Good Sam (1948)

Even though this film starring Gary Cooper and Ann Sheridan does not have a New York setting, it has become one of our Christmas essentials, so we have to include it in our watchlist. Both Cooper and Sheridan make other appearances on our list: Sheridan in The Man Who Came to Dinner and Cooper in the much more substantial Meet John Doe directed by Frank Capra. Good Sam seems like a weak version of Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life with the story of a good man, whose life seems to fall apart on Christmas Eve. Unlike Wonderful Life, Good Sam doesn’t feature a “dark night of the soul” leading to suicide, perhaps because Sam has been living his life in joy not frustration, and there’s no angelic Clarence.


Sam Clayton (Gary Cooper) can’t help but help people, frustrating his wife (Ann Sheridan), who dreams of finally buying her dream house, even though they can’t seem to save enough money because Sam is always lending it to people in need who never repay him. The final straw comes when Sam lends their savings for a down payment to a neighbor to buy a business, but then the neighbor repays the loan just in time for the Claytons to buy the house. But on Christmas Eve, when they are slated to move in, Sam loses the money in a robbery, and it looks as if the final disaster is inevitable. But Sam’s goodness is rewarded and all ends well.


There is no New York connection in this film, not even a vague verbal reference.


There are plenty of Christmas connections, as Sam is the general manager of a department store and much of the movie takes place in the holiday shopping period, culminating on Christmas Eve.


Irving Bacon appeared in Bachelor Mother and Meet John Doe. William Frawley makes an appearance in The Lemon Drop Kid and Miracle on 34th Street. ,


Louise Beavers and Irving Bacon appeared with Fred Astaire in Holiday Inn.


While a weak movie compared to It’s a Wonderful Life and Meet John Doe, two of the best movies that conclude on Christmas Eve, we enjoy Good Sam because it shows a different side to Gary Cooper. We especially enjoy his extended drunk scene in the tavern and marching with the Salvation Army: I can’t recall any other Cooper movies where he portrays a drunk.