Oscar Movies: Christmas Holiday (1944)

Universal

Made toward the end of her career, “Christmas Holiday” is a peculiar Deanna Durbin vehicle, directed by Robert Siodmak (best known for his noir films).

Told in flashback, the story begins as Jackie (Deanna Durbin), marries Southern aristocrat Robert Monette (Gene Kelly, of all people). Unfortunately, Robert has inherited his family’s streak of violence and instability and is driving Jacky into a life of misery.

When her husband commits murder, Jackie is compelled by Robert’s degenerate mother (Gale Sondergaard) to cover up the crime.

Robert is arrested, Jackie, tormented by love for her husband, runs away from the family home, changing her name and securing work as a singer in New Orleans.

Robert escapes from prison and makes his way to Jackie’s dressing room. Holding a reporter hostage, he threatens to kill both Jackie and the sailor who has been listening to her story.

Based on a story by W. Somerset Maugham) is one of the bleakest film noirs of the 1940s.

The film is atmospherically directed by Siodmak (“The Killers,” “The Spiral Staircase”) with his usual stylistic flair, using a taut, suspenseful screenplay by Herman J. Mankiewicz (“Citizen Kane”).

This noir film was an astonishing change of pace for Gene Kelly as well as Deanna Durbin, known for her light musical fare during the Depression.

Durbin is miscast, but Gene Kelly reveals a dark side to his otherwise sunny persona (in musicals), giving a disturbingly convincing portrait as a man driven by inner demons.

Even so, Durbin introduces a nice Frank Lesser song, “Spring Will Be a Little Late This Year.”

Oscar Nominations: 1

Scoring: H.J. Salter

Oscar Context:

The winner was Max Steiner for “Since You Went Away.”

Running time: 92 Minutes..

Released:: June 7, 1944.