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.
After the last couple of days of looking at family relations and charitable goodwill in and out of the home at Christmas today’s calendar entry jumps back towards the start of the week build-up to Christmas by taking a look at a growing workplace romance. A (slight) musical remake of previous calendar entry The Shop Around The Corner, 1949’s In The Good Old Summertime.
As has already been deduced, due to it appearing on the Alternative Christmas Film Advent Calendar, the title of The Good Old Summertime is somewhat deceptive. While the bookend opening and close take place at the height of summer the majority of the narrative takes place in the build up to Christmas. It’s a time when plenty of people are buying presents for their loved ones, however they all seem to be avoiding the harp-filled music shop of Otto Oberkugen (S.Z. Sakall). It’s all well and good being able to walk in and hear a song performed live on piano by store-favourite Andrew (Van Johnson) and sung by new employee Veronica (Judy Garland), however not everyone can read sheet music or play an instrument.
Yet, amongst the slight chaos and disorder of what’s being sold there’s a tight unit amongst the floor staff who have built a close bond over the years. One which, for most, isn’t disturbed with the addition of Veronica, who is employed after a chance, somewhat negative, encounter with Andrew earlier on. The relationship between the two becomes as frosty as the increasingly cold weather outside, particularly as they begin to compete for the affection of both the customers and their boss. However, behind the scenes; without either figure knowing, they’re months-long pen pals having written numerous poetic, romantic letters to each other discussing art, literature and many other in-depth, serious, intellectual topics that the other just couldn’t even begin to comprehend in real life.
The film makes the most of the Christmas setting through the standard seasonal kindnesses that are on display by various characters, and the standard workplace hopes for Christmas promotions or good bonuses, but also to boost the romantic relationship, and also lack of it, between the two central figures. The feeling runs throughout with other potential love interests, an only slightly referenced beat or two involving Buster Keaton’s lightly-seen Hickey, and the more prominent inclusion of Marcia Van Dyke’s Louise Parkson; and other seasonal relationships playing into the narrative with the boost of Christmas adding a spring into a number of the characters’ steps. Especially when attending a party of various festivities – not to mention the distractions and missteps.
As Christmas gets ever closer and the situation of the shop, and its employees, becomes more uncertain the sense of unity amongst the staff grows stronger, particularly as at least one or two of their futures in the workplace become a matter of question. Perhaps it’s an idea further pushed by the decorations which spread throughout the store, the tree with all its ornaments by the piano where so many of the musical ‘rivalries’ and bites have taken place. Either way by the time the finale arrives, truly putting the context of Christmas on full display, there’s a true festive romance within the wintery confines of In The Good Old Summertime.
In The Good Old Summertime can be watched in the following places:
iTunes/ Apple TV
Or, you might have a physical DVD (maybe even Blu-Ray, VHS, Betamax or LaserDisc – if availably on such formats) copy somewhere that you can watch. To see if there are any other places where the film is available, particularly to buy, rent or stream in your own country, I recommend checking it out on JustWatch.