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Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Christmas Holiday (1944)

A soldier (Dean Harens) on his way to San Francisco finds himself stranded in New Orleans. It is there he meets a nightclub singer (Deanna Durbin) and in the next 24 hours, he listens to her sordid story of her marriage to a psychologically disturbed convicted murderer (Gene Kelly), now serving a life sentence. With a cheerful title like CHRISTMAS HOLIDAY and two of the most popular musical stars of the 1940s like Durbin and Kelly, one would expect a lighthearted musical. But since it's based on a 1939 novel by W. Somerset Maugham and directed by film noir maestro Robert Siodmak, it isn't long before we realize this is anything but. Almost all the characters are "disturbed" to some degree, even its heroine. What kind of woman wastes her life pining away for a convicted killer?  Durbin is surprisingly good here. She sets her perky personality aside and though it's not a musical, as a chanteuse (in the novel, she's a prostitute), she sings two songs but not in her shrill soprano but in the lower registers. Kelly manages to get by (barely). With Gale Sondergaard, Gladys George and Richard Whorf.

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