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DescriptionA charming and wholesome 1950 holiday film about a New York family (led by Durante) who are down on their luck at Christmas time. Shortly before Christmas, they move into a ground floor apartment building where Rupert the squirrel lives in the attic rafters. Just when it seems that the holiday will come and go without so much as a Christmas tree, Rupert acts as the family's beneficent guardian angel - not only saving Christmas, but changing their lives forever. (Originally titled The Great Rupert, the title has been changed to A Christmas Wish, which more adequately describes the story and showcases the delightful holiday theme.)
Although it's now more of a curiosity and a quaint reminder of a time when movies possessed a quality of innocence that has long since vanished, The Great Rupert was something of a marvel when it was released in 1950. Produced by special-effects pioneer George Pal, who had delighted audiences of the 1940s with his innovative series of Puppetoon shorts, this charming comedy employs Pal's technique of animated puppetry to bring life to the title character--a lovable trained squirrel that comes to the rescue of a down-and-out family of vaudeville performers in the depths of the Great Depression.
Jimmy Durante leads the struggling clan, barely able to pay rent in a converted garage adjoining the home of a man who's been stockpiling lucrative investment dividends in the floorboard between the two homes. From his cubbyhole in the wall, resourceful Rupert has been tossing wads of $100 bills to Durante's wife, who thinks it's cash from heaven! Ol' Jimmy cracks wise with ancient puns and one-liners, making this a treat for Durante fans looking for squeaky-clean family entertainment. And once he's saved the day for all involved, furry-tailed Rupert goes back to his own vaudeville gig with his devoted owner, played by another veteran of vaudeville, Jimmy Conlin. It's all a bit too sweet by today's tarnished standards, but The Great Rupert stands as a testament to George Pal's optimistic spirit and creative imagination, which would later bless the productions of such films as The Time Machine and The Seven Faces of Dr.Lao. --Jeff Shannon
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