"Christmas Eve" had an original idea for a holiday film. It has some far out subplots that would need a great screenplay to make it work. But unfortunately, the screenplay is quite weak. So, instead of a solid plot, this film is four short stories loosely pieced together. Very rich Aunt Matilda (Ann Harding made up as an octogenarian) is about to lose control of her estate to a conniving nephew, Phillip Hastings (played by Reginald Denny). She asks Dr. Bunyan (played by Douglass Dumbrille) and Judge Alston (played by Clarence Kolb) to hold off on any decision about her eccentricity and ability to manage her affairs. She asks them to be sure to come to her house on Christmas Eve, where they will meet her three "sons."
The three were orphans whom she took in and raised. None of them would sponge off her, so they set out on their own after school. There's no effort to have these guys any younger, so they all look to be their actual ages – around 45. Aunt Matilda hasn't heard from a single one of them for years, but now she knows they'll come to her rescue if they know she needs their help. From there, the movie segues into sub-plots with each of the three "sons." In between each one, we go back to Aunt Matilda and her private eye's report on the previous son.
The first is Michael (played by George Brent), with his girlfriend, Ann Nelson (played by Joan Blondell). The next is Mario Torio (played by George Raft), and the last is Johnny (played by Randolph Scott). Some other supporting cast contribute – Virginia Field plays Claire, Dennis Hoey plays Williams the butler, Dolores Moran plays Jean Bradford, John Litel plays an FBI agent, and Joe Sawyer plays Gimlet, a private detective.
The three sons' subplots are a little wacky in themselves. They involve dodging the FBI, a sweetheart who was a darling of a top Nazi and who ran off with his millions, and an undercover social welfare agent trying to unearth a black market for adoption of kidnapped babies.
About the only reason to watch this film is to see the large cast of one- time big name actors along with many other longtime supporting actors. There isn't much of a Christmas theme beyond the notion that everything is supposed to come together on Christmas Eve. As it turns out, Aunt Matilda was a shrewd old cookie who knew more than anyone suspected. But, it's hard to imagine why none of her three adopted sons wouldn't at least have sent her a Christmas card or note once in a while over so many years.
There's nothing special about this film, and none of the performers shine. It's certainly not something to recommend for the holidays.
Action / Comedy / Drama
Action / Comedy / Drama
The greedy nephew of eccentric Matilda Reid seeks to have her judged incompetent so he can administer her wealth; but she will be saved if her three long-lost adopted sons appear for a Christmas Eve reunion. Separate stories reveal Michael as a bankrupt playboy loved by loyal Ann; Mario as a seemingly shady character tangling with a Nazi war criminal in South America; Jonathan as a hard-drinking rodeo rider intent on a flirtatious social worker. Is there hope for Matilda?
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February 07, 2016 at 10:40 AM