19 December 1999 | Marta
Superb rendition of a classic story
CBS was known, in the old days, for it's quality adaptations of literature, be it classic or contemporary. As a child of the 60's and 70's, I remember all of these with great warmth, but none more than "The House Without a Christmas Tree" (except possibly for "J.T.", the story of the little boy and his cat). This is a simply told story, but it shines with an inner light. Lisa Lucas plays Addie, a 10 year old girl who lives with her widowed father and his mother in Clear River, Nebraska during the late 40's. Her father is still terribly torn apart over the death of his wife, so torn apart that he can't stand to celebrate Christmas and remember how happy he was when she was alive. To this end, he won't allow a Christmas tree in the house. Addie is determined that she will have a tree this year, and tries every minute she can to weedle him into getting one.
There are true emotions in this film; Addie is hurt by her father's seeming indifference to her, and doesn't understand why he won't buy a tree. He can't bring himself to explain, so these two headstrong people continually clash. Addie's grandmother softens what she can, but her son won't listen to her. He is sometimes cruel to his daughter, to hide his own wounded feelings. He and Addie come to a truce of sorts at the end, but it's not a neatly wrapped up conclusion, and it feels just like a real father-daughter relationship. Jason Robards is devastating as the father. His eyes are so expressive; the pain bleeds out of them, and just as conversely the love he truly does feel for Addie also shows in them. Mildred Natwick is just fine as the grandmother. She is the warm, comfy composite of every grandmother who ever lived, but she also adds a bite to the character that is refreshing. The Nebraska setting does just as much to enhance the story.
This was broadcast in 1972 on CBS, and not shown again till Disney picked it up in the very early 80's, along with the other two movies taken from Gail Rock's wonderful reminiscences of growing up in rural Nebraska, "The Thanksgiving Treasure" and "Addie and the King of Hearts". This film is available on VHS tape, and is highly recommended for the whole family. My own children always adored it.