This classic Christmas film isn’t one of the most well-known and isn’t one of the all-time greats, but it is still a very enjoyable watch. Holiday Affair is essentially a story about love and relationships, with the complications they involve, set during the Christmas period.
Steve Mason (Robert Mitchum) is a clerk at a department store during the holiday season. He spots Connie Ennis (Janet Leigh) who he thinks is a comparative shopper for a rival store (employed to look at the competition) as she buys an expensive train set without asking anything about it. At home her son Timmy (Gordon Gebert) spots the train set and thinks it’s a present for him, but Connie says it isn’t, confirming she is a comparative shopper.
Connie returns the set, and Steve confronts her with his suspicions. After she tells him she’s a war widow with a son, Steve relents and gives her a refund, which costs him his job. Steve gets to know Connie and Timmy, and Connie’s boyfriend Carl (Wendell Corey), and although he is short on money, Steve buys Timmy the train set for Christmas. Steve predictably falls for Connie, but the course of true love does not run smooth! One of the main problems is Connie is still hung up on her dead husband, and she is almost trying to bring him back to life through Timmy.
Later on, Steve is arrested on suspicion of theft (of which he is innocent), and Connie is able to get him released. He is invited for Christmas dinner, which is incredibly awkward! You think your family Christmas dinners are bad, Connie had her boyfriend, her former parents-in-law, Timmy, and Steve, who announces he is in love with Connie at the end of the meal. Connie tells him to leave.
Meanwhile Timmy has tried to return the train set as he is worried about Steve being destitute. Connie and Carl go to give Steve the money, but Carl realises he stands no chance with Connie as he believes she loves Steve. After a couple more hiccups, Connie unites with Steve just as he is leaving on a train to California. And they all lived happily ever after (hopefully).
Overall I enjoyed this film, even though it isn’t especially ground-breaking or exceptional. It’s a pleasant story with engaging characters, and for me there wasn’t anybody I disliked! Even Carl, who was getting in the way of Steve and Connie’s romance is likeable and a good guy. In other films he may have been made to look bad and Steve made to be the ‘good guy’ but there are no distinctions of that kind in Holiday Affair.
None of the characters are perfect, but they’re all relatable and good deep down, and in my opinion it’s this which really make the film so watchable. Of course it’s fairly predictable from the start that Steve and Connie will unite, it’s only a matter of when and how, but this shouldn’t detract from the overall enjoyment of the film.
As well as the romance, which is the main story, there is also the element of coming to terms with grief and moving on. Connie is still very much preoccupied with her dead husband, and Timmy feels the effects of this. Her realising that she can’t live that way forever is a major strand of the film, which adds more depth to the story and makes it more than a fluffy rom-com.
The Christmas dinner is one of my favourite scenes, it was awkward but also kind of sweet how Steve professed his love for Connie. I would say he could have chosen a better time than around the table in front of everybody though! Steve was actually pretty fair and good-natured about the whole thing, so even though he literally asked another man’s girlfriend to marry him, you still can’t really dislike him!
I also loved this scene! As a Brit the weather is absolutely your go-to subject of conversation when you’re with someone you don’t know (or like) much, and this is so awkward and relatable it hurts!
Although I like Steve, Carl is actually one of the nicest guys! He doesn’t push her excessively to get married and accepts that she’s still grieving for her dead husband. He also gets along with her in-laws (her husband’s parents) when he really didn’t need to, and has very much bonded with Timmy. He was even kind to Steve and had him over for Christmas dinner, and finally, when he realises Connie will never love him, encourages her to give things a go with Steve, who he thinks she really loves. Carl is the ultimate good guy!
Timmy was also one of my favourite child stars in any film, he wasn’t annoying like many of them are, and he showed a range of emotions as any child with a mixed-up family would have.
Steve: What are you gonna get for Christmas?
Timmy: Clothes…That’s what I always get…clothes….
Carl: I bet you won’t be able to wear what I’m getting you.
Timmy: A camera
Carl: How would you know?
Timmy: Because you asked me if I wanted one a long time ago.
Overall this is a pleasant Christmas film, that is full of romance, comedy, family relationships, and with a definite Christmas theme throughout. The cast are all fantastic and play the characters so they’re all very likeable. It’s a hidden gem amongst the multitude of Christmas films out there, and is definitely well worth a watch!