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CHRISTMAS EVE (SINNER’S HOLIDAY) (director: Edwin L. Marin; screenwriters: story by Laurence Stallings/Laurence Stallings & Richard H. Landau; cinematographer: Gordon Avil; editor: James Smith; music: Heinz Roemheld; cast: George Raft (Mario Volpe), Randolph Scott (Jonathan), George Brent (Michael Brooks), Joan Blondell (Ann Nelson), Virginia Field (Claire), Ann Harding (Aunt Matilda Reed), Reginald Denny (Phillip Hastings), Douglas Dumbrille(Dr. Bunyan), Carl Harbord(Dr. Doremus, psychologist), John Litel (Joe Bland, FBI agent), Dolores Moran (Jean), Clarence Kolb (Judge Alston), Walter Sande (Hood), Joe Sawyer (Gimlet), Molly Lamont (Harriet), Konstantin Shayne (Reichman), Dennis Hoey (Williams, butler); Runtime: 90; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Benedict Bogeaus; United Artists; 1947)
The feel-good story tries too hard to be a cheery Christmas story, but its dry mixture of lame comedy and limp drama comes off as ridiculous melodrama.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

An eccentric, rich, gentle, elderly, philanthropist Manhattan spinster, Matilda Reed (Ann Harding), reunites with her three ne’er-do-well adult foster sons, Michael Brooks (George Brent), Mario (George Raft) and Jonathan (Randolph Scott), whom she hasn’t seen for years, on Christmas Eve, to save her from a scheming greedy swindler nephew named Phillip (Reginald Denny) who wants to manage her money by using the legal system to get her declared mentally incapable of handling her own affairs due to her supposedly questionable charity donations. The venal Phillip has the caring Judge Alston (Clarence Kolb) come to her residence with a psychologist (Carl Harbord) to judge her odd behavior as a sign of senility. But Matilda implores the judge to hold off making a decision until Christmas Eve, whereby she guarantees her boys will return to help her no matter what is their circumstances.

In episodic fashion we follow how the three sons manage to show up on Christmas Eve. The irresponsible Broadway playboy Michael must overcome the shame of passing bad checks to make an appearance. Racketeer Mario must fight off a kidnapping by a ruthless Nazi war criminal (Konstantin Shayne), aboard a ship, in his safe haven of South America, where he’s on the lam and owns a successful nightclub, and must risk a long jail sentence if he returns to the States after being framed by Phillip in a New Orleans con-job and took the rap to spare Matilda any grief. And how the free-spirit, dissolute, alcoholic rodeo cowboy, Jonathan, who has a knack for getting into trouble must escape from the clutches of Dr. Bunyan (Douglas Dumbrille), who runs a baby racket.

All three episodes were weakly conceived, plodding, slow-moving, far-fetched, uninteresting and unconvincingly acted. The final Christmas Eve gathering, where everything gets neatly wrapped-up like a Christmas gift, makes for a lousy present when opened.

The women around for the boys include the feisty blonde bombshell Joan Blondell, as Brent’s true love; Virginia Field playing the self-sacrificing lover of Raft; and Dolores Moran as the undercover welfare worker working with the police to uncover the baby adoption racket, who lassos Scott.

Edwin L. Marin (“Tall in the Saddle”/”Nocturne”/”Johnny Angel”) directs this sentimental mush and can’t keep it from laying an egg. It’s based on the story by Laurence Stallings & Richard H. Landau, and is scripted by Stallings. The feel-good story tries too hard to be a cheery Christmas story, but its dry mixture of lame comedy and limp drama comes off as ridiculous melodrama.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”