-y.  The sentiment, what little there is of it, seems forced and we have to even wonder what the point is. 

Ann Harding, fresh off her great role in It Happened on 5th Avenue (1947) has a very different role here as a much older, frail, wealthy dowager who is lonely and a bit eccentric.  Her nephew, played by Reginald Denny, wants control of her finances.  The judge will decide her competence, and perhaps even her moral value, on the contest if her three adopted sons will return home to visit her on Christmas Eve.  We need to accept a lot of plot points on face value if we are to enjoy a movie, especially a Christmas movie, but this seems to stretch things not only beyond belief but beyond our ability to perhaps even enjoy the film. 

She is most proud of the fact that her three adoptive sons left home years ago to make their own way in the world and not sponge off her, like Reginald Denny.  Will they come home if she bids them?  She has had no contact with them for years.  That is the suspense of the story, but we are taken down avenues of the men’s current adventures that may make us doubt not only that they will make it home, but that they are even worth seeing.


George Brent plays her son Michael, who is a playboy, bankrupt, and not above writing bad checks, and trying to marry heiresses on the strength of their family fortune.  Regular gal Joan Blondell attaches herself to him like a barnacle and intends to drag him to the altar whether he likes it or not.  She’s probably the only thing that can save him from himself.

George Raft plays her son Mario, who is a gangster, but we see he has his good points too, taking the rap years ago for a crime Reginald Denny committed, just for the old lady’s sake.  His side story is the most interesting, an action-packed episode of fisticuffs with Nazis on a yacht off South America. It’s a risk for him to enter the U.S. with the feds after him, but anything for Mom.

Randolph Scott plays her son Jonathan, a rodeo cowboy who drinks quite a bit, and isn’t the sharpest blade in the drawer, but he proves to be a good guy, too, when he adopts (or runs off with) three baby girls and with luck, manages to entangle himself romantically with the lady officer incognito who is trying to break up a black-market baby adoption ring.  His rash action makes Ann Harding an instant grandma, and she couldn’t be happier.

By the end of the film, the boys have made it back to Ann Harding’s mansion, and the judge lets her keep control of her finances, and Reginald Denny is in trouble.  John Litel’s along as an FBI agent here to escort George Raft to prison, but he’s a good egg and they all have Christmas Eve dinner first. 

They bow their heads to say grace, and then the fade-out.  It’s a Christmas movie in spite it itself, but leaves us wondering, “What the heck was that?”  You can believe in Santa Claus, but it’s harder to believe this.

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Get your copy of CHRISTMAS IN CLASSIC FILMS here at Amazon in print or eBook...

...and here at Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo, and a variety of other online stores.

  ************

Jacqueline T. Lynch is the author of Ann Blyth: Actress. Singer. Star. and Movies in Our Time - Hollywood Mirrors and Mimics the Twentieth Century and Hollywood Fights Fascism and Christmas in Classic Films. TO JOIN HER READERS' GROUP - follow this link for a free book as a thank-you for joining.


Thursday, December 14, 2023

"That's What I Want for Christmas"


Stowaway
(1936), which is not a Christmas movie, ends the movie with a Christmas scene in which Shirley Temple sings about what she wants for Christmas.

It’s used to tie up the movie, to show the happily ever after of her new family. In this adventure, Shirley is the orphaned daughter of missionaries in China. Cute as a bug, she’s raised speaking Chinese and learning Confucius-type pearls of wisdom from Philip Ahn. She’s on her own after the person who is assigned to take her to safety away from country bandits does not do his job. She wanders into Robert Young, a rich American playboy, and accidently stows away on the very ship he is taking around the South Seas. Also on board is Alice Faye, who chides Mr. Young on both his wealth and his irresponsibility (she is traveling with her dour future mother-in-law played by Helen Westley to reunite with her drip of a fiancĂ© on a colonial plantation), but Alice eventually warms to Robert as they both find themselves shipboard babysitters to Shirley. Young’s valet, the ever-proper Arthur Treacher, helps.

