It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas: I’ll BE SEEING YOU (1944)

Here we are three days before Christmas and I have one more movie for the holiday season.  It seems to be almost poetic that we end with this film because it has something in common with my other favorite under appreciated Christmas movie, REMEMBER THE NIGHT (which was the movie that started us off for holiday movies).  I’LL BE SEEING YOU is not a movie that I had heard of before but I recently came across this post by SisterCelluloid.  She described this movie so beautifully that I had to set my DVR and watch it for myself.  And thank goodness (and SisterCelluloid) I did!

In a train station at Christmas time men and women bustle to and fro, soldiers and sailors on leave chat, buy souvenirs, and rush to catch their trains.  Amidst all this chaos two people drift, just slightly out of sync with the rest of the people around them.  Mary Marshall (Ginger Rogers) and Sgt. Zachary Morgan (Joseph Cotten) are each passengers on the train to Pine Hill, on board which they meet.  Each carries with them a secret, one that makes them social outcasts.  Zachary suffers from shell shock and has been living at the military hospital.  The doctors there have granted him a Christmas vacation away from the hospital to prove to him that he is getting well and will eventually be able to return to the real world.  Mary is an inmate at the Women’s Prison and is on furlough for Christmas, traveling to visit with her relatives.  Of course neither one shares their secret with the other.  Mary pretends that she is a traveling sales girl and Zachary claims he is going to see his sister.  As the train pulls into the station the two disembark together.  Mary climbs into her cab and Zachary asks her name and the address where she will be staying.  He tells her he plans to call her, which Mary happily agrees to and the two part company.  Zachary goes to the local YMCA and Mary arrives at the house of her Aunt Sarah (Spring Byington), Uncle Henry (Tom Tully), and cousin Barbara (Shirley Temple).

Mary finds herself welcomed with open arms, at least by Aunt Sarah and Uncle Henry.  Barbara, with whom she is sharing a room, is friendly but there are not so subtle slights such as separate soaps for each of them and towels marked by names.  Mary notes these slights but makes no mention of them, feeling that it is almost her due because of her situation.  She feels out-of-place in the world having lost three years inside the prison.  She laments to Aunt Sarah her loss of youthful dreams such as having a husband and a child, a home of her own.  She feels that she is out of sync with the rest of the people around her, and she regrets not having something purposeful or meaningful in her life because of her prison sentence.  With three years left to serve it doesn’t seem to Mary that these are things that will change any time soon.  And then the telephone rings.  It is Zachary and he is calling to speak with Mary.  He asks her to come out with him as he has found that his sister is not in town, so he will be all alone.  Mary counters and invites him to dinner, much to Barbara’s delight.

Dinnertime arrives and so does Zachary, and he is instantly made to feel at home.  Barbara is terribly excited to have a soldier over for dinner and it is all Aunt Sarah can do to get her back into the kitchen to help.  Zachary privately confides to Mary that he doesn’t really have a sister in town, he simply got off the train to keep seeing Mary.  Before Mary can respond to this news dinner is served, and conversation turns to Zachary and his many medals.  Barbara notes that he has been awarded the Purple Heart and wonders how he was wounded.  In order to change the subject Aunt Sarah asks Zachary about his sister but just as he is about to tell the truth about his pretend sister, Mary steps in and backs up his story.  All forgiven, Mary and Zachary leave to attend a war movie.  During the film Zachary can barely look at the screen and after he is evasive when answering Mary’s questions about his time in the war.  But, he happily notes, Mary is the first person that he feels comfortable enough with to talk about his experiences.  He is feeling so good that he suggests that they go and get a drink at a local soda fountain.  While there they are served by a soda jerk who was a soldier in the First World War.  He relates to them the story of his own experience with shell shock that has left him with a facial tic.  Zachary becomes more and more uncomfortable during his story, until he finally rushes from the booth and out into the night air.  Mary follows and Zachary apologizes for his behavior but he is unable to tell her the truth behind his emotional reaction.

