“A Christmas Gift Ahead of Time!” Okay, so this is a true guilty pleasure but Christmas Eve (also released as Sinner’s Holiday) features such an eclectic cast and bizarre plot(s) that any true film buff should view it at least once – especially during the holiday season. Certainly not critically acclaimed (for instance, Leonard Maltin gave it 1½ stars!), Christmas Eve will probably never appear on any top 10 list of holiday classics. However, the episodic holiday film possesses a certain charm. The eccentric and extremely wealthy "Aunt Matilda" (Ann Harding in old lady makeup) attempts to ward off her greedy nephew "Phillip" (Reginald Denny) from declaring her incompetent and becoming the sole trustee of her estate by betting that her three adopted sons – deadbeat playboy "Michael" (George Brent), shady nightclub owner exiled to South America "Mario" (George Raft) and drunken rodeo star "Jonathan" (Randolph Scott) – will show up on Christmas Eve. Believe it or not, the plot features (among other things) a Nazi war criminal and a phony adoption scheme! Most of the plot is extremely lighthearted but Raft appears like a refugee from one of his gangster movies (look at the movie poster above if you don’t believe me!). I particularly enjoyed the fact that Aunt Matilda loves each of her deeply flawed sons unconditionally. Excellent cast includes Joan Blondell, Virginia Field, Dolores Moran and Clarence Kolb. Good luck finding this hidden gem, which is not available on DVD (I caught it late night on AMC).
Useless Trivia: Picture was directed by Edwin L. Marin, who also made A Christmas Carol (1938), which starred Reginald Owen and Gene Lockhart.