Many years ago, my sister and I saw a movie at the drive-in with our parents. I remember it being black and white, but very little of the movie stuck with me after all these many years. But I do remember one scene—the same one my sister does—and we often referred to “that horrible scene” that, for some reason, has never left us.
It was an icy, snowy day and freezing. There was a family with many small children and the eldest one, a boy, had piled all of the kids and was pulling them through the snow, stopping at houses along the way, parceling out his brothers and sisters to the neighbors. We remembered all the kids were blond and that the reason for finding the new homes for the brothers and sisters was that their parents were dead and he was finding new homes for them because there was no way to feed them or keep them together.
Yep, that was the end of the movie. Instead of the kind of ending that went more along the lines of “and then their kindly aunt and uncle showed up and adopted all of them,” the movie left viewers with about the most pessimistic and awful circumstances possible. I couldn’t remember the rest of the movie nor who was in it or any other parts. Just the oldest boy handing out little kids like they were party favors.
Then, the other day, while looking for something else entirely, I came across a post by someone I don’t know describing that same movie. She said it was called, “All Mine to Give” and had starred Cameron Mitchell and Glynis Johns and was considered a Christmas movie. Both parents die, one after the other, leaving the eldest headed to work in the mines, but before going off to toil in the mines, he doles out his younger siblings. On Christmas Eve.
The writer allowed that she went to a Catholic school and they showed that same movie every year right before the kids left on Christmas vacation. All the children left sobbing and depressed. My sister and I always remembered it because it was such a downer and we could never understand why anyone would ever write a movie that—while considered a Christmas movie—was the antithesis of that particular holiday. After some research I found the movie was supposedly based on a book written by the oldest son and it was the true story of his own family. It was released in Great Britain as “The Day They Gave the Babies Away.”
The British title alone indicates the amount of Yuletide joy crammed into that film. It’s amazing anyone thought it was good, wholesome holiday movie entertainment.
Once I found out the movie’s name, I discovered lots of people who remembered suffering through that miserable film—almost all of whom associated it with Christmas. The last scene in particular with the ritual parceling out of the children stuck in our young brains for decades. It was and still is the most depressing movie I have ever seen and I am pretty sure the only reason we saw it was because it was on at the drive-in, mostly likely along with a western, which our dad, in particular, loved.
My kids were brought up on Claymation “Rudolph the Reindeer”and the better classics, like “Miracle on 34th Street” and more modern stuff, “A Christmas Story” and “The Santa Clause.” But if you truly want a miserable, long-lasting holiday experience, I heartily recommend “All Mine to Give.”
The memory will stay with them forever. I promise.
Carole Moore welcomes email at email@example.com.