Back home Mary finds Barbara still awake, writing letters to serve as morale boosters to her list of soldiers.  As Mary goes to put her coat in the closet she finds that Barbara has divided the closet, keeping her belongings separate from Mary’s.  Sensing Barbara’s distrust, Mary relates to her the real story of why she was sent to prison. For those who haven’t seen this movie, I”m not going to spoil this part here.  It is a big reveal and pretty shocking, deserving of the surprise the filmmakers intended.  I think that those who have seen this movie would agree with me.  After learning the truth, Barbara begs Mary for forgiveness and the two cousins make a fresh start.

The next day Zachary calls on Mary and invites her out to the lake.  He wants to explain his behavior from the night before and reveals his condition to her.  He is most afraid of ending up like the soda jerk and becomes frustrated because he knows himself better than the doctors do.  They tell him that he is doing just fine, but he knows his timing and his rhythms and something is still off.  He asks Mary to help him believe in himself just as she believes in herself.  Mary agrees but is distracted because while they have been walking they have gotten closer and closer to the state line.  She encourages Zachary to have faith while subtly steering him away from the border.  Once home she confides in her Aunt Sarah, wondering if she shouldn’t just tell Zachary the truth about her situation.  She feels that Zachary is beginning to care for her, and she obviously cares for him (even if she denies it) so that it might be for the best to be honest.  However, Aunt Sarah advises against it wondering what good would it do as Mary is only on furlough for a few more days and after all “it isn’t as if they were getting married”.  Mary sadly agrees but things take a turn when Zachary invites the entire family to the YMCA for a New Year’s dance.

This is such a wonderful movie, I really hope it becomes more well-known.  Ginger Rogers is terrific and shows every reason why she is an Oscar award-winning actress.  Too often I think Ginger Rogers gets pushed aside and categorized simply as a dancer or Fred Astaire’s partner, but she was an extremely talented actress.  I liked her in KITTY FOYLE, for which she won said Oscar, but I LOVED her in this.  Mary is guarded, sad, grateful, loving, and fragile.  The emotions she shows feel honest and real, and it never feels like acting.  Joseph Cotten is wonderful, really showing a different side of himself.  I’m used to seeing him in roles such as GASLIGHT or THE STRANGER, roles where he is completely self-possessed and confident.  But as Zachary Morgan, he shows such a vulnerability and brokenness that he seems to be a different man altogether.  Together, he and Ginger are just magic.  It’s more than just chemistry, it’s believability.  You honestly feel that these are two real people and you are simply watching their lives unfold.  I loved this movie and I hope to find a copy for my own collection soon, which is a bit difficult as it is out of print.  Hopefully it gains a larger audience, especially now that TCM has added it to the rotation.  This might be a Christmas movie, but it is a film that is beautiful, poignant, and touching any time of year.


It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas: HOLIDAY AFFAIR (1949)

Well, here it is only eight days until Christmas and we have what may very well be my last Christmas themed post of the season.  I have one or two more that I would like to be able to watch and blog about before the big day, but that will be contingent on whether or not the presents get wrapped, the house gets cleaned, and the car gets packed for our road trip next week.  So, if I can post another Christmas movie I will but if I can’t we are ending with one that I really enjoy!  I stumbled across this movie a few years ago, initially attracted because Robert Mitchum was in a Christmas movie!  From 1949 and directed by Don Hartman, it’s HOLIDAY AFFAIR!

Steve Mason (Robert Mitchum) is working at his job in the Crowley Department Store toy department, entertaining young children with the latest model train under the disapproving watch of the floor walkers.  He is approached by Connie Ennis (Janet Leigh), who asks to purchase said train without asking any questions.  Steve is slightly suspicious and he has good reason to be.  Connie takes her newly purchased train and along with her other bundles, hurries off to the nearest phone booth.  Connie works as a comparison shopper for one of Crowley’s competitors and she has bought the train as part of her assignment.  After giving her report over the phone, Connie heads back home where she is greeted by her six-year-old son Timmy (Gordon Gebert) aka Mr. Ennis.  Timmy is the man of the house, a role he had to take on after his father was killed during World War II.  He and Connie live alone in a small apartment, calling each other “Mr. Ennis” and “Mrs. Ennis”.  Connie unloads her packages and sends Timmy off to wash up while she gets dinner ready.  Timmy can’t contain himself and sneaks a peek, and finding the train set assumes it is for him.  He is so excited for his Christmas present, until Connie (who doesn’t know that he has looked) tells him that there will be no train set under the tree this year.

