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Two nuns from a French convent arrive in a small New England town with a plan to build a children's hospital. They enlist the help of several colorful characters in achieving their dream including a struggling artist, a popular composer, and a renowned racketeer. Written by
Daniel Bubbeo <email@example.com>
In asking the Bishop to let them stay on after purchasing the building, Sister Margaret tells him they have $301.25 on hand. But they had had to give Mr. Jarman, the real estate agent, a $50 deposit, so in fact they would have had only $251.25 remaining. See more »
COME TO THE STABLE (20th Century-Fox, 1949), directed by Henry Koster, from the story by Claire Booth Luce, stars Loretta Young in her most perfect screen role. Not quite the retelling of the three Wise Men following the star in the Heavens as they locate the Baby Jesus born in the stable surrounded by Joseph and his Mother Mary, but one about two nuns from the Order of Holy Endeavor on a mission of faith fulfilling their promise to God.
With its opening parallel to the three wise men, the film begins with two wise nuns, Sister Margaret (Loretta Young) from Chicago, and Sister Scholastica (Celeste Holm) of France, having arrived in Connecticut by train, walking miles through the snow with the twinkling star up above. Having spent and survived their war years in France helping underprivileged children, their mission now is to build a children's hospital in the town of Bethlehem. Their journey leads them to the barn where they find Miss Amelia Potts (sensitively played by Elsa Lanchester), an artist who specializes in religious pictures, and the Matthews family acting as models for her latest painting, "Come to the Stable." During the course of time, the nuns take up residence with Miss Potts, acquire the friendship and assistance of Anthony (Dooley Wilson), employed and living in the home of Robert Mason (Hugh Marlowe), a young composer, and his great dane called "Arson," on the other side of the hill from Miss Potts. Finding the perfect location to build their hospital, the nuns learn the land owner to be Luigi Rossi (Thomas Gomez), a bookie/ racketeer who conducts his business in midtown New York. Regardless of circumstances, they intend on meeting with him with the hope he would be so kind and donate the land to them, which doesn't seem possible. As much as the Bishop (Basil Ruysdael) and Monsignor Talbot (Regis Toomey) feel the nuns are fighting a lost cause, the Bishop agrees on giving them, along with the other assisting nuns, three months to earn enough money to pay for property and adjoining building for their church, much to the dismay of Mr. Mason who doesn't want the hospital placed "in his own back yard."
Filled with sentimental charm in the style of Leo McCarey's THE BELLS OF ST. MARY'S (RKO, 1945) starring Bing Crosby and Ingrid Bergman, COME TO THE STABLE is great on comedy as well with the sisters getting into the habit of unwittingly annoying Mr. Mason for special favors, and their way of passing through some tough thugs (one of them played by Mike Mazurki) in order to visit with their head boss (Gomez, in excellent portrayal). Aside from Sister Margaret being a driver with a lead foot, the scene worth mentioning is the one where the sisters come to Manhattan in Mr. Mason's borrowed jeep, leaving it in front of St. Patrick's Cathedral to enter the church and light a special candle, only to return to find a parking ticket placed on the windshield. What's done with the ticket comes as an element of surprise, especially from the officer watching at a distance. Scenes such as these are played in a straightforward manner, which performs much funnier for its viewers.
While Loretta Young deservingly earned an Academy Award nomination as Best Actress, Celeste Holm's secondary performance as the French nun who expertly plays a good game of tennis should not go unnoticed. Even though a native born French actress as Annabella could have been more accurate in the role, Holm's French accent is so perfect and convincing one would think she was actually born and raised in France. Hugh Marlowe, a fine actor with a very pleasing voice, is ideally cast as the harassed songwriter who not only finds the nuns to be a little troublesome to him, but more of a bother when he is told that his latest composition, "Through a Long and Sleepless Night" to be an old religious hymn he's unwittingly acquired in his head after listening to nuns chanting during church service nearby. Also in the cast is Dorothy Patrick as Marlowe's girlfriend, Kitty Blane.
Often categorized as a Christmas movie, COME TO THE STABLE actually isn't. Though its opening takes place during or around the Christmas season, the love, care and kindness enriched by others is felt throughout its three month time span in which its set. An inspirational movie with a message of not giving up hope when situations prove impossible. In Sister Margaret's case, her faith in the Lord and prayers to her patron St. Jude, patron saint of hopeless cases. A delightful film from start to finish, COME TO THE STABLE is worthy viewing not only around Christmas but any time of the year. While Loretta Young never portrayed a nun on screen again, she would enact that particular role in an episode or two on television for her "Loretta Young Show" in the 1950s, but none as memorable as her portrayal as Sister Margaret, who's faith is stronger than herself.
Displayed on video cassette in 1995, cable broadcast history for COME TO THE STABLE consists of American Movie Classics (1990s), Fox Movie Channel and Turner Classic Movies (TCM premiere: February 27, 2012) (****)
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