Although "Holiday Affair" (1949) does not deal with the wide themes of the holiday season that we see in classics such as "It's A Wonderful Life" (1946), "White Christmas" (1954), "Scrooge" (1970) or "A Christmas Story" (1983), this offbeat holiday tale still tells a heart-warming story that is fit for the season.
Actress Janet Leigh stars as "Connie Ennis," a young war widow who is raising her young son "Timmy" (Gorden Gabert) and is well aware that he needs a father to look up to. She is torn between the ideal father figure and lawyer "Carl Davis," (Wendell Corey) and "Steve Mason" (Robert Mitchum).
At the beginning of the story, Connie is already seeing Carl and considering marrying him when she is in a department store, "shopping" for the department store's competitor. Steve suspects Connie of being a comparative shopper when she buys an expensive toy train and only confirms his suspicions when she comes back the next day to return it. When Steve threatens to tell the store detective, the scene they make costs Steve his job.
Afterwards, Steve and Connie meet a few more times as Steve gets to know Connie's son Timmy and her boyfriend Carl. It is when penniless Steve is arrested under suspicion of theft, that Carl defends Steve and the judge sets him free. They invite Steve spend Christmas dinner with them but Steve has realized that he is in love with Connie and declares it during the evening. Connie asks Steve to leave, but will she go after him? Or will she marry Carl instead?
In this film, we see a mature 22-year old Janet Leigh, who despite her youth in real life, is able to portray a woman who is complex in coming to terms with her decision to replace her lost husband but still can't find the strength to actually do it.
At first, it might seem odd to see a Robert Mitchum's slightly softer side in this film but it all had to do with the place and time of the film. Mitchum's arrest and 43-day imprisonment for marijuana possession a year earlier was still an embarrassment to RKO Studios. Despite having two box office hits after Mitchum was released from prison, the studio owner, Howard Hughes, cast Mitchum in this wholesome romantic comedy in order to forget the entire ordeal once and for all.
This was Janet Leigh's first (and only film) with Robert Mitchum and while in production, Leigh saw that Mitchum loved to play practical jokes on the cast, particularly Leigh. According to Turner Classic Movies, a few of his jokes made it to the final cut of the film. In the dinner scene, Mitchum and co-star Wendell Corey put their hands onto Leigh's knee under the table during the shooting. Leigh's uncomfortable fidgeting resulted in the perfect reaction for the sequence. Later in the film, when Mitchum and Leigh's characters kiss for the first time, he really kissed her and again resulted in the perfect reaction for the sequence.
*I reviewed this film based on watching its broadcast on Turner Classic Movies channel.*