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Film / Star in the Night

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Star in the Night is a 1945 short film.

It's Christmas Eve out in the deserts of the southwest. Three cowboys on horseback see a flashing star off in the distance and decide to follow it. The star is the rather blinky sign atop the Star Auto Court, a humble roadside motel. Nick, the proprietor, is a grumpy sort who dislikes Christmas for being hypocritical. The various guests at the inn are no less cranky: a single man berates Nick and his wife for botching his shirts in the laundry, another man complains about not getting an extra blanket, while a woman complains about intoxicated guests in the next cabin loudly singing Christmas carols.

So Nick, who is in no mood for holiday cheer, refuses to give a free cup of coffee to the scraggly hitchhiker who wanders into the auto court, and is even less interested to hear the hitchhiker talk about the essential goodness of humanity and how Christmas brings people together.

Then a young couple, a husband and his heavily pregnant wife, show up at the auto court. But there's no room, all the cabins being rented, so the woman, who seems to be going into labor, has to go lie in the manger. Uh, the barn, that is.

Star in the Night was the first directing credit for Don Siegel, who would go on to an illustrious career that included the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers and several classic Clint Eastwood dramas such as Dirty Harry.


  • All Deserts Have Cacti: Naturally there's a saguaro cactus in the shot that's displayed over the opening and closing credits.
  • As You Know: The three wise men—uh, cowboys—have a little expository chat with each other at the beginning about how they were strangely compelled to buy presents at a store.
  • Away in a Manger: There's even a shot of Maria and the baby nestled in the barn with the cowboys and the animals around them to drive it home.
  • No Name Given: The hitchhiker, who seems to have a rather mystical air about him.
  • Proud Papa Passes Out the Cigars: In fact it's not Jose the new father who gives out cigars, but the guy who was complaining about his laundry, before the Christmas spirit got to everybody. He snarks good-naturedly about giving out cigars for someone else's baby.
  • Rule of Three: Couldn't have two wise men, uh, cowboys, bearing gifts.
  • A Round of Drinks for the House: Nick serves this after the baby is born.
  • The Scrooge: Cranky Nick dislikes the whole Christmas thing, griping about how most of the year people are "selfish and mean" but they put a happy face on for the holidays. He sees the error of his ways.
  • Setting Update: The Nativity story, set in the modern-day southwest.
  • Significant Name: That young husband and his pregnant wife? They're Jose and Maria. Jose and Maria Santos.
  • Star of Bethlehem: The star atop the auto court, which is faulty and blinking on-and-off, thus luring the cowboys.
  • The Three Wise Men: Three cowboys on horseback, who for some reason felt motivated to buy Christmas presents, and who follow the star to the auto court.