We spent the week after Christmas watching several "pre-Code" movies from early in Loretta Young's career. Tonight our viewing jumped ahead in time to the late '40s and Young's wonderful film COME TO THE STABLE. If, like me, you are a bit burned out on the current endless political speculation, COME TO THE STABLE provides a lovely, peaceful respite, focusing on the power of Christian faith. Although not a Christmas film, it has the same kind of positive, warm vibe as the best Christmas movies, and it leaves the viewer feeling better for having seen it.
COME TO THE STABLE is a unique movie, whimsical, funny, and also deeply affecting. Put simply, it tells the story of two nuns from France (Loretta Young, Celeste Holm) who wish to fulfill a wartime promise to God by building a children's hospital in America. The nuns begin with nothing, and their task seems impossible. Yet bit by bit, their dream begins to become reality. But will a composer (Hugh Marlowe) who doesn't want a hospital in his front yard stand in their way?
This brief description really doesn't do the film justice. The film is exquisitely acted by a large cast. It was deservedly nominated for seven Academy Awards. Loretta Young, who had won the Oscar for THE FARMER'S DAUGHTER in 1948, was nominated for Best Actress. Celeste Holm and Elsa Lanchester each received nominations for Best Supporting Actress; I found Lanchester particularly memorable as the absent-minded painter who somehow finds herself living with nuns.
The film was also nominated for Best Black and White Cinematography (this film beautifully illustrates the meaning of "glorious black and white"), Best Art Direction, Best Story (Clare Boothe Luce), and Best Original Song, "Through a Long and Sleepless Night," by Alfred Newman and Mack Gordon. The use of the song in the film is quite haunting; the music stays with the viewer after the movie ends.
The supporting cast includes Dorothy Patrick (whose best-known role might be Eva Kern in MGM's TILL THE CLOUDS ROLL BY), Dooley Wilson (of CASABLANCA fame), Regis Toomey, Basil Ruysdael, and Thomas Gomez. A fun bit of trivia is that Hugh Marlowe and Celeste Holm would shortly thereafter play husband and wife in the Oscar-winning classic ALL ABOUT EVE.
It's also worth noting that Hugh Marlowe and Dorothy Patrick's renditions of "Through a Long and Sleepness Night" were dubbed by Ken Darby and Eileen Wilson. Darby was a well-known composer in his own right, as well as the head of the Ken Darby Singers, who sang backup for Bing Crosby. Wilson dubbed Ava Gardner in a few movies, including THE HUCKSTERS, and also dubbed Cyd Charisse in WORDS AND MUSIC.
COME TO THE STABLE was beautifully directed by Henry Koster. Koster directed many of Deanna Durbin's best-known films (including FIRST LOVE, reviewed here last September) and the classic Christmas movie THE BISHOP'S WIFE, also starring Loretta Young, along with Cary Grant and David Niven.
The movie runs 94 minutes.
COME TO THE STABLE is available on VHS.
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I hadn't seen this film since I was a teenager. What a treat to rediscover it! Highly recommended.
2012 Update: COME TO THE STABLE is now available on DVD-R from the Fox Cinema Archives.