Christmas in Connecticut (1945) – A Review
|Dennis Morgan and Barbara Stanwyck in
Christmas in Connecticut
Elizabeth Lane (Barbara Stanwyck) is every housewife’s hero. She’s documents her wonderful life with her husband, baby and beautiful Connecticut farm. She details all the great dinners she creates, the country living she’s so passionate about and being the perfect wife and mother. It’s all made her an inspiration to millions.
The only thing is – it’s all a charade Elizabeth has created. She’s actually a single woman living in a cramped New York apartment who churns out her column and knows nothing about cooking, country living or babies.
When returning war hero Jefferson Jones (Dennis Morgan) wants to spend an old fashioned Christmas weekend at her farm, Elizabeth’s unknowing publisher Alexander Yardley (Sydney Greenstreet) agrees.
Now with a potential scandal in the works and her job in jeopardy, Elizabeth is forced to make her written deception a reality and has to come up with a Connecticut farm, a baby, a husband, a delicious dinner and be the perfect holiday host for all her guests. This could get even more complicated as she starts to fall for Jefferson.
Christmas in Connecticut is an amusing movie. I never would rank it towards the top of my holiday movie list, but it is entertaining and that’s mainly due to how director Peter Godfrey handles it and Stanwyck who’s at the center stage and is such a delight to watch exercise her comedic chops and get into the spirit of the farcical situations she’s finds herself in. It’s kind of a slim story, but it’s executed very well.
There’s something very endearing to me about the idea of being forced to create the ‘perfect holiday setting’ for others and knowing full well it’s all completely artificial. It’s all fake and the only sincerity around is by the ones being fooled by it. That cynicism behind the holiday facade makes the story entertaining to me. It’s sort of like the Christmas scenes in Funny Farm, when the characters are trying to convince others of a completely manufactured Christmas atmosphere.
Between fumbling in the kitchen with her comical friend Felix (S.Z. Sakall) and being confused by babies, Stanwyck is in the middle of a love triangle. She agrees to marry John Sloan (Reginald Gardiner) not out of love, but because he has a Connecticut farm which she needs for this Christmas weekend.
This adds even more obstacles for Elizabeth as she begins to swoon for Jefferson. Even worse, is Jefferson is set up for his own marriage! So, these two getting together is just impossible right? These predicaments add some tension to the brewing romance making you want to see how these two will end up together. You know they have to! It’s an old fashioned romantic movie.
I was never too crazy about Morgan as Stanwyck’s love interest. He’s likable enough but he’s just such a good, perfect kind of guy he comes off rather blah. Luckily, Stanwyck is great at selling the growing attraction she has for him. So although I wasn’t yearning to see him have a happy ending, Stanwyck is so captivating during their scenes and is the real focal point of the romance that I become invested in her outcome more than his. He’s just sort of the prize she’s vying for.
One actor in this that always stands out to me is Greenstreet. He makes his usual strong presence in the movie and it’s fun to see him play a much lighter role than what he usually would be cast in. I so associate him with his more dramatic roles in The Maltese Falcon, Casablanca and Passage to Marseille that seeing him walk around in a bathrobe carrying presents is quite jarring. You mean he’s not trying to steal something from this farm and doesn’t want to kill anyone???
I can’t say it’s one of my favorite Christmas films and personally I wouldn’t define it as “a classic”. It takes a decent amount of time to set up the story and the complicated hysterical fallout scenes that you would expect don’t start to rain down once things get rolling. And Morgan is a very weak leading man.
It’s light and airy and has some amusing and romantic scenes, but I never feel compelled to watch it every year. Still, I do enjoy it, mainly for Stanwyck who is just so charming in this.
Really, despite having the word ‘Christmas’ in the title, the holiday background could have been dropped completely! Sure, there’s a Christmas tree in it, there’s snow, the characters even take a ride in a one horse open sleigh, but there’s not a lot of focus on anything more to do with Christmas than that. This story could have been a romantic comedy that takes place at Thanksgiving, Memorial Day or any weekend during the year!
This film had a remake back in 1992 starring Dyan Cannon, Kris Kristofferson and Tony Curtis. It was directed by Arnold Schwarzenegger of all people.
I was always surprised this hasn’t been remade again since then. Today with the popularity of Martha Stewart, all these cooking programs, home improvement shows and arts and crafts programs, this story seems like it would be perfect for an updated telling for that audience. I would expect to see it pop up as one of these new Christmas movies on cable. I would have guessed we would have multiple versions of it at this point! It’s shocking that no one has tried to jump on that. Or maybe they realize that it would be impossible to compete with Stanwyck’s performance in the original.