Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Holiday Affair (1949) Warner Archives Blu Ray Review

 Holiday Affair (1949) Warner Archives 12/15/2020

Directed By: Don Hartman

Starring: Janet Leigh, Robert Mitchum, Wendell Corey 

Disclaimer: Warner Archives has provided me with a copy of this film free of charge for the purposes of review. All opinions contained within are my own honest reflections. 

    Before I get into this film review I think it's worth exploring a little back story. If it seems weird that tough guy Robert Mitchum would do a holiday themed rom com you are not alone. Mitchum served a two month prison stay after being busted with pot. In order to soften his public image the studio pushed him into a much lighter 'affair'. Holiday Affair bombed at the box office losing RKO a reported 300,000 or, over 3 million in today's money.  The film languished in this kind of weird obscurity until Turner Classic Movies started showing it annually in December. Because of this, the movie has found a new life and, now I suspect with a wide HD release it's cult following will grow. The film centers around a recently widowed working woman named Connie Ennis (Janet Leigh) who lives with her young son Timmy (Gordon Gebert). Wanting stability in her life the single mother is set to marry a nice straight laced lawyer named Carl (Wendell Corey). But a mysterious stranger named Steve (Robert Mitchum) de-rails her plans when he breezes into her life. Much like the three other Christmas themed movies that I will be tackling this month, 1949's Holiday Affair is a bit of an odd-duck but, one that has firmly been a part of my December viewing for many years now. The film is very much a product of it's time and by that I mean its a snapshot into the lives of post WWII Americans. Connie is still emotionally reeling from losing her husband in the war and, more fascinating is how she projects this onto her son. She does in the way she treats him like the mini-man-of-the-house, even referring to him as Mr. Ennis. Though this is only tackled with kid-gloves I think that it's a pretty interesting emotional thread to weave within the plot. Heading up the cast is Janet Leigh who dazzles in the role. Whilst she may be best remembered for her darker films like Psycho (1960) and The Manchurian Candidate (1962) she gives a enchanting performance as a struggling single mother. Some might say that Mitchum is miscast here but I actually think it works extremely well. Steve after all is a misunderstood, slightly strange character and Mitchum has the right amount of swagger and charm to pull it off. Wendell Corey, probably best remembered for his brief role in Hitchcock's Rear Window (1954) does a lot with a lets be honest a thankless role as a lawyer set to marry Connie. Like Mitchum, I think Corey has screen present and a great deal of likability. And, as far as kid actors goes Gordon Gebert is solid in the role. If I had to lobby a complaint it would be the romance itself feels awkward and a bit rushed. While Janet Leigh and Robert Mitchum do have chemistry, it's hard to believe (even in the realm of screw-ball rom coms) that Connie would just bust up her relationship for Steve in such a small amount of time. The film never gives the pair more time to really fall in love with each other. What saves the film is how screenwriter Isobel Lennart (nominated for 2 Oscars for screenwriting) does a good job at finding a nice balance between the humor, emotional core and, the warm fuzzes that come with making a seasonal offering.

Holiday Affair is a fairly-corny bit of rom-com fluff but Lenhart's writing offers a sharp witted, funny, and sweet spin on the Holiday-rom-com. Couple this with Don Hartman's wonderful direction and a spellbinding cast and you have the making of a truly special movie that's worth watching every year. 

Picture: Holiday Affair is a movie I've seen a lot on television and DVD so, this new transfer really blew me away. The film is artifact and scratch free and thus everything in my opinion retains a lot of detail missing from previous editions. Grain level is consistent throughout. Darkly lit scenes really showcase how lovely this print looks.  

Sound: Holiday Affair has a really big robust DTS 2.0 sound. Dialogue comes through nicely with no unwanted background hiss that I could notice. 

Extras: Extras include the Lux Radio Theater (12/18/1950) with Robert Mitchum and Laraine Day. Rounding out the extras is an original trailer. 

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