Put “Holiday Affair” on Your Christmas List

Put “Holiday Affair” on Your Christmas List
As the snow begins to crunch underfoot, classic film lovers prepare their lists of the “must see” holiday movies to enjoy during the season.

It is expected films like White Christmas, A Christmas Story, It’s a Wonderful Life, and Miracle on 34th Street will take their place solidly in the queue.

Still, there are others – less well known and overlooked year after year – that might fill out one’s holiday viewing nicely. One such film is Holiday Affair starring Robert Mitchum, Janet Leigh, and Wendell Corey.

The film is described as both a drama and as a romantic comedy, and to be fair, it lies somewhere between the two.

Connie Ennis (Leigh) is a comparison shopper who earns her living shopping, and returning, goods from her store’s competition. She is basically a retail spy for her department store.

Connie is a young widow (Leigh was only 22 at the time) with a feisty son (Gordon Gebert) and a bland-as-beige suitor named Carl Davis (Corey) who has been wooing the young Connie for the last two years.
Upon returning a train set to Crowley’s Department Store, she encounters toy salesman Steve Mason (Mitchum), sparks fly, and thus the romantic triangle is born.

Is Holiday Affair a diamond in the rough, an overlooked gem of a film? Frankly, no. The story is a bit contrived and the characters are only borderline in their believability. And yet, it is a film that is quite enjoyable to watch. It is sweet and simple, but also offers some real insight into the way we humans protect ourselves from the pain of loss.

Mitchum is cast as a romcom hero type rather than a noir, masculine, tough guy character for which he is best known. This was an intentional move by the studio to soften his image. When the film premiered in 1949, Mitchum was recovering from negative publicity brought on by a drug charge for which he was convicted.

Mitchum is one of a handful of actors who can portray a character’s sensitive side at the same time he is being forceful and strong. Perhaps that is a key to his appeal, and why the film has made a resurgence in recent years.

If you have access to Turner Classic Movies, Holiday Affair is shown annually during December. In 2020, the film is on the TCM schedule for December 23rd and December 25th. It is also available for rental on Amazon Prime for a modest rental fee.

NOTE: I screened this film at my own expense and not at the request of any outside company or service. Free-to-view versions might be available digitally. This film may also be available for purchase or through subscription-based services.

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