I'm often amazed at this time of year which films get to qualify as Christmas movies. The Nightmare Before Christmas, for example, really only sets it's finale at Christmas. But since it ends with jingly bells in the score and snow on the hill, it will be forever a Christmas movie. Likewise, It's a Wonderful Life has almost NOTHING to do with Christmas even though the crucial turning point for George Bailey just happens to take place on Christmas Eve. However, you would never see anyone deny that these are Christmas movies would you? They play them at Christmas, they make us feel Christmassy...as my Love would say, a + b = c...(mind you, he used the same logic to compare me to a blanket...so I don't know if he is the most reliable source). Thus, I submit another non-Christmas film to compete for a spot in my yearly line up based on a truely magnificent Christmas scene held within. I can recall singing the song involved in the scene, "We Need A Little Christmas" (which was written specifically for this musical in question), even before I knew there was an entire musical attached to it. Later, when I found out, I was shocked that the musical story wasn't all about Christmas...because the song seems so well suited for an amazing holiday story. Anyway, I'm babbling. Let's hop on the anticipation train to the 1930s and enjoy a visit with Mame.
At the reading of the will of Patrick Dennis's (Kirby Furlong) late father, by his trustee, Mr. Babcock (John McGiver). The will states that Patrick is to be left in the care of his aunt, Mame Dennis (Lucille Ball), as well as his nanny, Agnes Gooch (Jane Connell). The two take a train ride to live with Mame. When they arrive, they walk into a big party that Mame is giving for a holiday she herself created. Patrick introduces himself by asking if he may slide down her banister, then reveals that he is Patrick. Mame introduces him to several of her friends, including aspiring stage actress and famous lush, Vera Charles (Beatrice Arthur). Thus begins a charming relationship between the pair that grows stronger with each passing day, yet Mame constantly is violating the moral conditions of Patrick's raising. She enrolls him in a school run by a quack, she hosts noisy parties and then wakes up hungover, and she encourages that Patrick do the same. Finally, Patrick is removed from Mame's custody and at the same time she is financially crippled by the great stock market crash. The only thing keeping her going is the devotion she recieves from Agnes and Ito (George Chiang), her trusted staff, and Patrick who keeps in touch. Through the trials, Mame learns to keep to her own values while also learning the value of responsibility and being a good parent (but setting aside some time for the zany side of life as well).
I know what you're thinking...that description has nothing to do with Christmas or any other December holdiay, right? Well, that is true...however a description of It's a Wonderful Life probably wouldn't either unless I explicitly stated that the film begins and ends on Christmas Eve. Mame's Christmas moment comes toward the middle of the first Act when Mame, after losing yet another job and realizing she cannot pay the people who work for her, decides they need something to cheer themselves up. Despite Christmas being a full month away yet, she demands that they decorate the living room, get out the presents, and get "a little Christmas" when they need it the most. I feel as though this grasping at the Christmas feeling and how we use it as an excuse to be merry is always relevant this season and worth appreciating in a film that gets as awful marks as Mame does (I enjoy it for what it is...but now I truely know what it means when someone criticizes a film for being "overproduced"). Mame pales in comparison to the original non-musical work Auntie Mame in substance alone...but certain scenes in it really work, and this is one of them. I can't help but pine for the Christmas season, and the anticipation of it, when I see and hear "We Need a Little Christmas" because it really says something about how the Holidays can cheer us up when we are low due to how special the time of year feels. It's almost like saying "We Need a Little Disney World" or "We Need a Little Carnival Cruise"...it is something special and something that doesn't happen every day. Mame understands, as we all should, that this feeling is something to cherish even in the darkest of times.