And you thought I'd forget this year, didn't you?
Today's classic is called "Son of the Navy", from 1940. I posted this one back in 2007, but it's worth a second look.
"Son of the Navy" is one of those movies where Christmas isn't the primary theme, but does provide an excuse for some sentimentality that you couldn't get away with any other time. Consider the plot: young Tommy runs away from an orphanage to find himself a set f parents of his very own. First he bamboozles a sailor (Mike, played by James Dunn) into posing as his father, and Mike goes along with it so he can hitch a ride back to his ship. The two of them are picked up by a beautiful young woman (Jean Parker, as Stevie) and after Mike ships out, the boy keeps up the pretense. In Hollywood fashion, the woman turns out to be a naval officer's daughter, and she's furious that Mike would leave his son behind while he's at sea. Now, I ask you: would you buy that plot even in a B movie?
Of course not, not if it was, say, August or March. But this takes place in December, and Tommy wants a family for Christmas. Mike's shipmates are initially furious with him for abandoning Tommy, but once that's resolved they form themselves up into a squadron of uncles. It's all very family-heavy, and at Christmas, you can get away with a lot of family content.
It helps that there are some solid if underrated actors in this. I cannot fathom why Jean Parker never made it into the big-budget films. James Dunn isn't brilliant, but he's competent. And Martin Spellman, who plays Tommy, is several notches more believable than most of the child actors of his time. (Mr. Spellman is alive and well in California, it appears. One of these days I'd like to call him and see if I can get his thoughts on this film.)
As always, if you watch this, leave me a comment and tell me what you thought.