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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? Written by
Rod Crawford <email@example.com>
The perennial title in itself but especially the splendid cast rounded up for this Christmas movie should have earned it durability but, instead, its genuine oddity has ensured its obscurity; in fact, it was later retitled as SINNERS' HOLIDAY for theatrical reissue purposes (despite there having already been a non-festive 1930 film featuring James Cagney and Joan Blondell by that name!) and, much later, another unrelated (and made-for-TV) one called Christmas EVE in 1986 that was Loretta Young's much-heralded return in front of the cameras!!
There are three male leads in the film George Brent, George Raft and Randolph Scott playing the three adopted sons of eccentric millionairess Ann Harding (a weird casting choice if ever there was one, seeing how she is younger in real life than her on screen off-springs and, consequently, sports heavy make-up to appear older!) who is on the point of being declared insane by duplicitous relative/guardian Reginald Denny (who while outwardly concerned about Harding's reckless philanthropic spending is actually interested in appeasing his own creditors). Harding (dutifully waited upon by an unrecognizable Dennis Hoey as her butler!) assures visiting Judge Clarence Kolb that this Christmas Eve at least one of her wayward sons will come to her rescue and the film then episodically trails the path (via Harding's investigating detective Joe Sawyer) taken in life by each individual before reaching the inevitable all-inclusive happy ending.
And so it is that we meet up with playboy Brent, who is on the point of hooking up with an heiress an attachment he badly needs in order to cover up a run of $75,000 in fraudulent cheques that are currently doing the rounds about town but true love intervenes in the shape of his ditzy friend Joan Blondell!; although this was a plot line worthy of Preston Sturges in his prime, the heavy-handed treatment it receives here renders it the least effective segment of the lot. Next up is George Raft's lording it over in South America and stepping on the toes of fugitive Nazi Konstantin Shayne in the process not least because of his attachment to the latter's feminine associate, Virginia Field!; the violence and downbeat nature (the latter is felled by a bullet and Raft is eventually apprehended by FBI agent John Litel) of this episode jars considerably with the Capra-esque sentimentality of the main narrative strain but is nonetheless interesting for that. It is worth noting here that director Marin had just directed Raft in the noir NOCTURNE (1946; which I also own but have yet to watch) and that he had also helmed the 1938 MGM version of A Christmas CAROL! The third and last part is the corniest but also the most enjoyable as we watch second-rate rodeo rider Randolph Scott getting mixed up in Douglas Dumbrille's adoption racket as he is convinced by attractive undercover agent Dolores Moran (in her first film for future husband, producer Benedict Bogeaus) to pose as a married couple looking to acquire some kids! The eventual confrontation between the two parties earns the film its biggest laugh when Scott, gun firmly in hand, invites Dumbrille to "Raise (his) arms to the perpendicular"!
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