Great Movies No One's Seen: The Holly and The Ivy

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Mike Gebert

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Great Movies No One's Seen: The Holly and The Ivy

PostThu Dec 14, 2017 12:20 am

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As always, I can't say that no one has seen The Holly and The Ivy‚ it's on Telical's concurrent list of mostly lesser-known holiday films, but although I get the impression that it's a Christmas tradition in the UK, it seems pretty little known in the US and not easily available. I learned about it from a blog post about it; as soon as I read that it was based on a play of the 1950s and produced by Alexander Korda, I was sold and found a decent enough copy online (on some parson's site, one for whom copyright infringement is not a sin, evidently; we are all sinners).

Imagine It's a Wonderful Life crossed with The Browning Version and you get something of it. Ralph Richardson is a small town parson nearing retirement age, looked after by daughter Celia Johnson, who has a boyfriend who wants to marry her before he heads off to South America. Christmas brings home two old aunts, one purely out of Wodehouse and the other seemingly a Miss Havisham type, widowed young and now a bit daffy; his somewhat reprobate-ish son (Denholm Elliott) on Army leave; an old family friend, and later in the process, the other daughter (Margaret Leighton), a London fashion writer who seems as breakable as ice. The rituals of Christmas seem a thin veneer of sentimentality over chilly, despairing lives.

It's a mid-century play so you know how this is going to go: family grievances will be aired, family secrets revealed, illusions will be shattered. Richardson seems woolly-headed enough that the children have always concealed real feelings and sorrows from him. But some will be tested and some will show unexpected depth. Most surprisingly for a Christmas film, there is some frank discussion of non-belief, together with, in the end, a muscular defense of religion as having more resiliency and applicability than it had been given credit for by several of the characters.

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The filmmaking doesn't do much to hide that this is a play, and at times it comes off like one of those Sunday morning inspirational dramas that were on TV when I was a kid, and resented bitterly for not being cartoons, but I didn't mind that; nor did I have any trouble believing that Richardson (then 50) was father to Celia Johnson (then 44). The writing is high quality, the cast and performances are very fine, and if midway through it was hard to credit some of the reviews which talked about it being a heartwarming film for the holidays, it gets there in the end, in a very British, stiff upper lip, London can take it kind of way.

Previously in this series:
The Stranger's Return
Carnival of Sinners
The Passing of the Third Floor Back
The Killer is Loose
The Kiss Before the Mirror
Vacation From Marriage
Uncle Silas
The Letter That Was Never Sent
Little Man, What Now?
“I'm in favor of plagiarism. If we are to create a new Renaissance, the government should encourage plagiarism. When convinced that someone is a true plagiarist, we should immediately award them the Legion of Honor.” —Jean Renoir
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boblipton

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Re: Great Movies No One's Seen: The Holly and The Ivy

PostThu Dec 14, 2017 5:24 am

Never seen it, but Richardson is one of those few performers who is never less than a joy to watch.

Bob
Last edited by boblipton on Thu Dec 14, 2017 6:08 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Great Movies No One's Seen: The Holly and The Ivy

PostThu Dec 14, 2017 5:48 am

It is actually shown quite frequently here in the UK on Talking Pictures TV.
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Re: Great Movies No One's Seen: The Holly and The Ivy

PostThu Dec 14, 2017 6:09 am

Seen it but have no memory of it.....
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earlytalkiebuffRob

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Re: Great Movies No One's Seen: The Holly and The Ivy

PostThu Dec 14, 2017 12:24 pm

i bought a DVD of it a few years ago not having watched it since the 1970s. Being (or nearly being) an Old Fart now, it had more appeal. I no longer have it since a customer (an even Older Fart) of mine was interested and decided to let it go...
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Re: Great Movies No One's Seen: The Holly and The Ivy

PostFri Dec 15, 2017 8:19 am

I was looking for a Christmas themed 16mm film for our movie group. A seller in the UK had a print of this that I bought. It was kind of jittery in the projector when I got it. I was busy with other things so just put it aside. I'm going to try soaking the print to see if I can get it runnable. Maybe I'll have this for next Christmas.
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Re: Great Movies No One's Seen: The Holly and The Ivy

PostFri Dec 15, 2017 9:48 am

Well its on Talking Pictures on 2.4th at 1600.So if you are in the UK on that date you can watch it.
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Re: Great Movies No One's Seen: The Holly and The Ivy

PostFri Dec 15, 2017 10:18 am

Curiously, I read that the DVD available from the UK is missing two scenes which add to the texture of the film-- one in which Richardson attends the children's nativity play, I guess to suggest the simple happiness of Christmas they've gotten away from as adults, and one in which Elliott, in high spirits, joins a group of youthful carolers for a moment to help win over a grumpy recipient of their singing. Minor scenes, both added to open up the play for film, no doubt, but (besides doing that) they are the sort of thing that just makes a film a little rounder; I wonder why they are cut from any edition. (The US release trimmed a little of the discussion of atheism, which at least is comprehensible as a decision.)
“I'm in favor of plagiarism. If we are to create a new Renaissance, the government should encourage plagiarism. When convinced that someone is a true plagiarist, we should immediately award them the Legion of Honor.” —Jean Renoir
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Re: Great Movies No One's Seen: The Holly and The Ivy

PostSun Dec 17, 2017 1:21 am

This might answer some length issues mentioned:(There was a BBC TV presentation of the story broadcast on Dec 23 1951 but no copies seem extant and it may have one out live and not Kinescoped(Telerecorded as they called in UK at the BBC).

Title
The Holly and the Ivy (Original title) Copyrighted 1953 in UK
Film / Video
Materials held in the BFI National Archive

Accessible materials to view (1)
MP4 - - N-636192
Viewing

Digital materials (1)
MP4 - - N-636192
Viewing

Film materials (4)
35mm BW Positive - Safety - Combined - - C-1221182
Master - Restricted access to preserved film

35mm Duplicating Positive - CTA - Combined - 7471 Feet - Stock date: 1951 - - C-79215
Master - Restricted access to preserved film

35mm Original BW Negative - Mixed - Mute - 7800 Feet - Stock date: 1951 - - C-1607508
Master - Restricted access to preserved film

35mm Original Negative - Safety - Sound - 8600 Feet - Stock date: 1951 - - C-1607509
Master - Restricted access to preserved film
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Re: Great Movies No One's Seen: The Holly and The Ivy

PostThu Dec 21, 2017 3:41 pm

Jim Reid wrote:I was looking for a Christmas themed 16mm film for our movie group. A seller in the UK had a print of this that I bought. It was kind of jittery in the projector when I got it. I was busy with other things so just put it aside. I'm going to try soaking the print to see if I can get it runnable. Maybe I'll have this for next Christmas.


If you are having an issue with jittery prints, the easiest solution is to use a projector that has a 3-claw pull down, such as all late model Bell and Howell projectors. I have had great success with those.

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