Dec. 12 Christmas Holiday (1944, 92 min.) Deanna Durbin and Gene Kelly play against type with a vengeance in this rarely-seen but never-forgotten noir based on a novel by Somerset Maugham. In her favorite film, Deanna plays a naive young New Orleans songbird courted by a charming bachelor (Gene Kelly) from an aristocratic local family. But after they are wed, she discovers that her new husband is hiding a dark secret that threatens to tear apart both their lives. Not really a musical (though Deanna does manage to give spirited performances of Irving Berlin’s classic “Always” and the new “Spring Will Be a Little Late This Year”), CHRISTMAS HOLIDAY absolutely drips with atmosphere due to the brooding direction from Robert Siodmak (who helmed such other noir classics as THE KILLERS and THE SPIRAL STAIRCASE) and an appropriately dark screenplay by Herman J. Manciewitz (of CITIZEN KANE fame). The New York Times hailed it as “a far, far cry from IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE--an astonishing change of pace from Deanna Durbin’s usual lightweight musical fare, one of the bleakest film noirs of the 1940s.” How can you resist?
Dec. 19 I’LL BE SEEING YOU (1944, 85 min.) On a cross-country train trip, amiable soldier-on-leave Joseph Cotten meets and immediately takes a fancy to pretty small-town gal Ginger Rogers, who’s returning home to be with her family during the Christmas holidays. As he has no family, she invites him to spend the holidays with her family and he eagerly accepts. What she doesn’t know is that he is on medical leave, being shell-shocked from the horrors of war and plagued by nightmares that are tearing him apart. And what he doesn’t know is that she is a convicted felon, on furlough from prison after being found guilty of second-degree murder. (It was in self-defense.) Such is the premise of this tender love story about two broken people, each trying to deal with the unexpected trauma of their lives, and desperately reaching out for love in a world that seems to have abandoned them. Superbly acted from both leads (as well as from a teenaged Shirley Temple as Ginger’s nubile kid sister), I’LL BE SEEING YOU is a surprisingly mature and affecting romantic drama that eschews Hollywood glamour and artifice in favor of real people dealing with real problems in a real world. Don’t miss it.