That night Timmy and Connie are joined by Carl Davis (Wendell Corey), a lawyer and a suitor of Connie’s.  While Timmy gets ready for bed, Connie and Carl wash the dishes.  It is over the dirty dishes and bubbles that Carl proposes to Connie.  She doesn’t give him an immediate answer and Carl leaves asking her to think it over.  Connie tells Timmy that Carl has proposed and, not surprisingly, Timmy is less than thrilled about the entire situation.  As she is leaving his room, Timmy tells Connie that if she marries Carl “she won’t be Mrs. Ennis anymore”.  The next day Connie goes back to Crowley’s to return the train set and who should appear to wait on her but Steve.  He lets Connie know that he is aware of who she really is and who she is working for.  He is supposed to call the store detective and report her but, after hearing Connie’s story and learning that she is the only income for her small family, decides against it and lets Connie go with a warning not to return to Crowley’s and a full refund.  This does not go unnoticed by the floor walkers and Steve loses his job.  Connie feels terrible for causing Steve to become unemployed so close to Christmas and Steve asks her to join him for lunch as a way to make it up to him.

Steve takes Connie to eat in Central Park, keeping company with the seals, and the two share stories of their lives.  Connie is impressed with Steve’s plans to design sailboats with a friend in California and Steve is eager to hear about Timmy and Connie’s life.  The two have a very pleasant time talking and lose track of time, causing Connie to be late going back to work doing more comparison shopping.  Steve offers to help her make her deadline and the two head off together.  A few hours later, now loaded down with packages, they rush to catch the bus but are separated in the holiday crowd.  Connie returns to her apartment with only half of her purchases to find Carl and Timmy trimming the Christmas tree together.  Connie begins to tell them about her day when there is a knock at the door.  It’s Steve!  He managed to track her down through various tactics and is now here to return her packages.  Carl is suspicious of Steve, but he remains polite.  Timmy is thrilled by Steve and takes an immediate liking to him.  But Timmy is still upset about the loss of the train and it causes him to fight with Carl, in front of Connie and Steve.  Connie begins to send Timmy to his room but when Carl picks up the angry little boy, Connie yells at him to take his hands off her son.  Frustrated and hurt Carl leaves the apartment and Connie sends Timmy to bed with no supper.  She apologizes to Steve for the scene he just witnessed.  Steve surprises her by suggesting that Connie is partly to blame because she is constantly trying to turn Timmy into a miniature version of her late husband.  Connie angrily asks Steve to show himself out and goes off to wash the dishes.  Steve stops by to say good-bye to Timmy, who then tells him all about the train.  Steve encourages Timmy to always aim higher than his dreams and, perhaps taking his own advice, passionately kisses Connie before leaving the apartment.  Carl returns and Connie, prompted by Steve’s kiss, decides to accept his proposal.

Christmas morning dawns and Timmy leaps into bed to cover his mother with kisses.  He keeps thanking her over and over again, saying that she has giving him the best Christmas present and she really had him fooled.  Confused, Connie goes out into the living room and finds Timmy playing with the electric train that she had returned the day before.  The package was sitting in the hall outside their apartment, with a card on it to Timmy from Santa.  She can’t think where it came from until Timmy reveals that he told Steve about his wish for a train for Christmas.  Realizing that Steve has given her son the train, Connie decides to go and confront Steve.  She finds him in Central Park, almost completely broke.  Steve refuses her offer of money, saying that he wants Timmy to have the train so that he will believe in the possibility of dreams coming true.  Connie asks what he will do now and Steve reveals that he is going to travel to California to design boats, once he has money for a ticket that is.  Connie presents Steve with a loud necktie as a Christmas present (something Timmy encouraged her to do) which he is thrilled by.  Taking off his old tie, Steve offers it to a passing bum who accepts it gleefully.  A few moments later a little girl on roller skates (because she didn’t get ice skates for Christmas) with a balloon on her hat approaches Steve and presents him with a salt and pepper shaker, a present from the man he gave a necktie too.  Connie reveals to Steve that she and Carl are going to be married, prompting Steve to talk again about Connie’s need to let go of the past and embrace the future.  Annoyed by Steve’s lecture, Connie leaves the park and returns to her home where Timmy and her in-laws are waiting.

