Steve Mason (Robert Mitchum) has landed a seasonal job as a clerk at a New York City department store.
While working one day, he meets Connie Ennis (Janet Leigh), a customer who seems to have big money to spend. As it turns out, Connie is actually a spy from one of the store’s competitors, snooping around and purchasing a very expensive train set.
The next day, Connie comes back to the store to return the train, and her cover is blown. Steve has figured out her scheme and threatens to report her to the store detective. She’d be fired if he reported her.
Steve takes pity on Connie when he finds out she’s a war widow with a young son named Timmy (Gordon Gebert). Since he fails to report her and gives her a refund, he loses his own job.
Connie and Steve become friends, though she’s already got a boyfriend, a lawyer named Carl (Wendell Corey). Romantic drama and other complications ensue as Christmas grows near, and then the New Year, when Connie is supposed to marry Carl.
Don Hartman directs 1949’s Holiday Affair, a Christmas-y romantic dramedy based on “Christmas Gift” by John D. Weaver. Distributed by RKO, this film was not a box office hit, taking a loss of $300,000 despite the poster claiming that the film was “hotter than July.” It has gained a greater reputation with modern audiences through TCM showings and DVD releases.
“Hotter than July” may be the overstatement of the century. As it turns out, Holiday Fair is quite sentimental and sweet. It is well-deserving of its new-found reputation as a Christmas classic, though.
It takes a few minutes for Holiday Affair to find its footing, but things pick up once Steve gets fired. Mitchum and Leigh begin an adorable, sometimes banter-y friendship. Steve not only allows himself to be fired by letting her off the hook when he uncovers her comparison shopping, but also begins working with her for no pay.
Connie appreciates Steve’s kindness, but that doesn’t stop the two from having their fair share of disagreements and differences, and it only accelerates Steve’s rivalry with Connie’s boyfriend, Carl.
The film’s love triangle is pretty transparent. By the time Janet Leigh has shared only a scene or two with Wendell Corey, it’s clear to the viewer that they shouldn’t (and won’t) end up together by the end of the film. Even little Timmy chooses sides from the film’s opening, protesting when his mom announces her plans to marry Carl and smirking when one of his outbursts makes Carl storm out of the apartment in anger.
As such, the film is pretty predictable, but it’s a good watch for the Christmas season. Blending comedy, drama, and snowy sentimentality, Holiday Affair is a very pleasant film.
This film appears in Warner Bros. 4 Film Favorites: Classic Holiday Collection Volume 2, which can be purchased in the WB shop.