A Richard Brody Review of “Christmas Holiday” (1944)

From The New Yorker of 6 August 2012 (“Critic’s Notebook”):

Deanna Durbin was one of Hollywood’s most popular actresses before she retired, in 1949, at the age of twenty-eight.  Her apparent unease with performance folds poignantly into her starring role in “Christmas Holiday,” Robert Siodmak’s film noir of romantic degradation, from 1944.  She plays a singer/ prostitute in a sleazy New Orleans dance hall who takes the stage with her arms pinned limply to her sides and her eyes asking in despair, “What am I doing here?”  The rest of the movie, told largely in flashbacks, provides the reason:  fallout from her marriage to a fast-talking, glad-handing heel (played with unctuous charm by Gene Kelly).  Siodmak makes performance his subject, with scenes of an orchestra playing Wagner and Beethoven, lovers singing at a piano in a parlor, and a society band at a swank café, where, in a cunning crane shot of a saunter down a staircase —  with Kelly’s leonine grace and Durbin’s homely footfalls —  he condenses the drama to a thwarted dance.

Dear blog readers, self thinks this is the first time she’s ever heard of Gene Kelly playing the role of a less-than-totally-nice guy.  Shows you how little she knows.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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