Connie’s in-laws have heard from Timmy that his mother is to be married, and they assume it must be to this Mr. Steve Mason they have heard so much about from Timmy.  Connie denies this, and tells them that she is to be married to Carl which doesn’t thrill them nearly as much.  Speaking of Carl, he soon joins the Christmas party and is greeted by everyone, including Timmy who has apologized for his bad behavior the other night.  Another unexpected guest soon comes to the door, but it is not anyone they could have expected.  This is a city detective looking for the Connie Ennis who just met with Steve Mason in Central Park.  It seems that morning a man was mugged in Central Park, robbed of money and a set of silver salt and pepper shakers, and tied up with a necktie.  Not only was Steve found with the salt and pepper shaker on his person, but it was his necktie that was used to tie the poor man up!  Connie, Carl, and Timmy head down to the police station to alibi Steve.  Connie backs up Steve’s story, little girl with roller skates and a balloon on her head and all, and the police release him.  Timmy asks Connie if they can invite Steve back to their home for Christmas dinner.  Though resistant at first, Connie finally relents and so it is that they all gather around to share a Christmas feast.  After dinner is finished, Connie’s father-in-law starts the speeches by thanking his wife for their many wonderful years together.  Carl then gets up to thank them all for welcoming him into their family and he hopes that next year he will finally be able to have the wife and son he has longed for.  After some prodding, Steve stands up to give his Christmas speech.  He says what he was always going to say, thank you and goodbye, but he adds something else.  He is in love with Connie and when a man is in love with a woman he should say something.  And he doesn’t think that Connie should marry Carl, rather he thinks she should marry him.

I really do love Robert Mitchum.  I have always had a soft spot for him, which I think started with HEAVEN KNOWS, MR. ALLISON.  He is a “bad boy” but not in the conventional sense.  By that I mean, he definitely has a devil-may-care attitude but it doesn’t come with a lack of respect or concern.  He is so completely sure of himself that he doesn’t care about what other people think simply because he knows who he is and what he wants and he doesn’t need validation from anyone.  Robert Mitchum so rarely got roles in anything like a romantic comedy, let alone a holiday movie, so I can only imagine that he jumped at the chance to play a different character.  From what I have read it seems that Don Hartman, the director, really encouraged ad-libbing and freedom in the actors during this film.  In fact per Gordon Gebert, one of the main scenes between Timmy and Steve was almost completely ad-libbed.  I think that is part of what makes this film so enjoyable.  You really see Mitchum having fun in his role, and it seems like there is a lot of Robert Mitchum in Steve Mason.

Janet Leigh is lovely in one of her first major roles and Gordon Gebert is adorable as her son.  Wendell Corey is great as Carl, and this is one of the first times that while you are rooting for Steve (Robert Mitchum, I mean COME ON!) there is still something redeeming in Carl.  Honestly, you know that he is truly a good person and really cares for Connie.  But again, Robert Mitchum…nothing else needs to be said.  I am so glad that this movie has become more well-known over the last few years, thanks in part to an increase in airings on TCM.  It is definitely one that should be seen and enjoyed during the holiday season.  Because…Robert Mitchum at Christmas.  Does it get better than that?

It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas: IT HAPPENED ON FIFTH AVENUE (1947)

Recently I came across a list of lesser known holiday movies.  Among the entries was a movie that I had seen bits and pieces of over the years, but one that I had never sat down to watch in its entirety.  I didn’t even know the name of this film until I sat down to watch it for this blog post.  IT HAPPENED ON FIFTH AVENUE is a film from 1947, directed by Roy Del Ruth and starring Don DeFore, Ann Harding, Charles Ruggles, Victor Moore, and Gale Storm.

