Monday, December 18, 2017

Holiday Affair

It's made clear early on in Don Hartman's Holiday Affair that Connie Ennis (Janet Leigh) has a lot on her plate. A war widow with a young son, her longtime suitor Carl Davis (Wendell Corey) has recently proposed to her. But things get more complicated when Steve Mason (Robert Mitchum) enters her life.

Admittedly lighthearted fare like Holiday Affair was typical for Leigh at this early stage of her career. But this was decidedly a change of pace for Mitchum, having recently been released from jail for marijuana possession. (His casting was a deliberate move on RKO head Howard Hughes' part.) And it was a good opportunity for Mitchum to move beyond his usual "baby, I don't care" image.

Indeed, a number of Steve's scenes has Mitchum playing a caring figure, not something one would expect from the actor in either Crossfire or Out of the Past. But as later roles like Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison and The Grass is Greener showed, he could be as compassionate as any of his male contemporaries. (Does anyone know if Mitchum did similar work beyond the mentioned titles?)

Upon its release, Holiday Affair wasn't much of a hit (though subsequent showings on TV have vindicated it in later years). But why wasn't it successful? It was released at a good time (read: the holiday season), its leads were generally bankable (though more in the years to come for Leigh), and the premise was easy to follow. Maybe it wasn't promoted properly but we may not know for sure.

Anyway, Holiday Affair is an enjoyable little yarn despite its overall predictability. Leigh and Mitchum connect very well in their scenes, almost making one wish they had done another project together. With her at the start of her career and him being a recent Oscar nominee, there was nowhere to go but up for the both of them.

My Rating: ****

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