About Christmas TV History

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Gift of Love (1978)

Even the title of this adaption of The Gift of the Magi suggests this version's emphasis on romance.

Last week, I posted about the 1952 movie O.Henry's Full House, a movie with two vignettes adapted from a Christmas short story.  Click HERE to return to that post.  Most of us are probably familiar with O.Henry's short story The Gift of the Magi--its themes and plot are frequently adapted for Christmas movies, TV specials, and series' episodes.  One outstanding example is the 1978 made-for-TV movie The Gift of Love starring Marie Osmond, Timothy Bottoms, James Woods, David Wayne, and June Lockhart.  I'm in love with this movie just for its amazing and talented cast!

Marie Osmond stars as Beth and Timothy Bottoms as Rudy Miller.  Here they are ice skating in New York's Central Park at the turn of the twentieth century.

The Gift of Love expands on O.Henry’s original short story to include the couple's first meeting, courtship, and falling in love before ending with the familiar gift exchange.  This TV movie adaptation focuses on the unlikely romance of the couple falling in love despite Beth's privileged, wealthy background and Rudy's lower class status as an immigrant from Switzerland.  One of the obstacles they must overcome is that both already have arranged marriage partners.

James Woods as Alfred.  He would rather bird watch and lecture on his findings than marry--but he doesn't come off as a bad sort. 

Beth's fiancé Alfred is just as eager as she is to tell their families that they aren't happy with the arrangement.  Alfred would rather concentrate on his ornithological career which would require him to travel the world.  Beth of course would rather follow her heart than allow her aunt and uncle to broker a union on the basis of a financial arrangement.  Another obstacle to Rudy and Beth coming together is that she deceived him when they first met.  Beth led Rudy to believe she was a maid as to appear more in keeping with his own social standing--and she continues this lie when they meet again at the Butler's Ball where they share a dance.

Against her family's wishes, Beth marries Rudy even though it means losing her inheritance.

Leaving behind her wealthy family, the two are married on Christmas Eve and the sacrificial gift exchange of the watch fob and the hair combs serve as both holiday presents and marital gifts.  In this version, Beth's sacrifice is made even greater as she gives up her family's inheritance and social standing in order to be with her true love.  And, Rudy's sacrifice is greater in that he gives up returning to his home in Switzerland where his father is a Bürgermeister with power and influence.  By marrying Beth and staying in America,  Rudy too is choosing love over his family's privilege.

Beth volunteers her time at a Settlement House for newly arrived immigrants.  Beth watches the children while their mothers go to work.

The Gift of Love is special because viewers have two opportunities to hear Marie Osmond sing.  She sings “The Gift of Love” at the beginning of the movie seated at the piano, and later Beth performs the song again at the Settlement House for one of the young children.  The song Beth explains is a special one to her because it was written for her by her father and he sang it to her every Christmas in the years before he died.

Actress June Lockhart plays Beth's Aunt Constance.

Actor David Wayne appears in the movie as the author O.Henry who narrates the story.

In addition to June Lockhart as Beth's Aunt Constance, this movie also casts actor David Wayne as O.Henry, its narrator.  David Wayne also plays the friend Horace in The Cop and The Anthem segment in the movie O.Henry's Full House.

The Gift of Love takes many liberties in its adaptation of the original The Gift of the Magi, most notably changing the main characters' names from Jim and Della to Rudy and Beth.  Interpreting a short story into feature length will also bring about changes.  However, this movie is perfect if you want to feel the romance of the sacrifice over the twisted irony of the sacrifice.  These changes make this Christmas movie's story renewed and somewhat novel.  I'm entertained each time I watch it.

Are you as impressed with this movie's cast as I am?  What's your favorite romantic Christmas TV movie?


  1. I love it, too, and would like to see it aired during the Christmas season but I can't ever find it.

    1. Yeah, I'm not sure I see it broadcast much anymore either. Maybe Marie Osmond's more recent visibility--her talk show on the Hallmark Ch--will help bring this one back. Fingers crossed! But of course, the movie is available on DVD, so it's not lost. I found a copy at my local library.

  2. Sounds great!As John Lennon says,"We've got this gift of love,but love is like a precious plant.You can't just accept it and leave it in the cupboard or just think it's going to get on by itself.You've got to keep watering it.You've got to really look after it and nurture it."Thank you so much for sharing this.

  3. Loved this movie and the song she sang. I sang the theme song to my husband at my wedding...The gift of Love

  4. FYI: This film is free to stream anytime w/ an Amazon Prime membership.