Walking down Fifth Avenue in New York City is one, Charles T. McKeever (Victor Moore) and his dog Sam.  As he walks, tour buses drive by showing passengers onboard the mansions of the great and powerful families of the city.  One house in particular is of interest, that of Michael J. O’Connor (the second richest man in the world).  The boarded up mansion sits on the corner of Fifth Avenue and it is to this house that Mr. McKeever is going.  He and Sam head along the back wall of the garden and find their way inside through a loose board.  Once inside the great house, Mr. McKeever sets about setting up shop.  He winds a few clocks, takes a bath, gets some new clothes, and rigs up a system whereby whenever the front door is opened all the lights in the house go out.  His preparations complete, Mr. McKeever (now dressed in Michael O’Connor’s Sunday best) sets out for a walk with Sam.

Meanwhile, across town a landlord is attempting to evict his last tenant.  The apartment building has been scheduled for demolition to make way for more O’Connor construction and all the tenants have left, all but one.  Jim Bullock (Don DeFore), an out of work veteran, is making a stand for his rights and his apartment.  Unfortunately for Jim, his stand involves handcuffing himself to his bed which is then promptly picked up and carried out by the movers.  And so it is that Jim is living on a bench in the park when Mr. McKeever and Sam come walking by.  After hearing how Jim has lost his home and now has no place to live, Mr. McKeever invites Jim to come live with him.  The two return to the O’Connor home and Jim is in awe, believing Mr. McKeever to be Micheal O’Connor.  Mr. McKeever admits that he is not the owner of the house, merely a “visitor”.  Michael O’Connor is spending the winter in Virginia as he does every year and will not return until spring.  The two men have free reign over the great house for the whole season!

Michael O’Connor (Charles Ruggles) is indeed in Virginia where he is currently trying to buy Camp Kilson, a deserted army camp, in an effort to create a huge air cargo network.  Word reaches him that his daughter Trudy (Gale Storm) has run away from her finishing school and she is now nowhere to be found.  Worried, O’Connor hurries back to New York to look for her.  Trudy has made her way back to the family home on Fifth Avenue, and is going through the clothes in her room when she is discovered by Jim and Mr. McKeever.   Jim believes that Trudy is a thief and wants to call the police, which Trudy is only to happy to let him do.  But Mr. McKeever stops him, and takes Jim outside to explain the situation to him.  He wasn’t completely honest with Jim, he isn’t so much a visiting friend of Mr. O’Connor as he is a drifter who has settled into an abandoned home.  Jim, who is no great fan of Michael O’Connor, thinks that this is all very amusing.  Neither man sees Trudy listening in to their conversation, and she decides to play along with the idea that she is a thief and not reveal her true identity.  Jim and Mr. McKeever return and Trudy pleads with them to not call the police or kick her out.  She is homeless and hungry, she claims, and she was only trying to get some nice clothes for a job interview that she has the next day.  The two men agree to let her stay, but just then all the lights go out.  The night watchmen are coming through for their nightly check of the house.  The three guests hurry off to the icebox to hide, with Jim lending Trudy his bathroom and his arms to help keep her warm.  Trudy is already starting to fall for Jim, and resolves to maintain her fake identity in order to prevent Jim from falling in love with her just for her money.

The next day Trudy gets a job at a local music shop, playing the piano and singing for the customers.  On her way home she runs into Jim and the two walk back together.  Along the way Jim runs into the wives and children of Hank and Whitey, two of his old army buddies.  Hank (Edward Ryan) and Whitey (Alan Hale Jr.) are trying to find an apartment to live in but are having troubles in the post war housing crisis.  The current landlord they are trying to get an apartment from refuses to allow children in the building and it seems that the two men and their families will be stuck living in their cars.  Jim invites them back to the house to live with him, Trudy, and Mr. McKeever.  Speaking of Mr. McKeever, he is not at all pleased with the sudden increase in population in the house.  He doesn’t think that they can support so many people and still keep their stay a secret.  But once he sees how cute the babies are, and they really are quite cute, Mr. McKeever welcomes them all with open arms.  The group settles in to a contented routine, and Jim and Trudy set about falling in love.

