Sister Celluloid

Where old movies go to live


“Did your Dad get you a tree yet?”

“We don’t want a tree.”

“Why not?!?”

“They’re a waste of money. They dry up in a week.  A tree’s no fun—it stands in a corner. It doesn’t do anything.”

“Yeah but you can look at it!”

“I can look at the one at school. Or at my Uncle Will’s. Like my Dad says, ‘What do I need a tree for?'”


Thus begins Addie Mills’ yearly recitation of excuses, this time to her new friend Carla, in The House Without a Christmas Tree.

It’s 1946 in Clear River, Nebraska, where 10-year-old Addie (Lisa Lucas) lives with her grandmother (Mildred Natwick), Sarah, and her father, James (Jason Robards), an embittered widower who lost his wife just after Addie was born—and who’s shuttered himself away from any source of joy, including his daughter, ever since.

Ironically, using a guessing technique her father taught her, Addie wins her class Christmas tree, and trundles it home with a sense of dread that rarely accompanies such journeys. James orders the painful reminder of Christmases past out of the house, but Sarah, Addie’s only real source of warmth and comfort, fights in vain to let her keep it. Defeated, Addie spirits the tree out of the house in the middle of the night, leaving it on the doorstep of her lone treeless friend.


The rest of the story, you can see for yourself: the whole movie is here in eight parts, with one folding into the next.

The House Without a Christmas Tree used to be something of an annual TV tradition, but for some reason, it disappeared under the flotsam of new Christmas specials years ago. Eleanor Perry (The Swimmer, Diary of a Mad Housewife, The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing) won an Emmy for her adaptation of Gail Rock’s memoir and also wrote the sequel, The Thanksgiving Treasure, which reunited the wonderful cast a year later. Lucas went on to appear in The Turning Point and An Unmarried Woman, and then did a bit of television before turning her hand to journalism; in the true spirit of dear, nerdly Addie, whose glasses comprised roughly half her body weight, her books include The Research Game in Academic Life, which explores “the implications of an increasingly competitive global system of higher education research.”

Here’s wishing you the happiest of holidays and armloads of joy in the new year. If I could, I’d send each of you Mildred Natwick. But short of that, I hope you enjoy this Christmas gift.

If you’re craving a few more helpings of Christmas, you’re just a click away from the full movies The Holly and the Ivy and I’ll Be Seeing You, as well as a Christmas tribute to the fabulous men of classic film and Bette Davis’s Christmas war bond message!




  1. I’ve been thinking about this a lot this season. Thanks. And a very Merry Christmas. All the best in the coming year, especially the best of health.

  2. I’ve never seen this. Thanks for sharing. Have a very Merry Christmas and a happy New Year!

    • Thank you Linda!! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and yours!! ❤

  3. Jaci from Missouri

    What a great blog! I found when searching for the movie “ The Cheaters”. Such a classic Christmas movie I will be sure to add to our viewing every Christmas. Thank you for all the great movies and info. Merry Christmas…

    • Thank you so much for your kind words, Jaci! Merry Christmas! ❤

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