The recent passing of actress Lauren Bacall was a sad day this summer. I've always admired her chutzpah both on screen and off. Bacall continues to live on, her legacy being a long career in film which will undoubtedly entertain for generations to come. Did you remember that Bacall was in the 1991 theatrical release movie All I Want for Christmas? This movie may not have provided Bacall with a role that made critics' lists of highlights of her career. However, her presence in the film brought some class and warmth--a lasting legacy worth noting.
|The misleading movie poster usually includes the tagline: How Far Would You Go to Make a Wish Come True?
Is watching All I Want for Christmas a holiday tradition with your family? The story's premise is certainly catchy: an adorable little girl named Hallie makes a Christmas wish for her recently divorced parents to get married again. After her mother Catherine (played by actress Harley Jane Kozak--remember the movie Arachnophobia?) announces that she plans on marrying her nebbish boyfriend Tony, Hallie regrets not telling the Santa Claus at the department store that she meant for her parents to marry again--to each other! Hallie's older brother Ethan decides to correct the situation by planning an elaborate scheme to force his emotionally distant parents to spend time together, hoping that the physical nearness will bring about a romantic change of heart.
If this plot sounds familiar, that's because several similar Christmas stories have been created since All I Want for Christmas' debut. As you can imagine, a Christmas movie about divorced parents reuniting has all the potential to be a popular, heart-warming fantasy. If All I Want for Christmas sounds like a familiar title, you're right--it was used again in 2007 for a made-for-TV Christmas movie, and of course, it's also part of two holiday song titles, the novelty tune "All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth" and the Mariah Carey hit "All I Want for Christmas is You." Unfortunately, I think the 1991 film is easily lost among holiday entertainment because its title is not descriptive enough.
While All I Want for Christmas is not exactly an overlooked gem--it's not quite charming enough to be considered among the classics--one of its strongest features is its amazing cast. Yes, Lauren Bacall is in this movie as the children's wealthy but loving grandmother, Lillian Brooks. Bacall has quite a bit of screen time however my favorite scene is when she entertains at a Christmas party with her granddaughter Hallie, singing the holiday standard "Baby, It's Cold Outside" as a duet.
|Hallie and Ethan plot to get their parents back together at Christmas time. (Thora Birch and Ethan Embry).
Recognize young Hallie? This is an early role for actress Thora Birch who eventually would star in the cult classics American Beauty and Ghost World. Her brother Ethan is played by Ethan Embry, another child actor who has been lucky and successful enough to continue acting as an adult. In addition to Harley Jane Kozak as mother Catherine, the father's role as Michael is played by Jamey Sheridan, a very recognizable face on television including Law & Order: Criminal Intent and the critically-acclaimed Homeland.
|Jamey Sheridan played Vice President Walden on the first and second seasons of Homeland.
|SNL-alum Kevin Nealon as the boyfriend, Tony.
Tony, Catherine's fiance that the children wish to dispose of, is played by comedian/actor Kevin Nealon. He's a very convincing loser boyfriend. And, in small but endearing roles are SCTV-alum Andrea Martin, and Renee Taylor from The Nanny. Last but not least in this list of noteworthy cast members is Leslie Nielsen who plays the Macy's department store Santa Claus.
|This 1991 movie isn't Nielsen's only turn at playing Santa Claus--remember 2000's Santa Who?
All I Want for Christmas may never top your list of Best Christmas Movies, however it is an enjoyable story that is made even more entertaining by a stellar cast. Come holiday time when you hear the song "Baby, It's Cold Outside," perhaps you'll once again recall Lauren Bacall and her one-of-a-kind spirit.