One morning as Trudy leaves the house for work, a man calls to her from a nearby car.  It is her father, who has come back to New York looking for her.  He tries to convince her to return to school but Trudy won’t hear of it.  She is happy now and in love with Jim, after having spent her whole life feeling lonely she finally feels content.  O’Connor wants to meet the man who his daughter speaks so highly of, and reluctantly agrees to pose as another drifter.  Trudy and her father act out a meeting in the park and Trudy invites Mike the tramp to come home with them.  Once there, O’Connor is shocked to see the state of his home and just how many people are living there.  He is also less than pleased by Mr. McKeever wearing his clothes and smoking his cigars.  Mike is put to work washing the dishes and doing other chores about the house which annoys him to no end.  At the same time he must still maintain his business ventures, including the purchase of the army camp.  Little does O’Connor realize that Jim and his friends are also interested in buying the property.  Jim wants to use the army barracks as model homes for the displaced and homeless families of other veterans so he, Hank, and Whitey decide to bid on the property as well.

It doesn’t take long before O’Connor is fed up with the abundance of guests in his home and with having to pretend to be a tramp.  He threatens to call the police, but Trudy calls her mother instead.  Mr. and Mrs. O’Connor divorced several years prior, when it became clear to Mrs. O’Connor that her husbands first priority was his money.  Upon hearing her daughter’s distress, Mrs. O’Connor offers to come to the house as yet another vagrant.  And so the house gains Mary as a cook, much to Mike’s distress.  Mike only becomes more upset as the price for the army camp keeps increasing thanks to a bidding war which has broken out.  He also is frustrated because of Trudy and Jim.  His attempt to woo Jim away with a well-paying job to Bolivia failed, and now it seems more likely than ever that Trudy and Jim will marry.  Then one evening, as the group gathers to decorate the Christmas tree, Mike discovers that the group he has been bidding against is not a huge corporation but the three men who now sit around him making popcorn garlands.  And how will he be able to explain to Trudy and to Mary, that his company has finally outbid them and Jim will now be unable to complete his plans for the barracks?

IT HAPPENED ON FIFTH AVENUE is a Christmas movie that really should be better known than it is.  Charles Ruggles is fantastic in every scene he is in, really giving Michael O’Connor depth as well as humor and wit.  His frustration at the complete chaos his house and life have become is really well done, and a character that could have easily been one-dimensional is much for fleshed out and sympathetic.  Ann Harding is terrific as his ex-wife, showing the frustration of a woman who still loves the man that she left.  Don DeFore and Gale Storm are charming as the young couple in love, as are all the supporting characters.  Victor Moore is Mr. McKeever, there is no question of that.  He so wholeheartedly inhabits the character that you no longer see an actor playing a part, you simply see Mr. McKeever complete and in the flesh.

This movie is really a joy to watch!  Yes, there are a few moments of clunkier dialogue but they go by quickly and don’t distract from the overall quality of the story.  It is the story that makes this movie so unique.  This is just a genuinely nice movie, with a good-hearted intention and message.  It might sound strange to say it, but this is a sweet story and a truly kind movie.  And what better qualities could you have for the holiday season?

It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas: REMEMBER THE NIGHT (1940)

About halfway through watching REMEMBER THE NIGHT on TCM I had a momentary pause.  “How?” I wondered, “How have I never seen a movie THIS good?”  Now that Thanksgiving is past I am finally allowing myself to start watching Christmas movies and thankfully, TCM is there with a great one!  My first movie of the holiday season is a fantastic film written by Preston Sturges and directed by Mitchell Leisen, REMEMBER THE NIGHT from 1940.

