A Christmas to Remember is a TV movie that aired on the CBS-TV Network on December 20. 1978, starring Jason Robards (A Boy and his Dog, Something Wicked This Way Comes), Eva Marie Saint (Martha Kent in 2006’s Superman Returns), and Joanne Woodward (Mrs. Paul Newman, 1947’s A Double Life). The screenplay was based on the 1977 novel The Melodeon by Glendon Swarthout, whose novels Bless the Beasts and the Children, John Wayne’s The Shootist, and the beach romp Where the Boys Are were turned into films.
The screenplay was adapted by Stewart Stern, who wrote James Dean’s defining film, Rebel Without a Cause, Dennis Hopper’s 1971 directing flop, The Last Movie, a 1973 multiple-Emmy winning adaptation of Tennessee Williams’s The Glass Managerie (Tommy “The Room” Wiseau’s favorite playwright), and the 1963 Marlon Brando vehicle directed by George Englund, The Ugly American (ironically, Wiseau’s favorite actor). The holiday effort also served as the second-to-last directing effort by George Englund, who closed out his directing career with Rock Hudson’s The Vegas Strip War for NBC.
Rusty McCloud (George Parry, who ended his career with 1981’s The Burning; if you’ve seen The Burning, you’ll understand why) is sent by his economically-strapped mother (Joanne Woodward) to live on his grandparents’ farm one winter during the Great Depression. The grandparents, Daniel Larson (Jason Robards) and his wife Emma (Eve Marie Saint), are still grieving the loss of their son in World War I, and Grandap Larson is resentful of his grandson. However, a bond gradually develops as they work to deliver a melodeon (a pump organ) left by the dead son to the local church as a surprise Christmas gift.
Originally filmed in 1976 and intended as a theatrical release, this is an old fashioned Christmas they way they don’t make them anymore, with a stellar cast and comes highly recommended. You can watch a pretty decent taped-from-TV VHS rip for free on You Tube. And it’s the only way to see it, as it was never released on VHS or re-issued on DVD.
There are more TV movies to be had with our “Week of Made for TV Movies,” “Lost TV Week,” “Son of Made for TV Movie Week” and “Grandson of Made for TV Movie Week” tribute spotlights to those films that, in many cases, are even better than the movies that played in theatres.