Happy Christmas, Miss King (1998)

Reviewer: Lindsay Graham


After such accomplishments as the beloved Anne of Green Gables films, Sullivan Entertainment embarked on the filming of a television series entitled Road to Avonlea, which followed the adventures of the spirited King family and their neighbors. Set in turn-of-the-century Prince Edward Island, this series proved to be an award-winning classic and collected countless fans from many countries. In Happy Christmas, Miss King, a Christmas reunion in the memorable village of Avonlea has been arranged…


For years it seemed as if nothing would ever change in the village of Avonlea, people married, children grew, and life could almost be considered idyllic. Yet not even Avonlea could remain out of reach from the icy fingers of World War I.  Even still, during Christmas 1914 Hetty King (Jackie Burroughs), the indomitable matriarch of the King family, is determined the holiday festivities remain the same as they have always been, regardless of the war. As Avonlea’s schoolteacher, Madame President of the Ladies Aid Society, and organizer of the children’s Christmas concert, Hetty has more than enough to do but isn’t the only one under stress during the holiday season. The rest of the King family faces their own multitude of trials.


Hetty’s brother, Alec (Cedric Smith) and sister-in-law, Janet (Lally Cadeau) spend much of their time worrying about their son, Felix (Zachary Bennett), who is on the war front; Gus (Michael Mahonen) is away helping the war effort, his wife Felicity (Gema Zamprogna) is forced to close the Foundling Home, Aunt Olivia (Mag Ruffman) returns to Avonlea for a Christmas visit, and Cecily (Molly Atkinson) busily works in the Avonlea Telegraph Office. When alarming news threatens this family’s happiness, what other surprises will the future hold? As is common with many other Sullivan Entertainment productions, Happy Christmas, Miss King was very well filmed with a good script. The sets were lovely, the costumes beautiful, and both were quite accurate to the time period. Moral lessons and the joys of Christmas are present in the storyline, but we are also given a glimpse of the fear every father, mother, wife, brother, and sister daily experienced in regard to telegrams.


For the most part Happy Christmas, Miss King is family-friendly. As for objectionable content, there is usage of “Godforsaken,” and one shocking use of d*mn in reference to the war. Near the beginning of the film a young Canadian soldier is killed and a small amount of blood is seen on Felix’s hands after he attempts to drag his fallen comrade to safety. At home in Avonlea, the telegraph office reports several other deaths with startling rapidity. One of the characters has to undergo surgery, and much of her back is exposed. There are occasional squabbles between the King family and other characters, but they are eventually resolved. A young girl behaves disrespectfully toward her teacher, and a minor character states the Kaiser deserves a “good kick in the pants.” There is also one reference made to the “ghost” of Jacob Marley in an actor’s “recitation” of Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol. A short kiss is exchanged between a married couple in a flashback. Religious content doesn’t play a large part even though this film centers around the celebration of Christmas. Traditional Christmas carols are sung and some children are costumed in angel wings. A comment is also made that the troops should be prayed for.


I personally loved Happy Christmas, Miss King. It delivers great family values and illustrating the importance of family solidarity and strength during times that try the soul. It was an afternoon delightfully spent as I returned to the “dearest spot on earth.” Wholesome and enchanting family fare with a great message, this Christmas tale should charm fans of the Road to Avonlea series and period film connoisseurs alike.