Lee Leander (Barbara Stanwyck) is a girl with a penchant for taking things that she can’t afford.  One day in New York City, Lee walks off with an expensive bracelet.  The theft is immediately noticed and when Lee goes to a local pawn shop, she is trapped inside by the owner who has heard about the bracelet going missing and recognizes it immediately.  This isn’t Lee’s first run in with the law, in fact it is her third offense.  That means possible jail time and what with it being almost Christmas, the more offenses mean the more likely a conviction.  At least that is what the District Attorney (Paul Guilfoyle) is betting on.  He calls up prosecutor John Sargent (Fred MacMurray), who happens to be getting read to travel back home to Indiana for Christmas.  John, much to his dismay, is assigned the case and heads off to court to bring the state’s case against Lee.  He isn’t too thrilled, because not only is his trip being delayed but juries are notoriously lax at Christmastime.  It won’t be so easy for him to get a conviction.

In the courtroom Lee’s attorney is putting on a Broadway show, explaining to the entranced jury that Lee was not responsible for her actions.  Why the poor girl was hypnotized into an acute state of schizophrenia by the beauty of the jewels on her wrist!  Rather than objecting to this dog and pony show, John sits quietly biding his time.  When the defense rests John steps forward and requests that he be granted a continuance, as his only expert witness who could address the defense’s claims of psychiatric disorder is out of town until after Christmas.  As the defense has rested and the prosecution can’t offer a case without their expert, the judge has not alternative but to adjourn the case until January.  Lee is less than thrilled with the continuance, as she will now be remanded to the jail until her court date unless she can post $5000 bail.  On her way out she throws a sarcastic “I hope YOU have a ‘Merry Christmas'” to John, who asks his clerk to get Fat Mike the bondsman.  Fat Mike appears and John asks him to get him a $5000 bond for “a friend”.  Fat Mike is all wink wink, nudge nudge, no charge, and “she’s out”.

John returns to his apartment and continues packing for his trip home.  Soon there is a knock on the door, and Fat Mike drops off an indignant Lee.  After a bit of confusion, it is finally cleared up that John is just as surprised as Lee and that he did NOT ask Fat Mike to bring her up to his apartment at all, and she is welcome to leave any time she likes.  So naturally, Lee says that she will stay.  When John tells her that he is getting ready to leave for a trip home and actually could she please go, Lee wonders where John intends for her to go?  John offers to square her bill at the hotel she was staying at, but the price is a bit too steep for him.  As their discussion isn’t getting them anywhere, John offers to take Lee to a dinner club to get something to eat.

Over drinks and dinner, Lee and John discuss life and life philosophies.  It seems that Lee has been taking things for as long as she can remember.  She tells John that everyone believes in right and wrong, but right and wrong mean different things to different people.  For example, if John was broke and starving to death he would steal a loaf of bread to eat.  But if Lee was broke and starving to death, she would get a six course dinner in the restaurant across the street and then say she lost her purse.  While they sit together talking, who should stop to talk with John but the very judge who is presiding over Lee’s trial!  Shocked by John’s dinner companion, he hurries away with his wife.  As the meal draws to a close and the two prepare to part ways until the trial reconvenes, Lee asks John for one more dance.  They move across the dance floor to the tune of “My Indiana Home”, and discover that they are both Hoosiers from towns just fifty miles apart.  John offers to take Lee home for Christmas, asking how long it has been since she was home.  Lee, it turns out, has never been back ever since she ran away.  She has only heard from her mother once, a letter she received telling her that her father had died.  She isn’t even sure if her mother is still alive, though she hopes so.

The two set off on their Christmas road trip and soon hit a speed bump, literally.  Part of the road is under construction and they have to take a detour down a country road.  Completely turned around and lost, the two weary travelers decide it best to sleep in the car overnight and start again in the morning.  They are awakened by the sounds of cows mooing, and not that far off.  In fact, the cars are all around them and even in the car with them!  John offers to milk the cows for their breakfast, but is interrupted by a rifle in his face.  The landowner has discovered them, and mistaken them for trespassers.  Placing them under citizen’s arrest, the man leads Lee and John to the local courthouse to stand trial.  John tries to use his skills as a lawyer to explain the situation, but the judge is unwilling to listen and be pushed around by New Yorkers!  Lee, sensing that this is getting them nowhere, creates a distraction by setting fire to a wastebasket.  While the judge and the landowner race about put out said fire, Lee and John hurry off to their car to make a quick escape.

John and Lee finally arrive at Lee’s mother’s farm.  Nervous, Lee asks John to go with her to the door which he agrees to readily.  Lee knocks on the door and is greeted by a man, who turns out to be her mother’s new husband.  He calls to his wife to come to the door and now it is Lee’s mother (Georgia Caine) who appears.  But if John was expecting to see a warm mother-daughter reunion, he is to be disappointed.  Lee’s mother is a cold and disapproving woman, who instead of welcoming home her lost daughter, berates her and extolls all her shortcomings and faults.  She tells Lee to leave, that no one wants her here and that she has always been a disappointment to her family.  Outside, Lee breaks down and begs John not to leave her here with these people.  John agrees and offers to take her home with him, to spend Christmas with his family.

Finally, they arrive at John’s home and are greeted by his mother (Beluah Bondi), his Aunt Emma (Elizabeth Patterson), and their simple minded field hand, Willie (Sterling Holloway).  Lee is surprised to find that she is welcomed with open hearts and arms, and treated like one of the family.  She even gets presents from the family for Christmas!  John, fearing that his mother might get the wrong idea about why he brought Lee with him, tells her all about Lee’s troubled past and her current prosecution.  While things are platonic between John and Lee, his mother has no concerns and even comes to care for Lee as a daughter.  But during the New Year’s dance, things between the two become more romantic and John’s mother begins to worry.  On the night before they are to leave she comes to Lee’s room.  John loves Lee, this is clear to her, but as fond as she has become of Lee she is afraid that entering into a relationship with her will damage John’s career and reputation.  John has worked so hard to get where he is today, and she doesn’t’ want anything to ruin that.  Lee agrees to stop things from going any further with John, even though she loves him deeply.  It is because of her love, and his mother’s plea, that Lee insists on returning to New York to stand trial even as John offers to leave her in Canada instead.

Back in the courtroom the judge is convinced, having seen the two of them together at dinner, that John will try to throw they case in favor of Lee.  But as they start, John seems to be going at Lee harder than ever.  He is hounding her on the witness stand, challenging her testimony, and demanding answers like a man on a mission.  But his mission is not to convict Lee, but to garner sympathy for her from the jury.  If he appears too hard on her the jury will surely vote in her favor, if only out of compassion.   But Lee senses what he is doing, and fearing for his career and reputation, begs the judge to accept her plea of guilty!

This is such an underrated and under appreciated film.  I am so glad that I got a chance to see it on TCM, not just by myself but along with the members of #TCMParty on Twitter.  If you aren’t familiar, #TCMParty is basically a viewing party via Twitter so that classic film fans can all watch the same film and tweet about it.  Many of us were seeing REMEMBER THE NIGHT for the first time that night, and we were all stunned at how good this film is.  The Preston Sturges script is so witty and smart, so funny and so touching.  This was the last film that Sturges made as strictly a screenwriter.  Tired of watching directors change his scripts during filming, including this one, Sturges made the move to writer/director/producer and thank God he did.  But the story of REMEMBER THE NIGHT is so good, so well though out, and so well written it makes the movie truly special.  I don’t think anyone could write a story like Preston Sturges.  This film goes from comedy, to pathos, to drama, to romance, and back again.  And it does it in a way that makes perfect sense to the story and to the characters.  The acting is top notch too.  This is the first of what would be four collaborations between Stanwyck and MacMurray, and even this early on in the partnership you can really see the chemistry.  You believe they are in love and not movie love but real, honest, make you popovers in the morning love.  Also, can we just take a moment here to talk about how fantastic Barbara Stanwyck is?  There is a scene in which Lee has just been left in her new room by Aunt Sara, after receiving a nightgown to sleep in.  Barbara Stanwyck has no lines, but just does everything on her face and in her eyes.  In that moment you know exactly what Lee is thinking and feeling, and without one word ever being said.  All in all, I really loved this movie.  So much so, I ordered it from TCM after the viewing because I wanted to add it to my collection to watch during Christmas time for years to come.  If you get the chance to see this movie, do it!  It is a fantastic movie any time of the year, but I am so glad that it was my first Christmas movie of the season!