Thursday, December 21, 2017

Christmas Cinema - SUSAN SLEPT HERE (1956)

There's a difference between a movie that takes place at Christmas and a Christmas movie. I think a lot depends on the mood of the story as to whether the film will key into the sentimental feelings the season usually fosters but even dark themes can merge with glad tidings if enough wit is used. To that point, I bring you SUSAN SLEPT HERE (1956).

In the realm of films that just happened to take place at Christmas there are a lot of good ones and certainly this one fits. I discovered it by accident on Christmas Day 7 years ago when Turner Classic Movies screened it for Yuletide joy. The film spends the first third of its running time on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day giving the entire procedure a kind of Christmas Eve feel even though the story doesn't necessarily relate to the holiday. When I wrote this film up for the blog in 2010 I did point out that it's probably the most charming film I've ever seen about statutory rape. At least I think it's about statutory rape. I'm not sure what the age of consent is in California but since Debbie Reynolds' female character is clearly 17 in the movie and the male lead is stated as being 35 years of age there's something hinky going on somewhere. And when you learn that actor Dick Powell was actually 50 at the time of shooting it doesn't really matter that his female co-star was, in reality, 22 years old! Often one of the most interesting things old Hollywood can show us is the stark difference between the Good Old Days and a much more enlightened time.

Although it may be hard to overlook such a thing in today's fraught sexual climate I would suggest giving it a try if you enjoy Classic Hollywood films. This is a delightful movie! It's very funny, it's very light and it has a number of laugh-out-loud moments scattered throughout it's run time. Indeed, it is a fun, frothy barrel of laughs. The fact that it has a Christmastime feel to it makes this the perfect season in which to view it and I do recommend doing so. Just go in knowing that the sexual politics of this film are a little tilted. I have no idea what people who saw this in theaters in the 1950s thought of it but I'm willing to go with the flow when the movie is this entertaining. Plus, knowing that Debbie Reynolds wasn't actually 17 takes a little bit of the edge off - for me anyway.

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