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4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 11 August 2010
Well, I'd never seen this - but I'm delighted to say that the gap has now been filled. For all those who think that the ultimate Christmas films are IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE and WHITE CHRISTMAS, take a look at this remarkable and uplifting tale of a country parson, and revel in the sheer quality of the writing, the directing, and the superlative performances from a five-star cast.

The script is faithfully and carefully distilled from a successful stage play of the 1950s - but the adaptation has none of that cardboard quality that is sometimes a pitfall of putting theatre onto the screen.

Celia Johnson, Ralph Richardson, Margaret Leighton, a young Denholm Elliott, and a supporting cast of remarkable talent unfold this bittersweet but ultimately joyous story set in the claustrophobic confines of a country vicarage.

The bells ring for Christmas, the carol singers trill, the goose is basted - and the world is bathed in white and silence. On the surface all is love and goodwill, but relations between the vicar and his grown-up children are stretched to breaking-point. Two sisters and a younger brother are convinced that their father cannot or will not understand their very different needs and wants, and they in turn have made little or no attempt to allow for the sacrifices that have to be made by someone with a calling to the priesthood.

Distressing little domestic incidents occur during the course of an evening - incidents which trigger major changes within the family, bringing out the weaknesses and ultimate strengths of each of the players in turn.

There is a remarkable scene (which for me makes the film worth every penny of its reasonable price) in which Celia Johnson and Margaret Leighton - the vicar's daughters - do nothing more complex than wash up the supper things.

These two sisters with such very different lifestyles talk to each other, probably for the first time in their lives - and there is an almost tangible void between them.

As the void begins to close, surprising and unhappy details of their lives emerge, details that are shocking for the period of the film, and the scene is played for all it's worth in a single very lengthy shot, with no action more vigorous than the drying of a plate or the rinsing of a cup. It's riveting stuff. The immaculate timing and perfectly clipped English of these two extraordinary actresses serve only to emphasise the poignancy of the whole situation, and the viewer can't help but be moved to tears by it.

(Young actors wanting to play 'period' roles should study work like this very carefully. They seldom manage anything half so good, and could learn an enormous amount about manner, movement - and diction.)

THE HOLLY AND THE IVY is justifiably a classic - though perhaps not as famous as it should be. This lovely release on DVD should go some way towards remedying that.

It's not just a film for Christmas: like Shakespeare, it's for all time - and you can't say fairer than that.
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This quiet, unassuming film features a group of the best British actorsand actresses of the post-Second World War period. Celia Johnson alwaysgives an outstanding performance as Jenny, and her stay-at-home daughterrole with an overbearing minister father (Ralph Richardson) is neat,spare, and as effective as Julianne Moore as Laura Brown in the recent TheHours. Margaret Leighton, a marvellous actress who glows in every role sheplays, is Celia Johnson's sister who has been estranged from the familyfor a few years and reappears at this fraught Christmas, and reveals,after a tense reunion with Jenny the real reason for her absence, whichbrings the sisters together again. Their relationship also symbolises therebuilding of families in the recovery years, after the Second World Warhad changed all their lives and the world was no longer the same. RalphRichardson reflects the pre-war attitudes and the difficulties of comingto terms with the new era, the sisters the tribulations of adapting to newways and coping with the leftovers from the war. The supporting actors,who include British stalwarts such as Denholm Elliott, John Gregson, andRoland Culver, do a great job, but the film belongs to the central 3characters. This film is of the 'woman's film' genre of the 1945-1955period, and Celia Johnson and Margaret Leighton were two of the finestrepresentatives of the British film industry at that time.
The film is sentimental and poignant, and none the worse for that. Theacting prevents the story becoming mawkish, and the country setting, thesimple normality of life when life had been far from normal, is theessence of this film. I would recommend this film to anyone studyingBritish post-war film as this is a quintessential example of its type.
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on 23 January 2011
Captivating, this little 1952 film of a family coming together for Christmas at a country rectory. Secrets come out. A widower father learns that his adult children have always held themselves apart from him in the belief that, as a vicar, he would be incapable of understanding or forgiving their shortcomings. The sterling dialogue and performances draws one in in that unparalleled British way of old; that is, without resorting to mawkishness or sentimentality. The entire cast is tops, including the two aunts and close family friend. And the bygone era fills one with nostalgia for a simpler time lost to us.

