Was there anybody cooler than Robert Mitchum?
Whether playing the good (a soldier in “Crossfire”), the sorta bad (a film noir antihero in “Out of the Past”) or the ugly (a psychotic murderer in “The Night of the Hunter”), Mitchum’s easygoing persona let you know he could handle whatever came along. So, relax, baby, and have a drink.
Despite Mitchum’s onscreen ease with the ladies — he also projected a raw sexuality that made film noir femme fatales temporarily forget their scheming — the romantic comedy genre might not spring to mind when considering his filmography.
But he starred in several rom-coms including 1949’s delightful “Holiday Affair,” which uses Christmas and New York City as backdrops for a lopsided love triangle.
Mitchum plays Steve Mason, a department store clerk who doesn’t report comparative shopper Connie Ennis (Janet Leigh) to the store detective when she returns a toy train one day after purchase. Apparently, folks took comparative shopping so seriously back in the day it could serve as a movie’s major plot point. Not that I understand why Connie needed to buy the train or any of the other items she purchases. Why not discreetly jot down prices?
Anyway, Steve’s good deed costs him his job. However, it does allow him the opportunity to make time with the widow Connie and her son, Timmy. Timmy adores Steve, and Connie likes him, too.
There’s a problem – Connie’s boyfriend, Carl (Wendell Corey, who you might remember from, among other films, “Rear Window.”) Carl is a dependable type of chap, but he’s no Steve. The differences between the two men do not escape little Timmy’s notice. He begins to act out and you know he wants to scream, “Mom! Dump Wendell Corey and marry Robert Mitchum! And buy me a toy train!”
Connie ignores her obvious attraction to Steve. Of course, Steve takes everything in stride and, now that he’s unemployed, spends a lot of time hanging out at the park. New York City in the winter translates to scenes of Robert Mitchum wearing a long coat and a hat amidst snowy landscapes. He’s cool even when he’s cold.
Meanwhile, Carl proposes to Connie and misunderstandings involving a tie as well as salt and pepper shakers ensue. Several characters wind up at the police station where they encounter a police lieutenant who’s amused by Connie’s complicated love life. You’ll recognize the police lieutenant as Harry Morgan of “M*A*S*H” fame.
I ran across “Holiday Affair” more than a decade ago on one of the classic movie channels. I added it to my holiday-viewing roster thanks to Mitchum, his co-stars and the movie’s indelible charm. There must be others like me. Due to its seasonal airings on Turner Classic Movies, it’s been described as a minor holiday classic.
So, if you’re looking for a lightweight romance that doesn’t make you gag or if you fancy Robert Mitchum, check your local listings or TCM for “Holiday Affair.”
According to legend, the studio insisted Mitchum make the movie to repair his image following a 1948 arrest for marijuana possession. The possession charge was eventually overturned, but not before Mitchum spent a week in county jail and 43 days on a prison farm. Also, according to legend, Mitchum described the week in county jail as “like Palm Springs, but without the riffraff.”
No, there was never anybody cooler than Robert Mitchum.