Every Christmas Eve
Having grown old and wealthy with a thriving business empire thanks to her late husband, Amanda Kingsley (Loretta Young - Rachel and the Stranger) devotes her life to helping those less fortunate than herself such as those who are poor, homeless and need an education. It brings her in to conflict with her son Andrew (Arthur Hill) who not only dislikes the fact that his mother and her butler Maitland (Trevor Howard - The Sea Wolves) go out on the streets at night to help the homeless but also when it comes to the business she won't allow him to demolish the run down buildings as they provide many of the homeless with shelter. It has lead to Amanda changing her will so that Andrew doesn't get control of the business. When Amanda discovers she has an incurable disease she hires a private investigator to track down her grandchildren who left after falling out with their dad. What Amanda doesn't know is that Andrew and his lawyers are setting in motion plans to remove her from controlling the company.
"Christmas Eve" is the sort of movie which reminds me why I started reviewing movies and it is nothing to do with the fact that as a Christmas movie about an aging woman who learns she is dying it ha a sentimental side. Nope here is a movie with aging stars delivering top performances and a storyline which you may expect to end up a certain way but you can never be sure of. And as such "Christmas Eve", which is also known as "Christmas Dove", draws you in to the whole thing from the acting of Loretta Young to the snowy streets to the heart warming nature of Amanda and her concern for those in need.
So let me state the obvious first and "Christmas Eve" has some cliche elements going on; the son looking to manipulate his controlling mother out of the business so he can take over, the estranged grandchildren who left because of their father, the sickness which threatens everything and the long held respect of a servant plus plenty more. All of which are ingredients for a movie, especially a Christmas one, which is going to deliver a heart warming but most likely highly emotional and sentimental ending. But at the same time you can't be entirely sure what that emotional, heart warming ending will be or how it is going to get there, which is one of the reasons you keep watching.
But that is just one of the reasons and there are also the characters from the heart warming generosity of Amanda combined with that little bit of comedy so when for example she sees the police trying to clear a homeless old woman of the street she also ends up arrested for hitting them with her hand bag. Then there is Maitland the loyal butler who has been by Amanda's side for 40 years and you can sense that beneath his constant professionalism he loves and cares for her more than anyone could. The scene where Amanda confides in Maitland of her terminal condition speaks volumes of the characters and their relationship.
That leads me to the acting and there is good acting throughout be it Arthur Hill as Andrew or Ron Leibman as the private investigator Morris but it is Loretta Young and Trevor Howard who make the movie. Young who is radiant brings effortless class, warmth and depth to the role of Amanda and she works so brilliantly with Trevor Howard who brings silent dignity and love to the role of Maitland. Watching Young and Howard also reminds you that so few actors these days have that sense of class and true star power which adds an extra layer of nostalgic charm but also sadness when you watch "Christmas Eve".
What this all boils down to is that "Christmas Eve" is simply brilliant; on one hand it is typical and heart warming, on the other hand it isn't completely stereotypical. But most importantly it features the brilliant Loretta Young and Trevor Howard showing those who watch this what is missing when it comes to so called stars now.