12 Days of Alt Christmas Viewing — #2: Love Under False Pretenses
I hadn’t realized until I started listing movies, that there are a lot Christmas movies featuring couples who fall in love under false pretenses wherein one (or both) of them is a big fat liar. So if you like love but eschew soul-bearing honesty, here are some holiday gems for you!
Christmas in Connecticut (1945)
(Peter Godfrey, Warner Brothers) Barbara Stanwyck does her sassy city gal thang as cynical magazine writer Elizabeth Lane, whose public persona is as the perfect housewife cooking up the perfect family life in Connecticut (an earlier Martha Stewart!). In reality she’s single and childless and happy to be so, but her boss (Sydney Greenstreet) doesn’t know that, so naturally he invites a returning war hero (Dennis Morgan) to accompany him out to Ann’s house for a home-cooked holiday meal. With the help of her faithful servants (S.Z. Savall and Una O’Connor always a treat), and colleague John Sloan (Reginal Gardiner) Ann tries to put it all over. She even borrows a baby — or two. Of course you can see where it’s all going, but it is rollicking fun getting there thanks to this stellar cast. [on TCM 12/13/15 12PM EST and 12/18/15 9:30 PM EST, and on DVD.]
Note that Reginald Gardner is also fun in The Man Who Came to Dinner which is coming up in my “12 Days of Alt Christmas Viewing” under the “Who’s Been Naughty” theme.
Bachelor Mother (1939)
(Garson Kanin, RKO) This was a slightly naughty film in 1939. Ginger Rogers is Polly, a single, working girl shop clerk who finds a foundling on her front porch whom everyone immediately believes to be her own child. Unable to abandon him, she takes the tyke in. No one will believe he is not her child, so she acting as if he is, and then things get out of hand.
The rich department store owner (Charles Coburn) inadvertently believes his son, David (David Niven) to be the child’s father. While David’s interested in Polly because he believes she is a ruined but brave young woman. Zany and shrewd, full of innuendo and Donald Duck wind up toys (that part is really a hoot) — this is the kind we just can’t make any more. [$2.99 to rent via YouTube]
A year later Ms. Rogers would earn an Oscar for the title role in Kitty Foyle in which she played a divorcee who discovers that she is pregnant, and thus facing life as a single mother ‘for real.’
Bundle of Joy (1956)
(Norman Taurog, RKO) This is a musical remake of Bachelor Mother starring Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher (aka Carrie Fisher’s parents). It’s not nearly as good as the original. (Fisher is no Niven.) But if you are interested in knowing how Princess Leia got her start… Debbie Reynolds was pregnant with Carrie during filming — including crazy jitterbug scenes!
[Trailer. Airing on TCM 12/18 8PM EST and 12/25 12:45PM EST)
Meet John Doe (1941)
(Frank Capra, Warner Brothers) Barbara Stanwyck as a cynical columnist again! It never gets old (no, really). Writer Ann Mitchell is fired but ordered to write one last column, so she composes a letter from a made-up, unemployed “John Doe” threatening suicide on Christmas Eve in protest of society’s ills. To everyone’s surprise, John Doe strikes a (Depression Era) chord and starts a grass-roots movement. An array of homeless men show up a the paper, claiming to be the author. Ann and her editor (James Gleason) hire John Willoughby (Gary Cooper), an ex-baseball player to play the part. Whereas Bachelor Mother toys with sexual morays, Meet John Doe plays fast and loose with leftist, populist sentiments. Capra was a master of having his bleeding-heart-liberal cake and cynically eating it too! [On YouTube (for now)]
Also in this category:
- I’ll Be Seeing You (Dieterle, Cukor, 1944)
- Shop Around the Corner (Lubitsch, 1940)
- Holiday Affair (Hartman, 1949)
- Bell, Book and Candle (Quine, 1958)
- The Bishop’s Wife (Koster, 1947)
— but I will get to those films under other categories. Consider them cross-listed.