Sister Celluloid

Where old movies go to live


Welcome to another edition of Streaming Saturdays, were we embed a free, fabulous movie for you to watch right here! This week, Jason Robards, Mildred Natwick and Lisa Lucas star in The House Without a Christmas Tree.

“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’ annual litany 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 (Lucas) lives with her grandmother (Natwick), Sarah, and her father, James (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 the 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 only treeless friend.


The rest of the story, you can watch for yourself at the bottom of this post.

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 roles 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.”

For some reason the onscreen text is backwards, but other than the credits, it’s not really noticeable, and this is a pretty decent print. Here’s wishing you the happiest of holidays and armloads of joy in the new year. If I could, I’d send each one 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!

In the meantime, STREAMING SATURDAYS is a semi-regular feature on Sister Celluloid! You can catch up on movies you may have missed by clicking here. And why not bookmark the page to make sure you never miss another?

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