I love Christmas movies that are simple in nature with good characters and a nice story. They make you feel warm and fuzzy inside, sometimes even bringing a tear to your eye. After all, this is the one universal time of year where wishes for peace, prosperity, and reconciliations are both abundant and seemingly attainable. Even though real life is often much different, these films allow us to keep dreaming and hoping for good things to happen. Join me as I explore the magic in some of these vintage seasonal Classics.
Today we get into a festive spirit and reminisce about
Christmas In Connecticut (1945)
Directed by Peter Godfrey
Starring: Barbara Stanwyck, Dennis Morgan, Sydney Greenstreet
Elizabeth Lane (Stanwyck) is a writer for the magazine Smart Housekeeping and authors a column called ‘Diary of a Housewife’. She gives advice in regards to child-rearing, homemaking and, most of all, cooking. Deemed “the best cook in America”, Elizabeth includes handsome and detailed recipes for each issue. Her latest Christmas-themed edition has caught the eye of Jefferson “Jeff” Jones (Morgan), a decorated war veteran who has recently been rescued after spending 15 days adrift following the sinking of his torpedoed vessel. As he recuperates in the military hospital, Elizabeth’s decadent food choices give him a great deal of comfort. Mary, the nurse looking out for him, decides to write to the Elizabeth’s publisher, Alexander Yardley (Greenstreet), to ask that Jeff be able to spend Christmas at the Lane Connecticut farm with Elizabeth, her husband and baby. It is Mary’s idea that if he spends the holiday with a nice family, he will yearn for one of his own and be ready to settle down for marriage. The trouble is that Jeff is in not in love with Mary and, moreover, Elizabeth is not who everything thinks she is. She is almost the exact opposite: single, living in a small New York apartment, unable to cook, and getting someone else to write her recipes. Nonetheless, she cannot say anything to her boss for the fear of losing her job. So, she plays along, using a friend’s Connecticut home to double as her own as well as pretending she is married with a baby. The situation leads to many hijinks and close-calls over the course of the Christmas holiday.
Christmas in Connecticut was in pre-production in early 1944 and was eventually filmed in the later part of that year. Though released in August 1945, three months after the end of World War II, the film was made under the assumption that the fighting would continue indefinitely. As with many pictures of the time, the war plays an important part in the storyline. This event greatly influenced people’s attitudes and habits, so much so that certain behaviours may seem downright silly in modern times. In order to enjoy this film, it is best to keep reminding yourself of this otherwise you may give up half-way through thinking that this film is an unbearably unrealistic, cheesy movie. Which, in all honestly, is not entirely untrue in certain parts, but overall it is an enjoyable screwball comedy to lift people’s dampened spirits.
In the past, particularly during wartime, it was more common to find people who not only fell in love at first sight but also married shortly thereafter. Many soldiers married before shipping off to active duty; some to come back during their brief periods of leave, others never again to return. Although Jeff was wounded in the war, it is stated in the story that he plans to ship out again in the days follow Christmas. This is why he and Elizabeth decide on a whim to wed despite having only known each other for a little over a day. However, this situation is even more peculiar because Jeff has spent most of his time thinking that Elizabeth was already a wife and a mother. This film does play around a little with the straight-laced morals of the time in that capacity. Jeff and Elizabeth openly flirt with one another and both admit that they are attracted to one another well before Jeff finds out the truth. One of the oddest lines of the movie is when Elizabeth asks Jeff, “Have you ever kissed a married woman?” How that passed the Puritanical censors is beyond me but I must say that even now that it is a very bold question! Notwithstanding a certain amount of criticisms I could offer this movie, I will let sleeping dogs lie because in the end it is fun-spirited. It is not a story that speaks to my heart but it is awfully nice to watch if you do not take it too seriously.
The atmosphere of the movie is just what you expect with a Christmas feature and then some. Inside and out, the set is both extravagant and impeccable. The interior of the farm is decorated beautifully with a big, festive tree added to the warm glow of candles and dimly-lit lights. The exterior looks like a veritable Winter Wonderland, complete with a horse-drawn sleigh in one scene. Even Nelson Rockefeller could not have better thought-up this lovely wintry panorama.
The cast is very pleasant and filled with quite a few big name talents. Stanwyck does a formidable job at playing light comedy which is quite a departure from her usual grittier, dominating femme fatales. I would argue that seeing her in innocent, button-up dresses is not quite her style and appear rather ill-fitting. Otherwise, she was a much better choice to play Elizabeth Lane than the studio’s first pick, Bette Davis. Morgan is a sweetheart and very attractive but sometimes he seems a little too upbeat and smiley. He plays the part in a over-oblivious fashion though he never forgets his values. Greenstreet played a variety of characters throughout his long career and he was convincing in every one of them. He portrays villains nicely, that’s for sure, but I personally prefer to him being a good guy. The supporting players are first-rate, including Hungarian-born actor S.Z. Sakall and Irish actress Una O’Connor.
This is a perfect film to watch with the family or even to have on as a background noise while wrapping presents or making cookies. There is an additional bonus short film included on the DVD called Star in the Night that is about 21 minutes long. It is quite dated now and not greatly executed but it means well and does have some nice dialogue within. I will happily end on that note! 🙂
– People are angry all year but smiling at Christmas. Why does everyone have to change just because it’s Christmas?
– Because we can’t get away from it. Because the true meaning of Christmas is peace, brotherhood and love. To me it’s the remedy for all the world’s troubles.