The House Without a Christmas Tree (1972 TV Movie)
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There are true emotions in this film; Addie is hurt by her father's seeming indifference to her, and doesn't understand why he won't buy a tree. He can't bring himself to explain, so these two headstrong people continually clash. Addie's grandmother softens what she can, but her son won't listen to her. He is sometimes cruel to his daughter, to hide his own wounded feelings. He and Addie come to a truce of sorts at the end, but it's not a neatly wrapped up conclusion, and it feels just like a real father-daughter relationship. Jason Robards is devastating as the father. His eyes are so expressive; the pain bleeds out of them, and just as conversely the love he truly does feel for Addie also shows in them. Mildred Natwick is just fine as the grandmother. She is the warm, comfy composite of every grandmother who ever lived, but she also adds a bite to the character that is refreshing. The Nebraska setting does just as much to enhance the story.
This was broadcast in 1972 on CBS, and not shown again till Disney picked it up in the very early 80's, along with the other two movies taken from Gail Rock's wonderful reminiscences of growing up in rural Nebraska, "The Thanksgiving Treasure" and "Addie and the King of Hearts". This film is available on VHS tape, and is highly recommended for the whole family. My own children always adored it.
The acting is superb--especially the gruff Jason Robards and Mildred Dunnock as his mother. Addie, Robards' daughter does a competent job as the child who wonders WHY they don't really celebrate Christmas in their home--why no tree? The answer is slowly revealed in the movie and your attention will be kept throughout. And, because it's so well written and directed, the payoff is well worth the wait.
If you like this film, there were follow-up films with the same cast THE HOLIDAY TREASURE, THE EASTER PROMISE and ADDIE AND THE KING OF HEARTS. Find them, too, if you can.