Thursday, December 10, 2009

12 Days of Christmas: Come to the Stable

In the opening minutes we watch two French nuns in black habits walking over hills cloaked in pristine white snow when they see a sign post that shows the directions to Jordan, Galilee, Nazareth, and Bethlehem. The sisters walk towards Bethlehem and hear a lovely voice singing in Latin, “Oh Come All Ye Faithful.” They Come to the Stable and see a living nativity, complete with singing and flying angels. When the camera moves back, we realize that this scene is being captured on the canvas of artist Amelia Potts, as endearingly portrayed by Elsa Lanchester. Before Miss Potts realizes it, Sisters Margaret and Scholastica have taken up residence with her. These are nuns on a mission to fulfill a promise made to God to build a hospital in America after World War II.

Loretta Young and Celeste Holm are radiant as sisters of the Order of Holy Endeavor. They have to work with three men who each provide obstacles to their purpose: a composer and neighbor, Robert Mason (Hugh Marlowe), a Bishop (Basil Ruysdael) with no money to assist them and the power to stop their effort, and a wealthy “bookie” in New York named Luigi Rossi (Thomas Gomez) who owns the land on which they want to build.

The screenplay was written in 1949 by Clare Boothe Luce and was quite different from her previous works, including The Women. In 1944, Luce’s only child, Ann, died at the age of 19 in an automobile accident. Part of Luce’s healing from this tragedy included her conversion to Roman Catholicism. Come to the Stable was her first written work after these events.

There is a charming quality to this film that is reflected in unlikely happenstances and the luminescent countenances of Loretta Young and Celeste Holm. Dooley Wilson is delightful as Anthony James, an employee of Mason who, along with Miss Potts, provides consistent support for the sisters, despite the challenges they encounter.

Interesting note: The four areas named on the sign post exist in Israel. Pennsylvania appears to have all four areas although Jordan is a township. The box containing my videotape copy of the movie identifies the location as Bethlehem, Connecticut. There are, however, several dozen cities by that name in the U.S. The location would seem to need to be in close proximity to New York because the nuns travel there in a jeep that is open at the top.


  1. Toto, this is a marvelous choice to kick off the "12 Days of Christmas." Loretta Young and Celeste Holm make a most charming team! My favorite scenes are the tennis game, when they travel to NYC to see the gangster, and the impact of the ringing bell on Huge Marlowe's dog. It was fun to see the clip; I can't believe this movie isn't on DVD yet.

  2. Toto, I have not seen this film. But, Come to the Stable", looks from the clip to be a beautiful story. Awesome review!!

  3. I agree with Rick that this is a perfect start to the "12 Days of Christmas!" I haven't had the pleasure of seeing this film, but toto, your review makes it sound great. I'm not in the habit of seeing films with nuns, and yes, I only wrote that bit just for the incredibly clever play on words. Thanks for a great write-up!

  4. Oh Sark, that's a real groaner! Toto, lovely write-up about a favorite movie of mine. I'm surprised it is not on DVD. I guess it will take time to convert most, and then we will have moved on to something else I suppose! Anyway, thanks for a wonderful article.

  5. Thanks for the sweet comments, All!

  6. This is a really sweet movie. Thanks for the nice write up.

  7. Toto, I haven't seen this movie but after reading your excellent review, it sounds terrific!! Thanks for adding a new Chritmas movie for me to watch in December.

  8. Why isn't this movie on tv this year along with All Mine to Give.
    If anyone knows if it's on tv could you please let me know when?
    Thank You
    Oh, and yes why can't you ever see a Christmas Movie or hear a Christmas carol after midnight on Chrismas Night?

    So, sad so much in the beginning and nothing in between.

  9. The cast, and that quality of charm that you mention, are draws to this quiet movie for a time of quiet reflection.