The brief opening scenes aside, the story takes place entirely over Christmas Eve and Christmas morning, and I marvelled at how naturally domesticity played out with key dialogue, adding an effective realness to the film. I recently watched 'This Happy Breed', starring a younger Ceila Johnson who plays Jenny here, and it too unfurled in scenes where important dialogue went hand-in-hand with domestic goings-on. Another winner.

'The Holly and the Ivy' now equals my all-time favourite Christmas film, the 1951 'A Christmas Carol' with Alastair Sim. Another vintage classic not to be missed.
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on 27 December 2009
The video came on time and with that there was no problem. When we watched the video we noticed two scenes had been left out which disapointed us as we know and love the film. Scene one that was missed out was the nativity scene with the children and scene two was the carol singing outside the womans house, We believe that these are an integral part of the film. Is this an underlying plot not to show christian christmas values we wonder?. We will not be using that DVD again we will use the one that we recorded from the television
88 comments| 56 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 30 October 2009
I've waited along time for this film to come out on DVD. Well the wait is over and I wasn't disappointed. I've only ever seen this film once on tv and that was a long time ago. I've already watched it 4 time and I'm still not bored with it, I don't think I ever will. If you like british films from the 1950s you'll love this. Just treat yourself to a copy.
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on 13 July 2011
The Holly and the Ivy is a wonderful 1952 drama about an English clergyman whose neglects his own family, in his efforts to tend to his parishioners. Family tensions come to the surface at a Christmas family gathering. It stars the great Ralph Richardson, Celia Johnson, and Margaret Leighton. It was adapted from a play by Wynyard Browne.

The film takes place in an idyllic English snowy village that seems far removed from the realities of every day life, however, the agony of disillusion and the breakdown of communication within the family come to the fore over the Christmas period.

This is vintage english cinema with clipped enunciation that seem antiquated today as we are now much more familiar with the kitchen sink realism of British filmmaking.

However, the subject matter within the film like the clergyman (Richardson) slowly accepting his daughter (Leighton) drowning her sorrows with alcohol after personal tragedy were considered to be daring at the time.

So while The Holly and The Ivy now radiates a nostalgic glow, it is actually a record off the dramatic social, economic and cultural change that have occured over the past sixty years. Wonderful.
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on 27 November 2009
Excellent film that really makes you feel like it is Christmas and experiencing a family coming together for the holidays.

1952 THE HOLLY AND THE IVY with Ralph Richardson, Margaret Leighton and Celia Johnson. Richardson is a Parson and Celia Johnson is his daughter who keeps house for him. A son, Denholm Elliot and another daughter, Margaret Leighton are coming home to spend Christmas with them. During the family gathering, secrets/truths are told and there becomes a family re-awakening of each other.

Because Richardson is a Parson, his children think they have to shield him from the truth about themselves. As one daughter says, not for any particular reason, only because he is a Parson. The scene between Richardson and Leighton is one not to be missed.

This is a great Christmas movie that has an uplifting ending.
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on 12 November 2009
Like the others who have reviewed this film. I have waited so long for it to come out on DVD.

This has to be one of the best Christmas films ever made, with a wonderful cast of fine British actors. I first saw it as a child and I have remembered it ever since.

If you only buy one film in these credit crunch days, make it this one. I really can't recommend it highly enough!
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on 27 November 2009
The Holly and The Ivy has become a Christmas tradition in our house! I first saw it a few years ago on TV and was absolutely enchanted by it. I do have a fondness for English films of the 50s and 60s anyway but I would honestly recommend it to anyone. From the very first scenes where the invitations are being delivered until the heart-warming ending, this film is a pure joy. I think we would all want to live in a rectory in Norfolk if we are honest, well at Christmas-time anyway! A very nostalgic, English (it couldn`t have been made anywhere else) film that looks fabulous and gives you a warm Christmassy glow. Wonderful!
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on 10 November 2009
It is wonderful to have this brilliant film on DVD at long last.
The Holly and the ivy is the finest and superbly acted film about Christmas ever made.
It is a classic. It has a beautiful thought provoking story and makes you think
seriously of the true meaning of Christmas and the family you love.

BRILLIANT IN EVERY WAY. A MUST SEE FILM. A+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
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