Holiday Classics: “Holiday Affair” (1949)

Holiday Affair” was not successful when it was released in 1949, and as a result remained largely forgotten, until annual airings on TCM led to the growth of a fan base for the movie. It’s now a bit of a holiday classic, and rightfully so. “Holiday Affair” is a sweet if generic romantic comedy set over Christmas. It stars Robert Mitchum as Steve Mason, a New York City department store clerk who is fired after giving secret shopper Connie Ennis (Janet Leigh) a refund. Afterward, Steve gets to know Connie, whose husband was killed in the war, her young son Timmy (Gordon Gebert), and her boyfriend Carl (Wendell Corey). The two men quickly become rivals for Connie’s affections, forcing her to choose between successful lawyer Carl and drifter Steve.

Janet Leigh and Robert Mitchum in “Holiday Affair”

Comedy was not a genre Mitchum could often be found in. He was best known for playing action heroes or morally ambiguous film noir protagonists, and his demeanor suited that screen persona nicely. But in 1948, Mitchum was arrested for possession of marijuana, severely threatening the public image he had spent the past several years building up. Mitchum was under contract to RKO at the time, and the head of RKO, Howard Hughes, wanted to put Mitchum in a light movie to help fix his image. As it turns out, Mitchum is great in “Holiday Affair”. His character, like the kind of character he normally played, is flawed, but he also pulls off the sweeter scenes convincingly.

Equally convincing is Gebert, the little boy who plays Timmy. He may be overly precocious, but the exchanges he has with Mitchum are fun to watch. The supporting cast includes Harry Morgan as a police officer and Henry O’Neill as department store owner Mr. Crowley. In 1996, “Holiday Affair” was remade as a made-for-TV movie, but it’s the original movie that, sixty-five years after its initial failed release, has started charming new generations of viewers.

“Holiday Affair” has just been newly released on Blu-ray by the Warner Archive. It is also available to rent or buy on all digital platforms, and can be seen on Turner Classic Movies on the following dates this holiday season:

Sunday, December 6th at 4:15 PM EST

Wednesday, December 23rd at 12 AM EST

Friday, December 25th at 4 PM EST

Runtime: 87 minutes

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