A Christmas story that combines comedy with drama, sentiment with wit, THE HOLLY AND THE IVY was based on a successful London play that ran in the late 1940s and was beautifully adapted for the screen by de Grunwald, who assembled a near-perfect cast to speak his words. The stage origin is
clearly indicated as the action takes place in a little more than one day in the lives of the principals. Richardson is a widower reverend who gathers his family to his bosom at Christmas in the vicarage. Many characters descend on the normally quiet manse for the holiday, including his sister,
Delany, his sister-in-law, Halstan, and his late wife's cousin, Williams. Two of his children also appear--his son, Elliott, a soldier home for Christmas, and his devil-may-care youngest daughter, Leighton, a pixilated London newspaperwoman. His eldest daughter is Johnson, a woman so devoted to
her father's welfare that she can't leave him and marry her long time fiance, Gregson, a civil engineer who is about to depart with a five-year contract overseas and wants to take her with him. Elliott loves his father but has never been able to take the stuffy life in the country. Leighton hides
the fact that she'd had a baby out of wedlock by a man who died during the war. That child's death is what turned her to taking solace from a bottle. She admits this to Elliott and Johnson on the eve of Christmas and is then prevailed upon by her two aged aunts to return to the vicarage to take
care of Richardson so Johnson can marry Gregson. Leighton refuses to consider that and she and Elliott decide to go to the movies. Before entering the theater, they change their minds and opt for getting very drunk at the local pub. Next morning, Richardson wonders why his son and daughter had to
get so inebriated. Elliott betrays Leighton by telling Richardson of her dead child. Richardson confronts Leighton and they play a wonderfully written, poignant scene that brings father and daughter closer. By the time the film is over, Leighton has agreed to take Johnson's place at home and
Richardson, who had spent his life counseling people and offering his spiritual aid, has learned that he didn't see the forest for the trees and that some of the neediest parishioners in his flock were his own flesh and blood.
Halstan and Delany repeated their stage roles in the film and the other members of the cast were equal to the two aunts' studied performances. The worst part of the movie is that it wasn't filmed well. It felt claustrophobic and could have used some "air" between the interior scenes. The best part
of the movie was everything else. Don't wait for Christmas to see this. It's a story that stirs the emotions any day of the year.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: A Christmas story that combines comedy with drama, sentiment with wit, THE HOLLY AND THE IVY was based on a successful London play that ran in the late 1940s and was beautifully adapted for the screen by de Grunwald, who assembled a near-perfect cast to sp… (more)