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4.1 out of 5 stars
4.1 out of 5 stars
Deanna Durbin - Christmas Holiday [DVD] [1944]
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on 25 May 2011
This is the movie that Gene Kelly's estate, as I understand it, has attempted to suppress. (You cannot find it in a Region 1 version.) And this makes sense. It's hardly in keeping with his image as the elated guy with the umbrella dancing in the rain. But rather Siodmak's darker version of Kelly--as gambler, murderer, momma's boy (take that however you want) & more, generally making us uncomfortable with him. It's also--as critic James Harvey has noted--the film you're least likely to see in a Deanna Durbin retrospective. Her fans don't like it either, for its enigmatically perverse atmosphere & noirish, Wagnerian climax. As you might imagine--with both stars playing against type under the sophisticated direction of Siodmak--it's finally quite haunting. New Orleans never felt so damp with decadence, it's full of a wide spectrum of music, and it's fascinating in its quirky mix of characters. Despite some who see her as badly miscast, Durbin is impressive, showing that she could handle more than singing cute. It reportedly was her favorite movie.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 9 July 2014
This is an interesting film noir directed by Robert Siodmak released in black-and-white in 1944. The original story was by W. Somerset Maugham. Dean Harens plays army lieutenant Charlie Mason, who is about to go on Christmas leave to marry his fiancée in San Francisco. Before he can leave, he receives a cable telling him she has married someone else. He decides to fly to San Francisco anyway to see her but the flight is grounded in New Orleans because of a storm. Here, a local reporter covering the airplane story takes him to a local bordello where he is introduced to Jackie Lamont (Deanna Durbin). At the club, Jackie introduces us to the Frank Loesser number ‘Spring will be a little late this year’ and the couple dance to the Gene Depaul and Don Raye tune, ‘I’ll remember April’. Jackie also gets to sing Irving Berlin’s ‘Always’ and we get a couple of brief excerpts of Wagner’s ‘Tristan und Isolde’ – but this is no musical!

Charlie takes Jackie to a Christmas Mass at the local cathedral: she becomes upset and she pours out her heart to him. It seems her real name is Abigail Mannette, wife of convicted killer Robert Mannette (Gene Kelly). The couple live with his mother, who knows all about her son’s failings, for Robert is also a compulsive gambler and steals money from his mother.
This is a fine example of the genre and I would recommend viewing, quite apart from the pleasure of seeing Kelly and Durbin in dramatic roles.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 27 December 2014
Christmas Holiday is directed by Robert Siodmak and adapted to screenplay by Herman J. Mankiewicz from the novel of the same name written by W. Somerset Maugham. It stars Deanna Durbin, Gene Kelly, Richard Whorf, Dean Harens, Gale Sondergaard and Gladys George. Music is by Hans J. Salter and cinematography by Elwood Bredell.

The title is a bit of a bum steer, the presence of Durbin and Kelly a splendid slice of red herring casting, and the written notices on the internet announce that the source material was watered down for this filmic adaptation. All of these instances mark Siodmak's film out as a fascinating oddity, and certainly of high interest to film noir lovers.

Plot essentially has Durbin telling Harens in flashback how her life crumbled around her when she married Kelly. She thought he was a wealthy gent full of charm and love, but soon she comes to realise that he's a rascal with underlying issues, not helped by his mother, a witch like Sondergaard.

Had Siodmak been able to go full tilt with the characterisations here, we would have most likely been privy to one of his finest dark noirs, he was after all one of the great purveyors of such devilish delights. Yet even though there's a frustration that some of the bolder elements of Maugham's prose are not overtly evident, there's still a dark heart beating away, with suggestions of prostitution, incest and homosexuality dangling in the air, baiting those who in the classic eras adhered to censorship.

Siodmak and Bredell don't over saturate via noir filters, but as the story moves between seedy New Orleans clubs and Gothic churches, the sense of everything being out of sorts is amplified by smoke and lighting techniques. The pace is very up and down, and not all the director's scene constructions help the narrative be all it can be, but his knack for emphasising certain thematics via tone and responses from his actors is very much evident here.

Thematically it's all very glum, America gone bad, love and romance are mere illusions. From the opening sequence as Harens – having served in the war for his country – receives a "Dear John" letter, to the striking denouement, this is anti-love and a portrait of a self loathing country readily able to accept corruption and the dark bents of human nature. The strong performances by the leads, supplemented by the wonderful Sondergaard (you know things are going to be creepy when she's around), and the Oscar nominated score by Salter round out the many strengths of Christmas Holiday.

Not one to cheer you up at the yuletide season, and far from perfect with its draggy mid-section, but this is hugely effective film noir and fans of such will get plenty of miserablist rewards from it. 7.5/10
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on 17 November 2013
Fine subtle performance from Deanna Durbin, especially in her wisecracking 'Jackie' mode in this mix of melodrama and noir. Some great director's moments (Siodmak's trademark stairs make a couple of telling appearances) and very consciously arty use of music both classical and popular. Interesting flashback structure too but oddly I found myself getting a little impatient with the Gene Kelly episodes and I'm not sure why. Predictability perhaps, or possibly the rather slushy moments establishing their love for one another. It's probably a bit better than 'ok' and I expect some people will love it. Siodmak tries very hard, especially near the end to make the homely innocent Deanna look almost Dietrichesque in the moonlight. One obviously conveniently manufactured plot 'twist' to create the ending is another less than satisfactory element.
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on 17 September 2004
Not a particularly huge hit when released in 1944, 'Christmas Holiday' is really an extraordinary film, ahead of its time in my opinion. It is interesting to see Gene Kelly as the 'villian', not something we see often. When I first watched it, I really didn't know what to expect, and I can say that it left a huge impact on me, which led to my watching it twice more. It has to be one of the best (and underrated) black and white film. You won't be disappointed.
Nice DVD transfer too...special features only include a stills gallery, still, there are some nice shots here. Highly recommended film.
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on 27 December 2008
Lt Mason (Dean Harens) is returning home when his plane has to make an emergency landing. On an overnight stay, he has an encounter with Jackie/Abigail (Deanna Durbin) at a nightclub where she reveals her past to him. She is married to Robert Manette (Gene Kelly) who is serving time for murder. They spend an evening together before Lt Mason continues on his journey. However, Manette has escaped from jail.....

This is a film noir with unlikely lead roles going to Durbin and Kelly who are more noted for appearing in annoying musicals. Surprisingly, it works. Kelly doesn't do any cheesy, smiley, grinning dance moves where he sticks his bum out, and Durbin sings a couple of songs that are actually quite good. The film is slow to get going - think half an hour - which grants the viewer a right to question what on earth is going on and to get slightly bored. But, once the flashbacks begin, we have a story to follow and both my girlfriend and I far prefer Gene Kelly as a baddie.
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on 8 March 2014
This is my very favorite Deanna Durbin Movie. She was a superb actress and I wished that she had done more serious films. Her singing "ALWAYS" is also my very favorite song of hers. The fact that Gene Kelly was her co star had people thinking that this was a typical Hollywood musical not a" film noir". I don't think that it's necessary to go into plot details (it can be looked up on any movie site or even on Amazon"s listing for the dvd.) Since this film is rarely shown on tv and it was never available on dvd or vhs in the U.S. I was overjoyed to finally find it on a Region 2 dvd. A brilliant movie.......as far as I'm concerned.
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on 28 January 2014
It's an oldie, but a good film to sit and watch time time again, wot ever age group you are.
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on 14 February 2015
Well played - but a dark tale. Not the typical DD movie. Timely delivery.
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on 28 August 2016
good dvd
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