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Thursday, 10 January 2013

Classic Film Review: Holiday Affair (1949)

Holiday Affair is a festive offering that stars Janet Leigh as Connie Ennis, a widow with a young son, Timmy (Gordon Gebert). Connie earns her money as a comparison shopper but she's not very good at it, getting sales clerk Steve Mason (Robert Mitchum) sacked when he neglects to tell his superiors he's sniffed her out. There's an evident attraction between the two but there are a couple of major problems - firstly, Connie is still wedded to the memory of her dead husband and content to style her son in his image; secondly, she has been dating lawyer Carl (Wendell Corey), a dependable man who offers no risk at all.

This is a surprising little film, making even the whirlwind romance angle seem credible. I adore Janet Leigh and this role suits her (even though she does seem a little young to have a six year old son, Leigh was only 22 at the time). Connie's business-like approach to life disintegrates when she encounters Steve, a man who eats his lunch in the park with the seals and feeds a stray squirrel whilst having the goal of moving to California to build sail boats. It's a simple enough choice - the exciting risk or the dependable lawyer - but Leigh's performance doesn't trivialise the decision. Equally, the rapport she has with Gordon Gebert as her son is delightful.

I continue to revise my opinion about Robert Mitchum (disliked him in River of No Return (1954) and His Kind of Woman (1951) but liked him in Heaven Knows, Mr Allison (1957)). He seems very comfortable in Holiday Affair and he and Leigh bounce nicely off each other. Wendell Corey puts in an adequate performance as Carl, reasonably likeable throughout, even when he realises the truth about his relationship.

This is a quiet film on many levels but touching because it deals with very human desires of safety and security. Those are enduring themes and that's what makes this film as enjoyable today as it was when first released. Although the finale may be predictable, it's no less sweeter for it.

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