The Holly and the Ivy is a 1952 British Christmas film, adapted to the screen by Anatole De Grunwald, based on Wynyard Browne's 1950 stage play of the same name. It is the first screen adaptation of the original play.


In post-World War II England, the Rev. Martin Gregory and his daughter Jenny are preparing for the Christmas holidays. One by one the guests receive their invitations. Rev. Gregory's sister-in-law Lydia lives in a London hotel. She was widowed at a young age and has no children. His own sister, Bridget, is invited but must find someone to look after her cat while she is away. Richard, a distant cousin, is coming and hopefully will be driving Rev. Gregory's younger daughter Margaret. She has not been home in several years and has a very important job at a fashion house. Michael Gregory, Jenny and Margaret's brother, is in the army and not really expected home. But he wangles a two-day leave after claiming that his mother has recently died. In fact, she died six months earlier.

Jenny's boyfriend, David Paterson, is leaving after New Year's to work in Brazil. He wants to marry Jenny so she can come with him, but the difficulty is her father. Who would look after him? David suggests that Margaret should now take over her father's care, since she has been living it up in London all these years. But Jenny insists that her sister would refuse. David is frustrated since he won't be home for five years. Rather meanly he points out how old Jenny will be in five years.

Lydia and Bridget meet at the train station. Bridget is traveling third class and refuses to allow Lydia to upgrade her ticket so they can sit together. So Lydia has her luggage moved to Bridget's carriage and they settle in for a long gossip.

Richard tries to reach Margaret but she is nowhere to be found. So he drives down alone. Obviously there has been a tragedy in her life which has caused her to avoid her family.

The guests arrive, including Michael who hitchhiked to get there. Richard makes up a story about Margaret having the flu, to explain her absence.

Right away Jenny's aunts guess that she and David are in love. Jenny explains the situation and orders them not to tell her father. If he knew, he would insist on her leaving.

Margaret arrives while the family are at dinner. She has obviously been drinking. Rev. Gregory suggests that she go to bed but she snaps at him. While helping Jenny in the kitchen, Margaret explains the reason for her extended absence. During the war she had an affair with an American serviceman. He was killed and she learned she was pregnant. She went to stay with friends during her pregnancy and gave birth to a son, Simon. But the child died of meningitis at the age of five. Since then she has been drinking heavily. Jenny tells her about David and asks if she will move back home to look after their father. As expected, Margaret refuses.

Michael and Margaret go to the movies, which distresses their father. In reality they go to a pub. She is quite drunk when they return and passes out in the living room. Michael is reprimanded for "letting" her drink so much. He tried to stop her but couldn't. She told him about Simon but still doesn't want her father to know.

Lydia and Bridget tell Rev. Gregory about Jenny and David. He is delighted, having hoped they would fall in love. He insists that he will be fine alone and Jenny should marry.

The next morning, Margaret asks Richard to drive her to the train station. But the car is frozen and he has trouble starting it. Meanwhile, Michael and his father have an argument. Michael says they, his children, couldn't tell him the truth about things. Eventually he reveals Margaret's secret and accuses her of being a drunk. Rev. Gregory leaves for the early Christmas Day service at the church. When he returns, he tells Margaret that he knows about Simon. But Michael didn't mention that the boy was dead, leaving Margaret to explain. Richard finally gets the car started but Margaret has changed her mind about leaving.

Jenny scurries around the kitchen, making preparations for Christmas dinner. David appears and encounters Margaret in the front hall. To his surprise, she agrees to come home and keep house for her father. Jenny is delighted with the news. The family goes to the church's mid-morning Christmas service.


Ralph RichardsonMartin Gregory
Celia JohnsonJenny Gregory
Margaret LeightonMargaret Gregory
Denholm ElliottMichael Gregory
John GregsonDavid Paterson
Hugh WilliamsRichard Wyndham
Margaret HalstanAunt Lydia
Maureen DelanyAunt Bridget
William HartnellC
Sgt. Major
Robert FlemyngMajor
Roland CulverLord B.
John BarryClubman
Dandy NicholsNeighbor
Uncredited actresses
Mary ChapmanGirl
Sally OwenYoung Girl

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