There is no Its a Wonderful Life
or Miracle on 34th Street
to be found among the four titles that comprise this Warner Brothers Classic Holiday Collection, Vol. 2
, but theres still plenty here to placate most everyones inner Grinch. Although the actual holiday season for the most part plays only a passing role, certain elements recur: for instance, two encompass post-World War II hardships, two are fact-based, and two are shameless heartstring-tuggers dealing with the plight of orphans. In chronological order, they are:
Blossoms in the Dust (1941): A radiant Greer Garson stars in the exaggerated but real-life tale of Edna Gladney, "a great woman" who did "great work
for humanity." Born spoiled and rich, Gladney married happily (husband Sam is played by Walter Pidgeon) but suffered a skein of hardships--the suicide of her adopted sister, the death of her son (leaving Gladney barren) and husband, bankruptcy--before becoming a tireless advocate for homeless and unwanted "foundlings"; she even managed to get the state of Texas to remove "illegitimate" as a legal designation for the kids. Stereotypes abound--Gladney is a saint, while those who oppose her are flint-hearted, puritanical stiffs--but hey, were talking orphans here, so get out your handkerchiefs. It Happened on 5th Avenue (1947): A frothy, overlong concoction about a motley group (including a noble hobo and some down-on-their-luck servicemen and their families) who occupy the New York mansion belonging to "the second richest man in the world" while the owner is spending the winter in Virginia. Many complications ensue--the rich guys daughter comes home but doesnt reveal who she is; then dad himself, a real estate tycoon, shows up as well--but all ends predictably as love blooms and tightwads learn to savor the gift of giving. Holiday Affair (1949): Probably the best of the lot, not so much for its storytelling (which is again fairly pat and predictable) but due to the star power of Robert Mitchum and Janet Leigh. Shes a war widow with a young son and a well-meaning but safe and boring suitor; hes a confident, would-be boat builder who sees right through her many hangups, and, after pages of glib, snappy repartee
well, take a guess. All Mine to Give (1957): Cameron Mitchell and Glynis Johns in a "fact-based" story about husband and wife Scottish immigrants who settle in Wisconsin in the1850s. The kids soon start popping out--six of them, in fact. But we know hard times are coming too, and sure enough, when double-barreled tragedy strikes, the eldest of the children, whos all of 12, must find new homes for himself and his siblings--on Christmas Day! Yes, its unabashedly manipulative, but if this doesnt get you, you should immediately change your name to Scrooge. --Sam Graham
This set collects four classic holiday themed titles, all new to DVD: All Mine To Give (1957), Holiday Affair (1949), It Happened On 5th Avenue (1947), and Blossoms In The Dust (1941). The first three are also available individually, Blossoms In The Dust is only available as part of this set.