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There are very few legends left from Hollywood's golden age. Humphrey Bogart, Clark Gable, Carole Lombard, Ingrid Bergman and more passed away years ago. Recently, one woman who rose to stardom during Hollywood's golden age, then television's golden age, left us. Christmas Eve, an NBC movie of the week in 1986, was one of Loretta Young's final performances.
Young stars as Amanda Kingsley, the widow of a powerful and very rich businessman. While her son, Andrew (Arthur Hill), runs the multi-million dollar company founded by the family, she continues to hold 51% percent of the stock. Amanda has final approval of all business matters.
Unfortunately, Amanda and Andrew do not see eye to eye. She is a very giving and caring person who wanders the streets of New York late at night with her butler, Maitland (Trevor Howard), giving cash to the homeless and taking in stray cats. This drives her son crazy.
Amanda decides that she must teach her cold, unloving son how to care for others, so she hires a detective, Morris Huffner (Ron Liebman), to track down his estranged children in time for them to come home for Christmas. However, the holiday might be spoiled when Andrew decides to take his mother to court and get her declared mentally incompetent because she has changed her will to exclude him from taking control of the company when she dies. Instead, Amanda wants to set up a foundation to build shelters for homeless people.
Will Amanda's grandchildren return home for Christmas?
Will she be declared incompetent?
The movie is a good Christmas weeper. Young is lovable as the kindly grandmother and philanthropist who wants to help the less fortunate, including her own family. Trevor Howard is funny as the bumbling butler and confidant, while Arthur Hill is passable as the stereotypical Scrooge who needs to learn his lesson. The plot doesn't have too many surprises, but what do you want? It's a Christmas movie!
Young was always known as one of America's most proper actresses. She was devoutly catholic and often imposed fines on those who used profane language on the set of her television program. However, one mystery always haunted her, and, was finally put to rest after her death.
After filming the 1935 movie Call of the Wild with actor Clark Gable, Young withdrew from public life. When she re-emerged, she adopted a baby girl, Judy. However, Judy didn't need to be adopted.
Before her death in August, Young confirmed a long believed rumor to her biographer - she disappeared from public life to give birth to Judy, even though she was not married. On a train ride in 1935, Young shared a night of passion with her Call of the Wild co-star, Clark Gable. Young got pregnant, but feared the negative publicity, so she devised the plan where she would adopt Judy to cover up the pregnancy and her relationship with Clark Gable.
Even Judy had suspicions about her real mother and father, especially when the rumor would never go away. We don't know if Gable ever knew about his daughter. One can only hope that he did. After the tragic death of his wife, Carole Lombard (click here to learn more about that), Gable was shattered. He turned to alcohol, his career suffered and he died in 1960 before his only other child, a son, was born.
Young was correct to fear the negative fallout that would have resulted if she revealed the extra-marital relations. Because her entire image had been rooted in her wholesomeness, and America was not accepting of having babies out of wedlock (especially from those who were as religious as Young), she would have been ruined, much like Ingrid Bergman had been in 1949 when she had an affair with Roberto Rosselini (click here to learn more about that). Instead, she was able to go on to star in many movies and a very successful television program.
If you want a little sappy sentimentality this weekend, try Christmas Eve.
Directed by Stuart Cooper
Written by Blanche Hanalis
Loretta Young . ....... Amanda Kingsley
Arthur Hill .. Andrew
Trevor Howard .. Maitland
Season Hubley .. ..Melissa
Ron Leibman .. Morris
Wayne Best .... Harley Kingsley
Patrick Cassidy .. . Josh
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