Every year when coming up with my blind spot picks I try to pick something holiday related for December that I haven’t seen. Given I host the Hallmarkies Podcast that covers holiday films it’s no easy task. For 2021 I decided to go with a film I heard about while watching a special on TCM profiling classic Christmas movies called Our Vines Have Tender Grapes. From 1945 this film stars Margaret O’Brien as a little girl in Wisconsin growing up in a Norwegian-American immigrant community. It’s actually not much of a Christmas movie but I thoroughly enjoyed it!
It has one of the strangest trailers I’ve ever seen…
Our Vines Have Tender Grapes is based on a novel by George Victor Martin and I think I will seek out the book because I really liked this old fashioned story. This movie will definitely not be for everyone. It lays on the sentimentality about as thick as possible and it will be too much for some but O’Brien is so cute that it worked for me.
It’s a very simple story about growing up and the ebbs and flows of childhood. O’Brien’s Selma plays with her friend Arnold and they squabble and learn life lessons. One of the best scenes is when she is scolded by her Pa played by Edgar G Robinson for not sharing her skates. He tells her she is a selfish little girl and her expression is devastating. Then you have sweet moments when he takes her see the animals on the circus train. You really get the feeling O’Brien was genuinely thrilled to see an elephant. It’s so cute.
Agnes Moorehead plays her Ma and I’m used to seeing her play more cantankerous characters (especially in Pollyanna which I love. I had no idea she was nominated for 4 Oscars!). This was a nice change of pace and she has great chemistry with Robinson (who also plays against type).
They probably explain it in the book but I have no idea why it has the title it does as there are no vineyards or grapes of any kind in the town. I guess the children and small town life are the tender grapes but it seems like a stretch.
There is also a romantic plot between James Craig and Frances Gifford. She is a city girl who has come to do her student teaching in the small town. He is the editor of the local paper. Will she fall for small town life? What do you think?
In many ways this feels like a precursor to the Hallmark movies of today but with more melodrama. A story about small-town America and the joys and heartaches of being a child in the country. It warmed my heart and I almost wished it was a series so I could keep spending time with these people.
The main Christmas element of the movie is a pageant Selma is asked to memorize a recitation covering the First Christmas. She is so nervous and does so well you can’t help but feel the Christmas spirit from her words. It’s so sweet and heartfelt.
Like I said, Our Vines Have Tender Grapes will be too sentimental for some but I loved it. If you haven’t seen it I recommend giving it a watch.
8 out of 10
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