Christmas with the Stars: Fred Astaire in The Man in the Santa Claus Suit (1979)

Welcome to the last week in our series, Christmas with the Stars! Over the course of this month we have explored some of the most enjoyable holiday gems that television has offered, but sadly, our time has come to a close. I can think of no better way to end the series than with the man who defines the sophistication and elegance of the Golden Age of Hollywood, Fred Astaire.

In The Man in the Santa Claus Suit, Fred is a costume shop owner (or is he…?) who rents three different men Santa Claus suits, thereby changing their lives. These three men are all at a similar place in their life’s journey. They are unaware of their own worth. Throughout the movie, Fred helps them realize their value and what they need to do in order to reach their full potential.

The Man in the Santa Claus Suit provides a living portrait of New York City in the 1970’s. The first shot is of the skyline with the Twin Towers standing proudly, followed by overhead shots of the bustling city. Over the credits, Fred sings the tune “That Once a Year Christmas Day/Once a Year Night” composed by three time Emmy Award winner Peter Matz. I can’t believe I hadn’t heard this song before. Fred’s rendition is quite lovely, and I believe “Once a Year Night” deserves to be added to the anthology of Christmas songs.

Included in the cast are Gary Burghoff (MASH), John Byner, Bert Convy, Nanette Fabray, who co-starred with Fred in The Band Wagon (1953), and Harold Gould. Regrettably, Nanette and Fred don’t have any scenes together (insert a few tears), but I still think it’s neat that they worked on the same project together twenty-six years after The Band Wagon.

Eighty years old and still young, Fred charms in his second to last movie and last television performance (insert more tears). Truth be told, the most fun aspect of The Man in the Santa Claus Suit is waiting to see where the mysterious Fred is going to pop up next! He is credited with nine roles, and while viewing it becomes like a game of Where’s Waldo.

While Fred’s role adds a great deal of whimsy to this holiday drama, the movie is not without its drawbacks. Running at an hour and thirty four minutes, The Man in the Santa Claus Suit could have been edited considerably. The musical numbers by Fabray and Gould feel out of place, and it can be tiresome going back and forth between the three story lines.

So, what makes The Man in the Santa Claus Suit worth the watch?

The message of Christmas rings clearly in the resolution of this feel good holiday confection, plus you have the incomparable Fred Astaire infusing his special charm into the project.

When Fred isn’t on screen the movie suffers a bit, but when he does appear it is pure magic.

Watch The Man in the Santa Claus Suit (1979) here:

Perfect Pairing: The Bishop’s Wife (1947)

You are viewing Part 4 of my series, Christmas with the Stars: Holiday Specials on YouTube You Won’t Want to Miss. Thank you for joining me all month long for this special celebration of television work done by some of Hollywood’s greatest stars!

To view the introductory post click here.

To view Part 1 of the series click here.

To view Part 2 of the series click here.

To view Part 3 of the series click here.

This post is my contribution to The Second Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers Blogathon hosted by Love Letters to Old Hollywood and In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood. Thank you, ladies, for letting me participate in this end of the year celebration of the great Fred and Ginger!

Put on your dancin’ shoes, and head over HERE and HERE to read the other entries.

Thanks for reading and for visiting The Classic Movie Muse!