Each year the Alternative Christmas Film Advent Calendar takes a look at the perhaps lesser-known Christmas films. The ones that we don’t make a point of re-watching each year as festive tradition. With that in mind this year the Calendar, with slight inspiration from last year’s selection of The Curse Of The Cat People, delves into the world of forgotten classics, the ones that may have been slightly left behind in exchange for the likes of It’s A Wonderful Life and The Bishop’s Wife.
Just before we enter the week of Christmas let’s continue yesterday’s theme of workplace festivities by selecting a slightly different job-focused Christmas film in the form of 1955’s We’re No Angels.
While the title is perhaps more often linked to the 1989 Robert De Niro, Sean Penn starrer – a very loose remake of this particular film – the 1955 We’re No Angels features the faces of Humphrey Bogart, Peter Ustinov and Aldo Ray as Joseph, Jules and Albert respectively, a trio of escaped prisoners hiding in a small town, hoping to avoid the eye of searching officers after their recapture. However, instead of going back to lives of crime the two murderers and thief find themselves coming under the approaching spirit of Christmas by enacting upon various acts of goodwill. Particularly towards shop owner Felix (Leo G. Carroll), who finds himself delving deeper into financial struggle, heightened by the worry of the return of the shop’s owner (Basil Rathbone).
Initially fixing a hole in the roof of the shop the central three figures, gradually kitting themselves out with clothing slightly more fashionable than dirty prison garments, eventually find themselves helping to decorate the house on Christmas Eve, and indeed prepare (even if slightly stolen) dinner for the family who is putting them up. There’s a good and kindness seen in them as conversation and connections grow, especially when it comes to Felix’s daughter Isabelle (Gloria Talbott). Decorations may take a little bit of time to be put up, although certainly changing the look and warmth of the shop and home when they finally are on display, but once they are the spirit of Christmas is certainly present amongst the characters as they all appear to celebrate properly for the first time in a number of years. Forgetting their troubles and worries, until the eventual arrival of Rathbone’s Andre.
He’s a figure much like any Christmas-film antagonist. The complete opposite of the spirit of the season, and intensely focused on work and money. However, there’s an increasing sense of unity amongst those working in the shop – including the three fugitives – as they attempt to tackle the situation, each after having shown various kindnesses to the others from slightly different walks of life. What’s on display is not so much a redemption story, but simply one of seasonal goodwill; with the feeling that it may last beyond just Christmas. The film certainly carries its fair share of traditional Christmas feature elements and it’s easy to get caught up within them as the characters set out on their various acts of kindness, realising what they’re, almost naturally, doing more and more as the film goes on.
We’re No Angels can be watched in the following places:
iTunes/ Apple TV
Or, you may have a physical copy available. To find out any other places the film is available, or where you might be able to buy, rent or stream it in your country it’s always well worth checking JustWatch.