Christmas for a Dollar – Movie Review

Christmas for a DollarThe Gale Sears children’s book illustrated by Ben Sowards, Christmas for a Dollar, about a family during the early part of the Great Depression has been made into a beautiful film sure to be numbered among the Christmas classics.    There is a sweet touch of the Waltons, though in this case it is a single parent, William Kamp played by Brian Krause who has the sole responsibility of looking after a family of five children.  One of the children, Norman Kamp played by Jacob Buster is a child with a dream despite being crippled by polio.  The dream is a horse named Cloud and in addition to being a family film it is also a great horse story.  I would also say a Western as this is filmed in Utah and Norman is a Hopalong Cassidy devotee whose fantasies come alive on screen.  The fantasies alone took me back to the great old days of Westerns that once dominated films and TV shows.

William Kamp has the responsibility of making this a Christmas that will not go without presents.  He scrapes together what little money he has to total a dollar.  Each child plans to give a special gift to one of their siblings and through this we see their wishes come true.

Norman and CloudHowever, this is not a simple children’s tale as there are conflicts.  One is between William Kamp and a new school teacher, Miss Mary Ellen Mayfield (Heather Beers).  Within the school itself there is a rivalry between Ruthie Kamp (Ruby Jones) and a bully vying for a special gift.  Norman himself is also the butt of bullying by two boys.

For me the real drama is provided by Mrs. Rathbone, the owner of the horse. It is one of Nancy Stafford’s most outstanding performances, and she has had many.    Looks are deceiving as your first introduction to her leaves the impression of a very strict and hard woman.   She evolves into what becomes the most pivotal character in the film.  Mrs. Rathbone and her relation to the Kamp family children is key to the plot and Nancy Stafford is able to carry off a character change that will leave viewers in suspense.    Those who have screened the film would love to see a prequel exploring the background of Mrs. Rathbone.  I agree.

Will the Kamp family have a real Christmas, will Norman become the cowboy he dreams of being and will he be able to handle Cloud, will Ruthie win out over the school’s leading bully, and will William Kamp and Miss Mayfield come to terms with their differences?  Something for everyone who loves good family and faith films.  There is plenty of drama, comedy, romance and very well done examples of the importance of faith and prayer.

The film itself has the blessings of good acting by all involved, a great story line with interesting twists and breathtaking scenery.   The cinematography is excellent and the music score has me wanting a CD of it.  I highly recommend Christmas for a Dollar which will premiere on December 15, 7:00 P.M. EST on the UP (Uplifting Entertainment) TV network.  I believe this film has Emmy quality and were it theatrical I would amend that to Oscar.   It will be available on DVD in December and will make an excellent Christmas gift.

Kamp Family and Mrs. Rathbone in church.

Dr. Fred Eichelman About Dr. Fred Eichelman

Dr. Fred Eichelman is a retired educator and one of the founders of Point North † Outreach, a Christian media organization. He is the editor of its publication, Point North † Tidings. For information about this organization or to subscribe to receive it free on-line, contact: or visit: