The Christmas Tree (1969)

I’m on a constant quest for new-to-me Christmas movies. I search for them like I have a job in it with benefits.

And that’s how I found Terence Young’s “A Christmas Tree” (1969), also titled “L’arbre de Noël” and “When Wolves Cry.”

Starring William Holden, Virna Lisi, Bourvil and Brook Fuller, Laurent (Holen) is a widower who goes on summer vacation with his son Pascal (Fuller). Pascal wants to do something new and go camping on a remote island in Corsica.

While camping and swimming, Laurent and Pascal witness a plane carrying crash into the ocean and explode, and Laurent learns that the plane was carrying a nuclear device.

Pascal starts to have strange symptoms, like blue spots appearing and disappearing on his skin. He’s diagnosed as having an incurable disease due to nuclear exposure and is only giving a few months to live.

Not telling his son his diagnosis, Laurent pulls Pascal out of school, and they leave Paris and head to a chateau in the countryside of France. Laurent and the groundskeeper Verdun (Bourvil) let Pascal have whatever he wants — including a tractor to ride around the property and stealing wolves from the zoo.

The wolves are vicious creatures, but Pascal tames them with his gentle nature.

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Christmas on Film: The Holly and the Ivy (1952)

2019 update: The Holly And The Ivy was released on DVD and Blu-Ray for the first time in Nov. 2019 by Kino Lorber. 

Like most of us, I grew up on classic Christmas films—from White Christmas to The Bishop’s Wife to Christmas in Connecticut. And as I realized new-to-me pre-1968 Christmas movies were dwindling, I began scrounging for more. Surely there were still some left to discover!

That’s how I stumbled upon “The Holly and the Ivy” (1952) last Christmas while browsing Amazon. But much to my dismay, the only DVDs sold were Region 2 (not able to play on U.S. devices) and it didn’t appear to be streaming online.

So as the holidays rolled around again this year, I searched and found someone selling a DVRed copy of this English film and I snatched it up.

Starring Ralph Richardson, Celia Johnson, Denholm Elliott, Margaret Leighton, Hugh Williams, Margaret Halstan and Maureen Delaney, the film takes place as a family returns home on Christmas Eve. And in the midst of the bright holiday, none of them are very happy and are hiding their troubles.

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Christmas on Film: Junior Miss (1945)

junior missThe same year Peggy Ann Garner performed her award winning role in “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn,” the 13-year-old actress found herself in a coming of age comedy, “Junior Miss” (1945).

Similar to “And So They Were Married” (1936), Christmas is merely a backdrop to adolescent antics in “Junior Miss” (1945), but the holidays play larger roles in this coming of age film.  Continue reading

Christmas at Comet’s: “It Happened on Fifth Avenue” (1947)


It’s easy for this Christmas film to slip through the cracks.

It isn’t as well-known as other Christmas classics such as “Miracle on 34th Street” or “White Christmas.” And many of the leads are character actors rather than superstars who star in other Christmas films like Barbara Stanwyck or Loretta Young.

You may have never seen or heard of “It Happened on 5th Avenue (1947) but this film is far too charming for that not to be remedied- and soon.

The story begins with homeless Aloysius McKeever (Victor Moore) sneaking into the wealthy mansion of Michael J. O’Connor (Charles Ruggles), the second richest man in the world. The O’Connors live in Virginia during the winter. For the past four winters, McKeever has stayed in the O’Connor home in New York from November 3 until March 13 while the family is away.

McKeever eats their food, wears Mr. O’Connor’s clothes and occasionally dusts off the furniture.

When the O’Connor’s come back to New York, McKeever heads to their winter home in Virginia.

Homeless McKeever (Victor Moore) dressed in Michael O'Connor's clothes as he stays in his home.

Homeless McKeever (Victor Moore) dressed in Michael O’Connor’s clothes as he stays in his home.

With a set of keys to several mansions in New York, McKeever explains one day he got tired of working and has been house hopping for the last 20 years and never has been caught.

But this winter, McKeever has company for the first time.

He meets Jim Bullock (Don DeFore), a veteran who was recently evicted from his apartment. The apartments are going to be torn down by Michael O’Connor’s company to build a skyscraper.

McKeever finds Jim sleeping on a park bench and invites him to his home, vaguely explaining that he is a guest of the O’Connor family.

But the O’Connor house gets more crowded than just the two men.

O’Connor’s daughter Trudy (Gale Storm) runs away from finishing school and goes to the house for clothes. The men think she is a thief, and she doesn’t correct them, but they let her stay.

Then Jim runs into his old Army buddies (Alan Hale, Jr., Edward Ryan) with their wives and children who are living in a car. They are invited to the O’Connor mansion too until they can find a home.

Wives of Jim's Army buddies use the foyer of the O'Connor home for hanging laundry as the house gets more crowded.

Wives of Jim’s Army buddies use the foyer of the O’Connor home for hanging laundry as the house gets more crowded.

The kicker is when Michael J. O’Connor (Charles Ruggles) and his ex-wife, Mary (Ann Harding), stay at their home-pretending to be homeless- in search of their daughter.

All the while, Jim and his Army friends are trying to bid on an Army camp for veterans who can’t find a home. Their bidding opponent is O’Connor.

“It Happened on Fifth Avenue” was originally supposed to be a Frank Capra Liberty Film, but he chose to make “It’s a Wonderful Life” (1946) instead, according to “Have Yourself a Movie Little Christmas” by Alonso Duralde.

Wealthy Michael O'Connor (Charles Ruggles) exchanges his fancy clothes to dress like he is homeless.

Wealthy Michael O’Connor (Charles Ruggles) exchanges his fancy clothes to dress like he is homeless.

The film was originally supposed to be released during the Christmas season in 1946 but wasn’t released until Easter of 1947, Duralde wrote.

It isn’t surprising that Capra considered this film. The theme of the poor creating life lessons for the rich is similar to many of his other films.

“It Happened on Fifth Avenue” is funny, far-fetched and charming.

It’s a comedy that makes fun of the rich, like the O’Connors, and makes the poor the heroes. The O’Connors have an opportunity to look at their lives with the help of McKeever: Michael has disregarded everything for money, Mary lives in Palm Springs and denies she’s middle-aged, and Trudy is unhappy.

Romance blossoms between Trudy (Gale Storm) and Jim (Don DeFore)

Romance blossoms between Trudy (Gale Storm) and Jim (Don DeFore)

Money is what broke up Michael and Mary O’Connor’s marriage. It takes a homeless man to bring them back together again. Trudy finds love and happiness with Jim, the unemployed veteran.

“There are richer men than I,” O’Connor says of McKeever.

Amongst the life lessons and heartwarming scenes, the movie is also very funny.

With lines such as:

“That joint is as empty as a sewing basket in a nudist camp”


“He called me ‘Sugar,’ because I was hard to get”-referencing rationing during World War II.

While on a mission to see every classic Christmas film I could get my hands on, I came across “It Happened on Fifth Avenue” back in 2010 when it was shown on Turner Classic Movies. Since then, it has become a family favorite in the Pickens household.

Add this one to your yearly Christmas viewing and see that, “a house is only what its occupants make it.”


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