One year before she started her 11 year run in Murder, She Wrote, Angela Lansbury co-starred with Lee Remick in The Gift of Love: A Christmas Story. In this TV movie, Lee Remick starred as Janet Broderick and Angela Lanbury played her mother, Amanda Fenwick. Early in the film, we discover that Janet's life is in a downward spiral. Her husband's department store is close to bankruptcy. Her marriage is in big trouble. This is due in large part to the fact that the couple feel like they have failed in maintaining his family's longtime business. In the midst of all this chaos, Janet receives her most devastating blow. Amanda dies shortly before Christmas.
With her world crashing down around her, Janet basically has a nervous breakdown and has to be sedated. It is during this dream state that Janet is transported back with her two children to a simpler time. She and her children are back in Janet's childhood town. In this place, both of Janet's parents are alive as is her Aunt Min (Polly Holliday). It is the Christmas season and Janet begins to discover through this journey what is really important in life. She also gets insight into situations she never fully understood before. For instance, Janet always wrote off Aunt Min as a spinster unable to find love. However, Min is actually a kind-hearted woman who has loved and lost. Janet starts to realize not everything is what it seems and that happiness is not dependent upon monetary wealth.
The Gift of Love did have a positive message in spite of the hardships faced by Janet at the start of the movie. As she goes back to her roots, she discovers the simple pleasures in life are what makes living joyful. In addition, Lee Remick, Angela Lansbury, and Polly Holliday all give great performances. It is on DVD and can be purchased on Ebay or Amazon. Amazing that TV in 1980's managed to produce two quality Christmas movies this one and Loretta Young's Christmas Eve. I would have given anything for just one great Christmas movie in this decade.