A Classic From Two Of America’s Greatest Actors: “The Christmas Wife” Starring Jason Robards And Julie Harris

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December 22, 2015 — Here is a Christmas movie that boasts a pair of acting greats: The Christmas Wife stars Jason Robards and Julie Harris.

Robards was known for his stage performances of the plays of Eugene O’Neill, but he was also an accomplished film and television actor as well. In his career he won a Tony Award (for The Disenchanted, in which he appeared with his father, Jason Robards, Sr.), two Academy Awards (for Best Supporting Actor, in All the President’s Men and Julia, in 1976 and 1977) and an Emmy Award (Best actor for Inherit the Wind). In total, he was nominated for 8 Oscars.

He was also awarded the National Medal of Honor and the Kennedy Center Award and is in the American Theatre Hall of Fame

Harris is best known for her stage work as well, although she made an indelible mark in film with her performance as Abra Bacon opposite James Dean’s Caleb Trask in East of Eden. It was only her second film appearance. Her first was as the sad and lonely Frankie in Carson McCuller’s Member of the Wedding. She would receive a Best Actress nomination for the role (she had originated the role on Broadway in 1950). She would create the role of Sally Bowles in the original incarnation on Broadway of Christopher Isherwood’s I Am a Camera — which would later be turned into the musical Cabaret.

She was nominated for 11 Emmy Awards and won 3 of them; she was nominated for ten Tony Awards and won five of them. She, too, is a Kennedy Center honoree and is in the American Theater Hall of Fame. She was also given a lifetime Achievement Tony Award.

She worked until she was well-over eighty years of age. Some of latest work was as a voice-over actress, notably in many of Ken Burns’ documentaries. Robards would also lend his voice to Burns’ work — his was the voice of Ulysses S. Grant.

Surprisingly, the two rarely appeared together. This film marked the first time the two had acted together in more than 30 years (the pair starred in a 1959 TV movie of Ibsen’s The Doll’s House) So, The Christmas Wife, the story of a lonely widower who hires a platonic wife for the holidays so that he won’t have to spend them alone, is a special treat. Well-done and reassuringly emotional, it has a traditional holiday feeling worked without sloppy sentimentality by two consummate artists.

When it was reviewed by the Los Angeles Times, Lynne Hefley called it “…a rare gift to viewers.”

Enjoy The Christmas Wife as a special holiday treat year after year.
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