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A Christmas Without Snow (1980)

Not Rated | | Drama, Music | TV Movie 9 December 1980
A divorced woman moves to a new city with her child, trying to build her life again. She joins the choir of a local church but has some personality conflicts with the choirmaster, a ... See full summary »



(teleplay), (teleplay) | 2 more credits »

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Cast overview, first billed only:
... Zoe Jensen
... Ephraim Adams
... Henry Quist
... Reverend Lohman
... Muriel
... Terry
... Wendell
... Inez
... Wendell's Grandma
William Swetland ... Hartley
Ed Bogas ... Seth
Daisietta Kim ... Maisie Kim
Joy Carlin ... Cora Newman
Anne Lawder ... Evangeline Burns
... Carol Thorpe


A divorced woman moves to a new city with her child, trying to build her life again. She joins the choir of a local church but has some personality conflicts with the choirmaster, a curmudgeonly old gentleman who will accept nothing but perfection from his group. As Christmas approaches and the choir practices for a big show and the director pushes them all to their emotional limits, she contemplates quitting the group. Written by Marta Dawes <smdawes@home.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


A timeless, rare classic for the holiday season. See more »


Drama | Music


Not Rated | See all certifications »




Release Date:

9 December 1980 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Navidad sin nieve  »

Filming Locations:

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Ephraim Adams: Mrs. Burns is right, of course; you are amateurs, unlike certain pseudo-professionals like myself who insist on slave wages. Your voluntary and steadfast attendance at these rehearsals fully qualifies you for any definition of the word "amateur". What Mrs. Burns and many others are wrong about is the meaning of the word, which has to do with motivation, not quality. Remember "amo, amat, amas", the Latin verb "to love". The meaning of "amateur" is "he or she who does a thing for the love of it"....
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The Messiah
by George Frideric Handel (as Georg Friedrich Händel)
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User Reviews

A film centered on music that first aired the day after the music died...
21 March 2016 | by See all my reviews

...and by that I mean this film premiered on December 9, 1980, the day after John Lennon was murdered. Thus I really remember seeing it, because I badly needed some cheering up, and this sweet little movie fit the bill. Plus John Houseman's speech on the meaning of the word "amateur" has stuck with me all of these years.

This is a very simple quiet holiday movie about a diverse group of people, many of them extremely lonely, who come together as a choir to learn and sing Handel's Messiah for a church Christmas performance. Micheal Learned plays Zoe Henson, the central character. John Houseman plays the choir director, Ephraim Adams, and as other reviewers have mentioned, he is basically doing his Professor Kingsfield act from the Paper Chase - extreme discipline and brutal honesty tempered with compassion.

The thing that has me scratching my head now that didn't 36 years ago - Why did Zoe insist on coming to a big city like San Francisco where she knew nobody, a thousand miles from her home in Nebraska? Why did she not inquire about the availability of teaching jobs before she ever left Nebraska? Because, you see, there are no available teaching jobs, so the best she can do is office temp work, leaving her with no money to go back to Nebraska where she has left her pre-teen son in the care of her own mother. Zoe is newly divorced, and the only thing I could figure out is that she wanted to prove to herself that she could do things on her own with no help from anybody. When I first saw it I was 22 and had a backpack mentality. You got a job in Idaho? Give me five minutes to get packed and I'll be there in three days.

At any rate, to socialize, Zoe joins this choir that involves a multitude of diverse characters. There is a desperately single woman of about 40 who does not want to be single who goes around shoplifting napkins for her trousseau, a teenage African American guy whose 70 year old grandma is supporting him while he finishes school - he wants to go to night school and work during the day so grandma can take a break - she'll have none of it. There is a lonely 40ish fellow about Zoe's age, and then there is Ruth Nelson as Zoe's older downstairs neighbor who suggested she join the choir in the first place. There are other subplots, but I'll let you watch and discover them.

Some things I noticed on the second viewing? Zoe has to improve her typing skills on a machine that was extinct 20 years ago - the typewriter. That Zoe at about 42 was having men throw themselves at her when I could not get a wisp of attention at 22. That phones were plugged into the wall and you had to go to them - wherever they were in the house - to talk on them. They were not coming to you. That electronic diversions of every kind were not ubiquitous and so people had to actually meet face to face if they wanted company, even the teenagers. And one really sobering thought - this was the city that was about to have huge portions of its population wiped out by the AIDS epidemic, and this is the calm before the storm.

I'd recommend it as a film filled with the spirit of Christmas, the spirit of helping others be just a little less lonely, the spirit of empathy. And always realize everybody is lonely is some way or another.

For those of you looking for copies - this film is out of copyright, which is weird for a film made less than 40 years ago. All of the public domain copies for sale via DVD are pretty atrocious, but there are a couple of good copies on youtube if you want to take a look.

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