Come to the Stable (1949): Henry Koster’s Perennial Christmas Tale of Nuns, Starring Loretta Young and Celeste Holme, Elsa Lancheter in Oscar Nominated Turns

One of the most popular films of 1949, Come to the Stable, has become over the years a perennial showing during the Christmas season due to its setting, subject matter, and humanist message.

Come to the Stable
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The high-caliber cast, headed by Loretta Young, who earned a second Best Actress Oscar nod for playing the lead, also includes Celeste Holm and Elsa Lanchester in Oscar-nominated turns (in the supporting categories).

As directed by Henry Koster, this gently light, moderately enjoyable movie is based on a story by Clare Booth Luce (better known for the cult work, “The Women”).

Come to the Stable is made in the vein of the popular religious feature “Going My Way,” except that unlike McCarey’s 1944 Oscar- winner, this one is dominated by femmes–and it is not as good.

The tale centers on two is the gentle French nuns (Celeste Holm attempting an accent, and Loretta Young, who doesn’t), who come to America in hopes of raising funds for a children’s hospital.

Traveling to a small New England town Bethlehem, the nuns befriend an eccentric painter (Elsa Lanchester), who allows them to use her studio for their operation.

Practical to a fault, the sisters find original ways to raise money for their cause. One of their “agents” is outwardly tough gambler (Mike Mazurki), who gets his raffish pals to invest in the hospital.  The eccentric nuns even play professional tennis to raise money.

Cautious to be moral without being too overtly religious, “Come to the Stable” is a typical Hollywood middlebrow, crowd-pleasing affair who will disagree with the cause of providing better care for children.  The box-office success must have impressed the Academy voters for the picture received no less than seven Oscar nominations, and it’s one of the few films to grant three of its women Oscar nods (see below).

Special Mention:

Dooley Wilson, who made a strong impression in “Casablanca,” makes an appearance her.

Cast
Loretta Young as Sister Margaret (based on Mother Benedict Duss)
Celeste Holm as Sister Scholastica (based on Sister Mary-Aline Trilles de Warren)
Elsa Lanchester as Amelia Potts
Hugh Marlowe as Robert Masen
Thomas Gomez as Luigi Rossi
Dorothy Patrick as Kitty
Basil Ruysdael as The Bishop
Dooley Wilson as Anthony James
Regis Toomey as Monsignor Talbot
Mike Mazurki as Sam

Oscar Nomination:  7

Actress: Loretta Young

Supporting Actress: Celeste Holm

Supporting Actress: Elsa Lanchester

Motion Picture Story: Clare Booth Luce

Cinematography (b/w): Joseph LaShelle

Art Direction-Set Decoration (b/w): Lyle Wheeler and Joseph C. Wright; Thomas little and Paul S. Fox

Song: “Through a Long and Sleepless night,” music by Alfred Newman, lyrics by Mack Gordon

Oscar Awards: None

Oscar Context:

The winner of the Best Actress Oscar was Olivia De Havilland for “The Heiress,” and the winner of the Supporting Actor Oscar was Mercedes McCambridge for “All the King’s Men,” which swept most of the Oscars, including Best Picture.

Credits:

Directed by Henry Koster
Produced by Samuel G. Engel
Screenplay by Oscar Millard and Sally Benson, based on the story by Clare Boothe Luce
Music by Cyril J. Mockridge
Cinematography Joseph LaShelle
Edited by William Reynolds
Distributed by 20th Century Fox

Release date: September 1949

Running time: 94 minutes
Box office: $3 million