Young wants to adopt Shirley, and he and Alice Faye create a fake marriage so that he can do so, which then after a few twists and turns in the plot, and a few songs, the judge in Reno at their divorce decides they should stay together. 

In the final scene, everybody’s sitting around the Christmas tree in their jammies and bathrobes and Shirley, the little girl everybody wants for a daughter in the 1930s, sings “That’s What I Want for Christmas.”  The lyrics include shoes for poor children everywhere, and soldiers who never fight, and making her new mommy and daddy happy, safe, and strong. What a swell kid!

Christmas is a convenient sort of ready-made finale for this movie. It’s the shorthand for happily ever after.

But I keep worrying about Philip Ahn not knowing where she is. 


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Get your copy of CHRISTMAS IN CLASSIC FILMS here at Amazon in print or eBook...

...and here at Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo, and a variety of other online stores.

  ************

Jacqueline T. Lynch is the author of Ann Blyth: Actress. Singer. Star. and Movies in Our Time - Hollywood Mirrors and Mimics the Twentieth Century and Hollywood Fights Fascism and Christmas in Classic Films. TO JOIN HER READERS' GROUP - follow this link for a free book as a thank-you for joining.


Thursday, December 7, 2023

Strictly Personal - 1945


Today, we mark Pearl Harbor Day, the 82nd anniversary of the catastrophe that brought the United States into the worldwide fight against fascism.  It's a shame it often seems to take a catastrophe to take a stand against the evils of fascism, but to our credit, once we get going, we can do a good job of it.

Hollywood, as we've noted many times on this blog, helped enormously to get out the message on the evils of fascism and did much to support the Allied war effort.  This previous post on FMPU - the First Motion Picture Unit of the U.S. Army discussed the production of war information and training films, and this previous post on Resisting Enemy Interrogation (1944) highlighted one of those films, featuring many actors early in their careers who have since become well known to us.


Sara Haden, quite familiar to us old movie buffs and certainly familiar to movie audiences in her day, starred in another training film, this one meant for the Women's Army Corps (WAC).  Strictly Personal (1945), about 35 minutes long, is an interesting film for its frank and rather easygoing discussion of health and hygiene.  In similar films meant for male recruits, the message of health and hygiene was sometimes delivered with humor and cartoons, as if the subject was too uncomfortable for the boys to receive it in any other way.  Films discussing sex and venereal disease were perhaps delivered with more seriousness and certainly, more warning.  

Strictly Personal seems to take for granted its audience would be interested in the subject, and perhaps they were; it contains actually sound advice even for today on nutrition, exercise, musculature, sleep, health and dental concerns, as well as instruction in the use of cosmetics and hair care within the restrictions of military regulations.  Discussion of constipation and menstruation is particularly refreshing for the no-nonsense and friendly advice.  We may imagine that some young women back in the day got scant scientific information on these subjects at home.  The subject of menopause is also introduced, with the reassuring promise that it would not mean the end of enjoyment of sex.  No warnings about venereal disease, though.   At the time, the WAC was open to women volunteers between 21 and 45 years of age.  As the narrator tells us, the women can aspire to be "in perfect shape -- that's what it takes for the man-sized job you've picked for yourselves when you volunteered."


Sara Haden, with her mid-Atlantic stage diction, presents these topics breezily and banishes the very idea that her audience should be at all embarrassed.  The daughter of actress Charlotte Walker, Miss Haden began on stage in the 1920s and made her film debut in 1934.  We know her from many films where she portrayed spinster-type supporting roles, usually somebody's aunt -- most famously, Andy Hardy's Aunt Milly.  It's interesting to think that her contribution to the war effort was probably the most screen time she got in her long career.  However, like many from Hollywood who appeared in these military training films, she was uncredited.

