AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Holiday Affair
Alternate Title: The Man Who Played Santa Claus
Director: Don Hartman (Dir)
Release Date:   24 Dec 1949
Premiere Information:   New York opening: 23 Nov 1949
Production Date:   11 Jul--2 Sep 1949
Duration (in mins):   86-87
Duration (in feet):   7,797
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Cast:   Robert Mitchum (Steve [Mason])  
    Janet Leigh (Connie [Ennis])  
    Wendell Corey (Carl [Davis])  
    Gordon Gebert (Timmy [Ennis])  
    Griff Barnett (Mr. Ennis)  
    Esther Dale (Mrs. Ennis)  
    Henry O'Neill (Mr. Crowley)  
    Henry ["Harry"] Morgan (Police lieutenant)  
    Larry J. Blake (Plainclothesman [Johnson])  
    Helen Brown (Emily)  
    Frances Morris (Mary)  
    Robert Hughes (Joey)  
    Carl Sklover (Clerk)  
    James Griffith (Clerk)  
    Mamie Henderson (Clerk)  
    Pat Hall (Clerk)  
    Joey Ray (Clerk)  
    Genevieve Kendall (Clerk)  
    Harmon Stevens (Clerk)  
    Allen Mathews (Mr. Gow)  
    Louise Franklin (Elevator operator)  
    Yvonne Crossley (Elevator operator)  
    Frank Johnson (Santa Claus)  
    Bill Henry (Boy)  
    Jim Hawkins (Boy)  
    Robert Lyden (Boy)  
    Jack Chefe (Waiter)  
    Don Dillaway (Desk clerk)  
    Charles Sullivan (Police officer)  
    George Eldredge (Elevator starter)  
    Genevieve Bell (Saleswoman)  
    Pat Barton (Saleswoman)  
    Mary Stewart (Girl)  
    Melinda Plowman (Girl)  
    Frank Mills (Bum)  
    W. J. O'Brien (Peanut vendor)  
    Al Rhein (Detective)  
    Sally Yarnell (Salesgirl)  
    Chick Chandler (Joe)  
    Phillip Morris (Conductor)  
    Al Murphy    
    Monya Andre    
    Mishka Egan    
    Louise Lane    
    Theodore Rand    
    Mike Lally    
    Sam Shack    
    Charles Regan    

Summary: When attractive Connie Ennis buys an expensive electric train set during the Christmas rush at Crowley's, a New York department store, without asking a single question about it, clerk Steve Mason becomes suspicious. Steve's suspicions are justified as Connie works as a professional "comparison shopper" for one of Crowley's competitors. Exhausted after a day of "shopping," Connie, a war widow, goes home to her six-year-old son Timmy and brings the electric train with her. The impressionable Timmy sneaks a peek at the train and gleefully assumes it is his Christmas present until Connie, who is unaware that he has seen it, informs him otherwise. That night, Connie's longtime admirer, lawyer Carl Davis, proposes to her, but unsure of her feelings, she declines to give him an immediate answer. Connie then discusses Carl's proposal with Timmy, who resists the idea. The next day, when Connie tries to return the train at Crowley's, Steve threatens to report her to the store detective. After she explains that she is a war widow with a son to support, however, Steve refunds her money, a gesture that leads to his dismissal. Steve then asks Connie to lunch and, while eating with her in Central Park, impresses her with his plans to build sailboats with his friend in Balboa, California. Later, as they are loaded down with comparison shopping packages, Connie and Steve become separated in a crowd. Steve, however, shows up later at Connie's apartment and discovers Carl there. Although polite, Carl is clearly disturbed by Steve's presence and fights with Timmy, who is still upset about the train. After a frustrated Carl leaves, Steve angers Connie by suggesting that she stop trying to make Timmy into the image of his dead father. Steve then learns about the train from Timmy and advises him to always "aim higher than the mark." As he is leaving, Steve impulsively gives Connie a passionate kiss, prompting her to accept Carl's proposal that night. On Christmas morning, Timmy discovers the train set outside the apartment door and assumes that it is from his mother. When he reveals that he earlier told Steve about seeing the train, Connie deduces where it came from and goes to confront Steve. Connie finds the almost broke Steve in Central Park, and although she offers to reimburse him for the train, he refuses her money, saying that he wants to encourage Timmy's optimism. After Connie gives him the loud tie she had bought for Carl, Steve happily offers his old tie to a passing bum. Connie then reveals she is marrying Carl on New Year's Day, sparking another lecture from Steve about letting go of the past and facing the future without fear. Annoyed by Steve's words, Connie leaves the park in a huff and goes home to Timmy, Carl and her former in-laws. Soon after, Connie is summoned to the police station to vouch for Steve, who was arrested after the police found him with a pair of stolen salt and pepper shakers, which the park bum had given to him as a gift. With Carl and Timmy by her side, Connie explains about Steve and the bum to a bemused police lieutenant, who eventually releases Steve. Timmy then insists that Steve eat Christmas dinner with them. At Connie's, the two rivals maintain a polite facade until Steve finally announces that he is in love with Connie and wants to marry her. Connie coolly tells Steve to leave, and Steve, who is planning to move to California as soon as he has earned enough money for a train ticket, says a final goodbye. The next day, however, Timmy takes his train set back to Crowley's and tearfully asks Mr. Crowley for a refund so that Steve will not be penniless. After Timmy returns home and presents a worried Connie with his refund money, she and Carl drive to Steve's hotel. When Connie refuses to see Steve, Carl deduces that she is genuinely in love with him and graciously "divorces" her. Connie then delivers the money to Steve, but he refuses to propose again until she has proven to him that she is through grieving for her husband. Once again, Connie storms off in anger, but later, on a lonely New Year's Eve, she realizes her future is with Steve. As Steve celebrates the New Year on a west-bound train, he receives a telegram informing him that Connie and Timmy are joining him and rushes happily to embrace them between cars. 

