The House Without a Christmas Tree
Based on Gail Rock's Autobiographical book about growing up in rural Nebraska in 1946, this beloved holiday classic follows ten-year-old Addie who lives with her bitter, widowed father and his mother in Clear River, Nebraska. Addie wants nothing more for the holidays than a Christmas tree, but her father, unable to express his grief over his wife's death, refuses to celebrate Christmas and bars the family from having a tree. In this poignant holiday favorite, an undaunted Addie brings much-needed seasonal cheer to her father and her home.
The loss of a loved one is never easy and memories often make the holiday season especially difficult. Addie (Lisa Lucas) lost her mother when she was very young and, while she sometimes yearns for her mother, she is a happy well-adjusted ten-year old who wants nothing more than to have a Christmas tree in the living room. Addie's father (Jason Robards) absolutely refuses to have a Christmas tree in the house, but offers no explanation for his stubborn resolve which leads Addie to question his motives and his love for her. It falls to Addie's Grandmother (Mildred Natwick) to explain that her father is still immersed in grief over the loss of his wife and that the memories of Christmases past are simply too painful for him to endure. When Addie wins a tree at school, her father is enraged by both the presence of the tree in his home and the idea of his family accepting charity. Only by opening a line of communication and sharing their feelings and memories with one another can Addie and her father reconcile their differences and begin to understand one another. Set in 1964, this 1972 made-for-television special feels like a stage play with sets and scenery that evoke the essence of an age-gone-by. The message, of course, is timeless. (Ages 5 and older) --Tami Horiuchi
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Lisa Lucas plays ten-year-old motherless Addie Mills, who lives with her loving grandmother (Mildred Natwick) and her father, Jamie (Jason Robards) in 1946 Nebraska. Lisa craves her father's approval, but above all, craves his love and attention, and desperately yearns for a Christmas tree, something she has never had in all her years growing up. Her father Jamie is a taciturn man who is kind enough but remains distant from his daughter. When Lisa's efforts to have a Christmas tree in their home keeps getting rebuffed, the desperate girl uses her imagination and talents to realize her simple wish, with results that bring the true meaning of Christmas to light.
The acting by the cast members are so real and I for one related to this film on a personal level because the role of Jamie as played by Jason Robards was so much like my own father. The life lessons portrayed in this film make it a Christmas classic that should be watched by the present generation of youngsters who seem to take so much for granted. My young daughter and I had a lively discussion at the movie's conclusion about the true spirit of Christmas, and of how important it is to be compassionate, grateful, and kind to others. Christmas is after all, not about receiving, but about giving - in love, faith, and compassionate acts. A timeless classic, I am happy to add this title to our home library collection of Christmas films.
Addie Mills (Lisa Lucus) is a ten-year-old girl who lives in the tiny, rural town of Clear River, Nebraska with her widower father James (Jason Robards) and his widowed mother (Mildred Natwick). Addie's mother died of pneumonia a few months after Addie's birth, and James has never gotten over it. This has colored his relationship with Addie, although he loves her, he is distant and withdrawn most of the time. Addie gets most of her affection and nurturing from her warm hearted Grandma. It's the Christmas season 1946, and what Addie wants most in the world for Christmas is something her father has never allowed, their very own Christmas tree. He uses the excuse that since they spend Christmas Day with their other relatives, a tree isn't necessary and would be a waste of money. James is careful with his cash. However Addie is a bright, energetic young lady who is determined to succeed this year. She does, but it causes a family explosion from her infuriated father, that reveals the true reason why James has never allowed a Christmas tree in their home.
It's beautifully executed on all levels, and touches the heart, beginning with three stellar performances. This teledrama introduced Lisa Lucas as Addie Mills, and she delivers a flawless performance. The bespectacled, plain-featured Addie is not the run of the mill adorable moppet. She's independent, feisty, outspoken and intelligent. Already she has a clearly defined career goal, to be a famous artist and travel to Paris, and has no thoughts of marriage and motherhood. Ms. Lucas is a natural, she treads a delicate balance, Addie is extremely self confident, and can tend to be sometimes a trifle bossy and outspoken, but in Ms. Lucas nuanced portrayal, you can see the vulnerability, wistfulness and yearning for her father's love. The best compliment I can give is that she more than holds her own with two seasoned, exceptional actors. The dark, haunted eyes of Jason Robards as James Mills shows the private internal grief and lonliness of this morose man who so misses his wife. To his credit, Robards is such a great actor that he can etch sharply this character who at times can be harsh and stern and yet not lose the audience sympathy. The third outstanding performance is the marvelous character actress Mildred Natwick as Grandma Mills, who is the warm, loving, cozy grandmother anyone would be lucky to have. She is the heart and soul of the Mills household smoothing the troubled waters of the Addie/James relationship, and helping explain and try to bring understanding of each to the other. Ms. Natwick is simply wonderful. In smaller roles Alexa Kenin as Addie's best friend Carla Mae, and Kathryn Walker, who briefly was the second Mrs. James Taylor, as their schoolteacher Miss Thompson provide fine support.
The story is touching in it's simplicity, the script by Eleanor Perry was an Emmy winner. The drama was videotaped not filmed, and it works to the advantage, the viewer feels as if they are right there an invisible onlooker in the Mills home. Not a lot of dollars were used in the budget, but the love and care are evident from all the participants. The settings and costumes are true to the time and place, a small town in the American heartland in 1946, where the nascent postwar boom and prosperity hasn't hit as yet. There is a nostalgia factor for the feeling of community that seems to be missing these days, all the people in this little town of Clear River all know one another, and care for one another. For example, when Addie and her friends go Christmas shopping for their teacher at the local drugstore, they are short on funds for the perfect present, the pharmacist who knows them all kindly marks the item down so they can afford it.
One of the main reasons I like the film is that it touches on one of the true meanings of Christmas, besides celebrating the birth of the Christ Child, it is also a celebration of family and the love we share as members of our families. Although he has trouble expressing it, James does love Addie and it will touch and warm your heart as they come to the realization and understanding of it.
The character of Addie Mills as personified by Lisa Lucas in the specials, and as written in the books they were based upon by Gail Rock is a wonderful role model for young girls. She is her own person, not afraid to express her individuality and march to a different drummer. She has a firm resolution to be an artist and live in the city, and though this is scoffed it by her father and others, she isn't swayed. We find out right at the beginning in the prologue narration by the grown Addie that she is an artist and lives in the city, it's encouraging to young females that she realized her dream.
There are no extras on the DVD regrettably, but I'm delighted it finally made it to DVD. Three of the four Addie Mills specials made it to VHS, "The House...","The Holiday(Thanksgiving) Treasure", and "The Easter Promise", I have them all and highly recommend them all. I'm hoping the last two will make it to DVD as well, and certainly if you liked these, by all means read Gail Rock's books upon which they were based.
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