Just before Christmas, department store clerk Steve Mason meets big spending customer Connie Ennis, really a commercial spy. He unmasks her but lets her go, which gets him fired. They end up on a date, which doesn't sit well with Connie's steady suitor, Carl, but delights her son Timmy, who doesn't want Carl for a step-dad. Standard (if sweet) romantic complications follow.
Robert Mitchum ... Steve Mason
Janet Leigh ... 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 (as Henry Morgan)
Larry J. Blake ... Plainclothesman
Helen Brown ... Emily (Mr. Crowley's secretary)
I love this film and am amazed that it seems to have been undiscovered among the many holiday movies we are blitzed with every Christmas season. I am actually VERY happy about this, as it is usually shown only about once or twice every year on cable and has not been ruined (at least for me) by over-saturation. Its a Wonderful Life is a movie that I no longer can stand because it was shown so many times during the 1980s--sometimes on two or three or more cable channels AT THE SAME TIME!! But, somehow lazy television programmers haven't yet done this to A Holiday Affair. Hmmm,...maybe I should NOT review it so that it remains a hidden gem.
Robert Mitchum, Janet Leigh and Wendall Corey all star in this delightful little film about a train set and Christmas. Janet Leigh is a single mom (her husband having been killed in the war) and works as a comparison shopper (a spy who buys products and tests them out for competing stores). She buys a train for just this purpose but her adorable little son (Gordon Gebert) finds the very expensive train and assumes it's for him. Mitchum works at the store where this is purchased and correctly assumes she is a spy BUT because he feels sorry for her and does not turn her in, he is fired. Leigh feels sorry for him and invites him to Christmas dinner with her son and fiancé (Corey). Soon after arriving, Mitchum learns from the little boy that he thinks he's getting this great train that he found hidden in his mom's room (though this was bought for her job--the train she could afford to buy him was MUCH cheaper and less fancy). Mitchum decides to buy the kid that exact train (though he is out of work). When Leigh finds out, she is upset--Mitchum is practically a stranger and is out of work. When the boy hears this, he knows he can't keep the train and so he sneaks out of the house to return the train (although he looks to be only about 7 years-old). This scene of such a little boy wandering up the chain of command at the department store to return the train is priceless! What happens next is something you'll have to see for yourself. Although the eventual outcome is rather predictable, it arrives at this destination in such a classy and engaging way that you won't be disappointed.
This movie is perhaps one of the best examples of the magical films that Hollywood was capable of making in the 1940s. The dialog is among the best and the long string of coincidences make this film charming, not clichéd. Give it a chance--it's sure to brighten up your holiday.
World War II widow Janet Leigh supports herself and her son Gordon Gebbert with a job as a comparison shopper who runs afoul of salesman Robert Mitchum. Mitch is a rather footloose character who's got a temporary job at the Christmas buying season in New York so he can earn enough money to buy a ticket back to California where he wants to spend time building boats and living carefree.
Of course Leigh's interested, but not enough to give up the stability for herself and her son that lawyer Wendell Corey could provide and he's most interested in matrimony. So will she take Mitchum or Corey?
A Holiday Affair is one of those gazillions of films about war widows and their romances that Hollywood made for about 10 years after V-J Day. Janet Leigh is certainly a bright addition to the rolls, in her youth she had a nice innocent charm to her which in fact got her the film.
She was loaned out to RKO and Howard Hughes for a three picture deal and A Holiday Affair was the one Hughes interfered the least with. Her other two films in the package were Two Tickets to Broadway and Jet Pilot. Of course the reason she was at RKO was because Howard Hughes had his hormones in overdrive over her. She had a couple of dates with him and she was less than impressed, but Hughes took a while to get the message she wasn't interested.
She did enjoy working with both Mitchum and Corey. According to Lee Server's book on Mitchum, the set was a relaxed and happy one, but that Mitchum and Corey were full of all kinds of practical jokes. Never a dull moment.
Mitchum had some good chemistry with Leigh and with young Gordon Gebbert. Best scene in the film was at a police station where Mitchum is arrested on Christmas Day and Leigh and Corey go to straighten out a mistake. There's a droll performance by Harry Morgan as the patient police sergeant who's always up for a new story.
A Holiday Affair is a nice unpretentious little film about Christmas in New York
If ever there was a lost Christmas classic from the 40's that should be remembered every year like Miracle on 34th Street, The Bishop's Wife, and It's a Wonderful Life, this one is it. Not quite as good as the aforementioned masterpieces, but not one that should be at all forgotten, as it seems to have been.
This is an honest and engaging, and at times moving, little romcom that never strays into treacle territory. It also features excellent performances by Robert Mitchum and Janet Leigh. Mitchum rarely got roles like this and it's a shame because he's extremely likable here as an average joe who falls in love unexpectedly with Leigh's struggling single mom after he sells her a toy train in a department store.
There's a romantic triangle to overcome and the ending isn't as clear sailing to happiness as you might expect. The writing is a cut above the usual routine romantic comedy.
Some funny moments too... Mitchum and Wendell Corey, as Leigh's fiancée, making uncomfortable small talk after they meet in her apartment, and Mitchum's dead pan in the courtroom sequence.
A fine RKO holiday classic that should be remembered as such.
I am not sure why I like this movie so much. It's a very simple boy meets girl movie. The characters are all nice people, even the president of the store is a nice person he just is hard to see sometimes :) The Wendall Corey character is my favorite. He is a realist and even though he cares for Janet Leigh's character, he is realizes that unless he also can connect to "her son" this is just not going to work out. Even her 'inlaws' that visit her at Christmas time don't think he will be the best choice for her.
The movie is delightful and definitely something to watch during the holidays