March 14, 2010

Deanna Durbin in "Christmas Holiday" (1944)



If you happen to think this Deanna Durbin film is all about gingerbread and mistletoe, forget it. The title of this noirish drama (based on the novel of the same name by W. Somerset Maugham) is a bit misleading, in my opinion. And I'd rank this among my top 10 films taking place at Christmas, yet aren't necessarily "Christmas films".

Dean Harens plays an American soilder on his way home for the holidays in San Francisco. He's forced to spend time in New Orleans when his plane has to make an emergency landing. Stranded and alone on Christmas eve, he walks into a house of ill repute and meets lonely singer/prostitute Jackie Lamont (Deanna) who wants to spend the holidays with him. Does she want to go to bed with him? No, she wants to go with him to midnight Christmas mass (!) Needless to say, she has some deep, dark issues.

The film, mostly told in flashback, is about the complex situtation of Deanna's troubled character and her involvement with her husband, played by Gene Kelly, a two-faced, convicted killer. Kelly makes his film entrance from beyond the shadows of Deanna' bedroom as she sleeps. Creepy. Though Dean Harens' character is reluctant to get involved, how can he not? It's Deanna, after all.

Memorable for being Durbin's darkest film, one of Kelly's earliest films, and the one where she sings "Always". Her version became a WW2 staple. With Gale Sondergaard. Directed by Robert Siodmak. The music score by Hans Salter was nominated for an Oscar. Deanna is very good in this dramatic role, and she's beautifully photographed in every scene she's in. The film leaves you wondering why she didn't make more movies like this. Or more films, period.

Here are a few other reviews:
Classic Movies Digest.
Grand Old Movies

2 comments:

  1. Hi Tom:

    Excellent blog! I'm a big fan of Deanna's and am glad to see that her talents and legacy are becoming more widely known. Just wanted to mention that the role of the young Army officer in CHRISTMAS HOLIDAY wasn't played by Richard Whorf, but by Dean Harens, and that 1935's THE GOOD FAIRY, was, like ILL BE YOURS, produced by Universal, not by MGM.

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  2. Deanna is wonderful in this film. She certainly had the makings of a serious dramatic film actress. No wonder she quit Hollywood after the steady diet of fluff Universal stuffed her with during the 'forties. I hope someone gets enough info to write a definitive biography of Deannna. She was (is, as far as I know) an incredibly talented, intriguing woman. I'd love to know what her life has been like in Neauphle-le-Ch√Ęteau over the past sixty years.

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