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In 1900, Naomi Murdoch deserted her small-town family to go on the stage. Some ten years later, daughter Lily invites Naomi back to see her in the Riverdale high school play. Her arrival sets the whole town abuzz, wakes up old conflicts, and sets off new emotional storms. Written by
Rod Crawford <email@example.com>
All I Want for Christmas is Stanwyck, Stanwyck, Stanwyck......
Barbar Stanwyck, Maureen O'Sullivan, Richard Carlson and Lyle Bettger make up the leading cast in this Ross Hunter-produced and Douglas Sirk-directed film. Stanwyck goes back home to her small town and the family she left behind, after receiving a letter from her oldest daughter, who's starring in a school play and graduating from high school, and who asked her to attend. Stanwyck is an stage actress, but hasn't found much success, and when she hits the small town, gossip flies. Her son just happens to be fishing buddies and best friends with Lyle Bettger, a guy who had an affair with Barbara, before she up and left. And, Miss O'Sullivan is on hand as a love interest for Richard, even though Barbara's new presence puts a fly in their plans. Does he still love Barbara? Does Barbara still love Richard? And, Lyle Bettger is all upset with Barbara for leaving him. That pretty much sets up another melodramatic story, courtesy of Hunter and Sirk.
The only critique or negative thing I have about it, is that it takes itself too seriously too early in the picture and gets really melodramatic really fast, instead of easing into the melodrama, and the dramatic events evolving and complicating their lives. The not-so-subtle score also adds to the dramatics. Bettger and Carlson seem to be overacting, especially Carlson, who appears to be uncomfortable in this movie. (In other words, they and the movie seem to be overdoing it a bit.) But, as we get to the second half and more complications ensue, this begins to find its heart and the dialogue is a lot more believable and realistic. Carlson and Bettger appear to have settled into their roles. Stanwyck is always great, as usual. The only other question is why did Richard Carlson get this role, instead of someone like George Brent or a more charismatic leading actor? But on the whole, you will definitely enjoy this film and be glad you've discovered this unknown melodrama. It can be found on a new Barbara Stanwyck DVD collection out in 2010. I could watch it again right now, and this cold weather makes me want to snuggle in for a nice quiet Saturday afternoon with Barbara Stanwyck. Who could ask for anything more?
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