Production Company: RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.  
Production Text: A Don Hartman Production
Distribution Company: RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.  
Director: Don Hartman (Dir)
  Sam Ruman (Asst dir)
Producer: Don Hartman (Prod)
Writer: Isobel Lennart (Scr)
Photography: Milton Krasner (Dir of photog)
  Edwin Pyle (Cam op)
  James Almond (Gaffer)
  Ernest Bachrach (Stills)
Art Direction: Albert S. D'Agostino (Art dir)
  Carroll Clark (Art dir)
Film Editor: Harry Marker (Film ed)
Set Decoration: Darrell Silvera (Set dec)
  William Stevens (Set dec)
Costumes: Howard Greer (Miss Leigh's gowns by)
  Bruce MacIntosh (Miss Leigh's gowns by)
Music: C. Bakaleinikoff (Mus dir)
  Roy Webb (Mus)
Sound: Frank Sarver (Sd)
  Clem Portman (Sd)
Make Up: Larry Germain (Hair styles)
  Vera Peterson (Hair styles)
  James Houser (Makeup)
Production Misc: Richard Kinon (Scr supv)
  James Kirley (Grip)
Country: United States

Source Text: Based on the novelette The Man Who Played Santa Claus by John D. Weaver in McCall's (Dec 1948).
Authors: John D. Weaver

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
RKO Radio Pictures, Inc. 23/11/1949 dd/mm/yyyy LP2674

PCA NO: 14008
Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: RCA Sound System

Genre: Romance
Subjects (Major): Christmas
  Mothers and sons
  Romantic rivalry
Subjects (Minor): Business competition
  Department store owners
  Department stores
  Dismissal (Employment)
  False arrests
  New Year's Eve
  New York City
  New York City--Central Park
  Proposals (Marital)
  Toy trains

Note: The working titles of this film were The Man Who Played Santa Claus and Christmas Gift . Gordon Gebert is listed last in the film's opening credits. Contemporary news items add the following information about the production: RKO paid $50,000 for the screen rights to John Weaver's story. In Nov 1948, Cary Grant and his then wife Betsy Drake were announced as the film's probable stars, but in Jan 1949, Montgomery Clift, James Stewart and Teresa Wright were being considered for leading roles. Before Janet Leigh was finally cast, Howard Hughes protegĂ©es Faith Domergue and Jane Russell were also considered. Only days before the start of production, Johnny Wright was announced for the part of "Timmy" and is listed as a cast member in HR production charts. Gebert played the role in the film, however. RKO borrowed Leigh from M-G-M for the production and Wendell Corey from Hal Wallis' company. Some scenes were shot at Paramount Studios. A late Jul 1949 HR news item noted that the studio was rushing the picture's opening in order to capitalize on Robert Mitchum's popularity, which had grown following his much-publicized conviction on narcotics possession earlier in the year and his success in the RKO film The Big Steal (see above entry). This was producer/director Don Hartman's second and last picture for RKO. According to modern sources, the film lost $300,000 at the box office. Robert Mitchum and Gordon Gebert reprised their roles in a 18 Dec 1950 Lux Radio Theatre broadcast, co-starring Laraine Day. Scott Brady and Phyllis Thaxter starred in a Lux Video Theatre telecast on 22 Dec 1955. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   19 Nov 1949.   
Daily Variety   15 Nov 49   p. 3.
Film Daily   18 Nov 49   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   30 Nov 1948 p. 1.   
Hollywood Reporter   21 Jan 49   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   30 Jun 49   p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter   5 Jul 49   p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter   7 Jul 49   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   8 Jul 49   p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter   25 Jul 49   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   15 Aug 49   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   2 Sep 49   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   15 Nov 49   p. 3.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   19 Nov 49   p. 89.
New York Times   24 Nov 49   p. 48.
New York Times   1 Dec 1948.   
Variety   16 Nov 49   p. 16.

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
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