A Christmas to Remember

(CBS, 1978)
100 minutes, available on VHS videocassette from Amazon.com  
Director -- George Englund.  Starring -- Jason Robards, Eva Marie Saint, Joanne Woodward, George Perry, Bryan Englund.

This remains the one film based upon one of Glendon's novels that the Swarthouts would like to forget, and tried to, having both father and son's names removed from this TV-Movie's credits. Joanne Woodward originally bought the rights to Glendon's best-selling novel, The Melodeon, to direct as her first film, but her producer and occasional director himself, George Englund, soon snookered her out of that. Back in the late 70's CBS wasn't crazy about having actresses, no matter how distinguished, directing TV-Movies for their then dominant network, so Englund quickly took over the reins himself. Miles Swarthout had been hired to adapt and did so in consultation with his father, turning in a teleplay very close to this novella's story. Not allowed to direct, though, a part now had to be found for Ms. Woodward, so another writer was hired, the Newman's old family baby-sitter, Stewart Stern. Englund also thought the story too old-fashioned, so it was urbanized, with a prominent new role written-in for Joanne. The result was sort of a Bickersons down on the farm, a true abortion which had very little to do with this original sentimental family story in which Glendon had honored his real Michigan ancestors.

A Christmas To Remember fared badly in the ratings and wasn't even repeated in prime time by CBS, but still turns up every other Christmas season in TV syndication. George Englund set a bad TV precedent with the number of credits he took on this film (Executive Produced by -- twice and director) and never directed another film after this misconception. His son, who he also unfortunately cast in this movie, later killed himself with a drug overdose.

This classic Christmas story was a St. Martin's paperback via its 4th title, A Christmas Gift, (see book listings) and really ought to be remade right, using the Swarthouts' original teleplay which follows the book quite closely.

Reviews

"Jason Robards stars as a bitter old man who treats his visiting grandson badly."  Bob Fenster, the Arizona Republic.

"Sentimental Depression-era tale about an elderly farm couple who take in their adolescent grandson for the holidays. Above average."  Leonard Maltin's Movie and Video Guide.

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