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Heart-touching Story for All...Any Time of the Year
Stormy_Autumn1 October 2006
Warning: Spoilers
*The Greatest Gift* (1942) Director Harold Daniels Writing credits Karl Kamb (Genre: Short/Drama)

Cast (in credits order): Edmund Gwenn....Bartholomew, the Juggler (Cast listed alphabetically): Hans Conried....Father Fabian; Lumsden Hare....Father Cyprian; Robert Emmett O'Connor....Brother Xavier;

In Medieval times a juggler, called by the name of Bartholomew, had little success making a living. On his way to another city for work, he was overtaken by illness and found laying by the side of the road by a group of Monks. They carried him to their monastery to care for him until he recovered and could travel again.

As recovery began to kindly show itself, Bartholomew began to take interest in what was going on around him. He wanted to know why the monks were so busy. For what were they getting ready. He was surprised to learn that while he has been ill, they have been preparing for a Christmas Festival. This was a special service coming up where the brothers would do all they could to glorify their Lady (Mother of their Lord) with their art and expertise.

Each Brother had a specialty. Whether it was cooking, woodworking, painting, sculpturing, they had trained to do it well. Poor Bartholomew tried to help but became more of a hindrance. The day of the Christmas Festival was held for the Lady, and each of the monks offered his gift, but dear Bartholomew still had nothing. ***Spoiler***Frustrated, he began to juggle. As he did his face began to change as years of uselessness and sorrow began to melt away. His juggling continued as her statue began to glow. The love in his heart touched Her and She reached out to touch him.***Spoiler*** A beautiful story for Christmas or Easter.
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A Warm Short Film About Religious Fervor and Acceptance
theowinthrop13 December 2006
Warning: Spoilers
The Turner Classic Movie Channel occasionally has "A festival of shorts", and I watched some of them tonight. The first one was this film starring Edmund Gwenn, Lumsdale Hare, and Hans Conried. Set in the Middle Ages, Gwenn is a struggling street performer - a juggler. He is trying to get to Italy before the winter snows stuff up the passes of the Alps - there are street fairs in Italy that he can make a living at. But he is ill, and collapses in the snow outside a monastery. The Abbott (Hare) brings him in, and nurses him back to health - despite the snobby suspicions of Conried (he notices that the gold and silver monastic treasures are in a cabinet in the room next to that Gwenn is in, and starts closing the locked cabinet very openly in front of Gwenn). Hare, a kindly man, more than makes up for Conried's negative vibes, but he is willing to dismiss Gwenn's efforts to show his religiosity. Gwenn has no normal method of work or ability to use to show his fervor or devotion. But it saddens him when his juggling tools are belittled (tactfully as it is done) by Hare - but at the conclusion of the short Gwenn demonstrates that one can win divine acceptance of one's love of God by any means that comes from the heart. This is a very sweet short religious film.
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Perhaps a bit too "schmaltzy" for some, I still liked it.
MartinHafer21 December 2006
Warning: Spoilers
This is a short film starring Edmund Gwen as a half-frozen juggler taken in by French monks centuries ago. Gwen is impressed by the decency of the monks and appreciates all they did to save his life. In fact, he's so appreciative that he tries to help out but just doesn't seem to fit in or have skills needed to prepare for the upcoming religious festival of the Virgin. So, in the end, he does what little he can by performing his juggling trick for the Madonna. At first, one of the more cynical monks (Hans Conreid) is taken aback by Gwen's performing in the chapel, but as he and the other monks approach, they see the statue come to life and extend its blessing to Gwen for his simple yet heartfelt gift.

It's a very lovely and sensitively made short that might be seen by some as being too "schmaltzy" (overly sentimental), but I enjoyed it and appreciated the film for its artistry.
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A wonderful movie for your entire family
donniebeard27 November 2006
This is an absolutely fabulous movie. It is suitable for your entire family to watch. Traditional Catholics will really appreciate the beauty and significance of this film. It shows that every person is valuable and important in God's eyes. I caught this movie late one night when I was up with one of our children. I was so moved by the beauty and sincerity of this film. It is a very spiritual movie that unfortunately is not shown enough. I have written TCM several times and asked that they show it again, but have had no reply. I highly recommend seeing this. It also shows the importance of Mary in the Catholic faith, that unfortunately is not taught in today's Catholic church.
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moonspinner554 July 2016
11-minute "Miniature" from MGM, adapted from Anatole France's story "Le Jongleur de Notre Dame," has a sickly Renaissance juggler nursed back to health by French monks who are preparing for a spring celebration to the Blessed Mother. Wanting to help and give thanks, the juggler offers his clubs--his only means of supporting himself--for their material, but is turned down. Rather perplexing religious short, to say the least; it seems to have been produced solely for the sake of that final shot--the rest being utterly unremarkable. Disgruntled monk Hans Conried harbors a troubled nature which goes unexplored, while Edmund Gwenn is poorly costumed and photographed. It takes a lot to make sweet, sincere Edmund Gwenn look bad!
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A Grateful Heart is the Greatest Gift of All
utgard1422 December 2013
Nice MGM short about medieval French monks who find a juggler (Edmund Gwenn) freezing and take him in. The monks spend the winter nights making gifts for a religious ceremony honoring the Virgin Mary. Upon recovering, Gwenn wishes to repay their hospitality. But he is broke and they will not accept the gift of his juggling clubs as they are his only means of making a living. In the end the juggler figures out a way to show his gratitude.

This is pleasant, positive way to spend ten minutes. Obviously it's a religious story so that may not appeal to all. But I think even if you aren't a believer, you can appreciate the humble simplicity of the story and its message. Also, for classic film fans, it's always nice to see Edmund Gwenn and Hans Conried in something you haven't seen before.
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Spiritual fable marred by some odd casting...
Neil Doyle23 September 2008
THE GREATEST GIFT is a simplistic fable about a juggler (EDMUND GWENN) who is on his way to earn money at an Italian fair when he falls ill and is taken in by some monks who nurse him back to health.

They are preparing for a festival honoring the Virgin Mary and each is making a suitable gift for an offering. Encouraged to stay until the fair is over, Gwenn is unable to think of anything he can offer except for his juggling apparatus. This idea is scornfully rejected by HANS CONREID and LUMSDEN HARE, so he uses another approach that seems to work a miracle.

Unfortunately, Edmund Gwenn seems a bit out of place as the juggler, donned in a page boy dark wig that only accentuates his inappropriate age. And Hans Conreid, as the skeptic, looks oddly out of place in the monastery setting when he's associated mainly with wild and wacky comedy roles.

But with these reservations aside, it's a watchable enough short subject that is heartwarming if a bit overly sentimental in its tale of Christian faith.
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Nice Endling But Bland Otherwise
Michael_Elliott27 April 2010
Greatest Gift, The (1942)

** (out of 4)

Decent short tells the French legend of a group of Monks who spend all winter making various gifts for the our Lady. In the middle they take in a poor juggler who is nearly frozen and what he has to offer might be more than anything the Monks have made. I'm not sure how true or false this legend is but this short really isn't all that special. The ending when we learn what the juggler does and what happened because of it was pretty well done but everything else is rather bland. There's no question that the first eight minutes are just the build up for the end but it doesn't work because you're bored out of your mind by the time that ending does come around. The film would have been a lot better had we actually cared for the characters leading up to the end but this doesn't happen.
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