Homecoming: A Christmas Story [1971]

A true television classic, The Homecoming was the second movie (after 1963's Spencer's Mountain) based on Earl Hamner's autobiographical writings about love, pride, faith, and survival in rural America during the Great Depression. The Homecoming introduced the Walton family, a 1930s mountain clan living a hardscrabble existence that forces patriarch John Walton (Andrew Duggan) to seek work, far from home, in the city. When John fails to return home, as promised, on Christmas Eve, his iron-willed wife Olivia (Patricia Neal) keeps a lid on their children's worry. Oldest son John-Boy (Richard Thomas), who privately dreams of becoming a writer but worries about disappointing his parents, is dispatched to find his dad. Graceful yet harder-edged than the subsequent TV series The Waltons (which recast several characters and ran for nine years), The Homecoming reveals, albeit understatedly, much about the pain of poverty even as the family draws strength and closeness through endurance. --Tom Keogh

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