You can watch Strictly Personal shared from YouTube below:



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Jacqueline T. Lynch is the author of Ann Blyth: Actress. Singer. Star. and Movies in Our Time - Hollywood Mirrors and Mimics the Twentieth Century and Hollywood Fights Fascism and Christmas in Classic Films. TO JOIN HER READERS' GROUP - follow this link for a free book as a thank-you for joining.



Thursday, November 30, 2023

Auntie Mame - 1958


Auntie Mame
(1958) presents one of the most concise and yet comprehensive illustrations of Christmas in yuletide filmdom. It is only one episode in the smorgasbord of events in the life of larger-than-life Mame Dennis (catch the “life is a banquet” reference), but it contains more Christmas bang for your buck than a lot of “Christmas movies.”

Rosalind Russell, lovingly and superbly over the top as Mame, has lost her fortune in the infamous October 1929 Wall Street Crash. In the Great Depression, she must work for a living and after losing a string of jobs in the funniest way possible, she finds herself struggling through her latest employment, working the toy counter in a New York City department store. 

This one, as in Miracle on 34th Street (1947), covered here, is in the champion of them all, Macy’s. Roz has trouble filling out her sales slip book for cash transactions, so she encourages her customers to purchase toys C.O.D. The floorwalker morphs from mere steam coming out of his ears to ulcers.

Lucky for Roz, a good-hearted Southern Gentleman millionaire stops in to buy several pairs of roller skates for an orphanage back home. She messes up the sale and gets fired. Hilariously, in a spirit of Christmas revenge, she urges the millionaire, played by Forrest Tucker, to shop at Macy’s competitor, Gimbel’s, instead. 

She walks outside into the dark night of wintry, snowy streets with festively decorated store windows, and “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” wafting through the air from some unseen choir, and the sound of bell ringing from the street corner Salvation Army volunteer. Roz is poor, but still a good egg, and she drops her last coin into the bucket.

When she arrives back at her apartment, her little nephew, Patrick, played by Jan Handzlik, is home from boarding school and is excitedly decorating the living room. It is a week away from Christmas. There is a table-top tree. He wants to celebrate Christmas now because he’s so excited to give her a present. It’s a costume bracelet, which she treats like diamonds. Taking courage, she calls in the housekeeper Nora, played by our wonderful Connie Gilchrist, and the houseman Ito, played by Yuki Shimoda.

Roz gives Patrick and the staff their presents because they need Christmas now. Christmas is restorative, and a rope to cling to of hope. The staff’s present to her is to have paid off the butcher and grocery bills.

They dance around, sing “Deck the Halls” along with the radio, until Roz, overcome by the joy, the fear, the shame of not paying her bills or her staff, collapses into tears. All the colors of Christmas swirled into the image.

Then, a Christmas miracle. Forrest Tucker has tracked her down, apologizes for her losing her job, and comes to take them all out to dinner. There is joy and celebration again. Of course, those familiar with the story will know he becomes her dearly beloved husband.

The stories her nephew wrote about Mame Dennis were published in a book in 1955, and the Broadway play came in 1956. Roz, little Jan Handzlik, Mr. Shimoda, and also Peggy Cass were all in the stage play (Roz was nominated for a Tony), and this lush and offbeat movie that resurrected Roz’s career came in 1958. She was nominated for an Oscar.

This Christmas scene also left another legacy. In 1966, the stage musical version Mame, starring Angela Lansbury, gave us a popular Christmas song to add to our repertoire, “We Need a Little Christmas”…right this very minute.


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Get your copy of CHRISTMAS IN CLASSIC FILMS here at Amazon in print or eBook...

...and here at Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo, and a variety of other online stores.

  ************

Jacqueline T. Lynch is the author of Ann Blyth: Actress. Singer. Star. and Movies in Our Time - Hollywood Mirrors and Mimics the Twentieth Century and Hollywood Fights Fascism and Christmas in Classic Films. TO JOIN HER READERS' GROUP - follow this link for a free book as a thank-you for joining.

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