We’ve got one last Christmas movie to get through before the holiday itself, so let’s get to it! It’s the 1945 holiday comedy Christmas In Connecticut, starring Barbara Stanwyck, Dennis Morgan and Sydney Greenstreet!
Coming Up Shorts! with… Star In The Night (1945)
(Available as an extra on the Christmas In Connecticut Blu-ray from Warner Home Video)
(Length: 21 minutes, 27 seconds)
On Christmas Eve, a drifter stops in at the Star Auto Court out in the desert, which is run by Nick Catapoli (J. Carroll Naish). Nick is quite cynical about the holiday, but he changes his tune when some of his complaining customers decide to pitch in and help when a young couple arrives (with the wife about to give birth). Very much a (then) modern version of the original Christmas story, with a pregnant couple, no more room at the inn, a group of three men bearing gifts, and others in awe at the event. As such, it is one that I have enjoyed coming back to again and again! A heartwarming tale that is very much in the spirit of the holiday!
And Now For The Main Feature…
After a German submarine blows up their ship, sailors Jefferson Jones (Dennis Morgan) and Sinkewicz (Frank Jenks) find themselves on a raft for eighteen days without food. When they are rescued and taken to a Navy hospital, Jefferson’s dreams of eating good food again are dashed by the doctor’s orders. Listening to his friend Sinkewicz, Jeff decides to play up to his nurse, Mary Lee (Joyce Compton) to get some good food (even going so far as to get engaged to her). When it is almost time for him to be discharged, he tries to renege on his engagement. Mary Lee, feeling that it is because he’s never known a real home, writes to Alexander Yardley (Sydney Greenstreet), a big publisher whose granddaughter she had helped nurse back to health. She asks him to have one of his writers, Elizabeth Lane (Barbara Stanwyck), invite Jeff to her “perfect home” in Connecticut to see what a real home is like (an idea that Yardley approves of). There’s just one hitch: Elizabeth is not what she claims to be. Unlike the persona she tries to put across in her columns, she is not a wife or mother, she can’t cook and she lives in an apartment in New York City. This is a real problem for her and her editor, Dudley Beecham (Robert Shayne), as Yardley absolutely insists on printing the truth. She tries to meet with Yardley and talk him out of it, but only finds herself with yet ANOTHER guest when he invites himself along. Facing the prospect of unemployment, Elizabeth decides to finally accept the marriage proposal of her friend, architect John Sloan (Reginald Gardiner) (even though she doesn’t love him). That gives Dudley an idea, as Sloan lives on a farm in Connecticut, so he suggests they follow through with the idea, and he convinces Elizabeth’s friend and restaurant owner Felix Bassenak (S. Z. Sakall) (who had been supplying her with recipes for her column) to come along and help do the cooking for her. Reluctantly, Elizabeth decides to go along with the idea. On Christmas Eve (the day that Jeff is supposed to arrive), Elizabeth comes to Sloan’s house, where he has brought a judge to marry them. Before they can start the ceremony, Jeff arrives early, forcing them to postpone the ceremony. Upon meeting him, Elizabeth is instantly infatuated with him. He is interested, too, but is unsure of how to react, given that he believes that she is married. Yardley arrives not long after. Over the next two days, Elizabeth is constantly in danger of being revealed as a fraud, as she tries (and fails) to get through a wedding ceremony secretly deals with Yardley pushing her to cook for him, and dealing with different babies on each day (who were actually the kids of local mothers being watched by Sloan’s housekeeper Norah, as played by Una O’Connor). Can she keep up this ruse, or will she be discovered?
At the time that Christmas in Connecticut was made, lead actress Barbara Stanwyck was coming off her success as the villainess Phyllis Dietrichson in Double Indemnity, and was looking for a lighter comedy to do. Originally, Bette Davis was to be cast as Elizabeth Lane (a character that was somewhat based on real-life Family Circle Magazine columnist Gladys Taber), but was replaced by Stanwyck only a few months after that initial announcement. Actor Sydney Greenstreet was also looking for a change of pace, as he had mainly been playing various heavies in his previous films. Peter Godfrey, who had been in Hollywood for nearly six years (both on- and off-screen), was given the job of directing the film. He got along well with everybody, particularly Greenstreet (as both had come from the London theatre scene, and spent a lot of time on set entertaining everyone) and Stanwyck (who became friends with the director and would later work with him on the 1947 films Cry Wolf and The Two Mrs. Carrolls). As the war was still going on at the time of filming, studio head Jack Warner tried to cut costs, including re-using a mink coat from Mildred Pierce (1945) and some of the set from Bringing Up Baby (1938) for the Connecticut home. It all worked out for the movie, as it rode a wave of post-war euphoria at the box office, resulting in it being one of the more successful movies that year.
I first saw this film as part of a four-film holiday collection on DVD, and I took to it after that first viewing! It was one of the first (if not THE first) Barbara Stanwyck films that I saw. For me, the whole cast worked quite well, from Stanwyck’s Elizabeth as she navigates trying to appear to be the “perfect wife” like in her column, to Dennis Morgan as the sailor fighting his own nature as he falls for a “married” woman (a no-no in his book), to Greenstreet as the publisher who doesn’t let anybody else get a word in edgewise. And, of course, there is S. Z. Sakall as Elizabeth’s cook friend, who is there to help her out. As usual, he’s a lot of the fun (and this was one of the films that helped me to realize that originally). It’s not a musical by any means, but there are some fun songs here, with Dennis Morgan singing “O Little Town Of Bethlehem” and “The Wish That I Wish Tonight” while Elizabeth decorates a Christmas tree. Overall, the comedy works well, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention one of my favorite moments, that of Elizabeth trying to flip a pancake for the men. After we see her trying(and failing) when practicing earlier with Felix’s help, it’s hilarious to see her succeed in front of all the men (with her eyes closed), only to have a look of satisfaction on her face like it was no big thing. It’s always guaranteed to have me laughing! Ever since the first time I saw it, this movie has become one of my favorite Christmas films, and I have no hesitation in recommending it! Seriously! See it if you get the chance! It’s even better with the one-two punch of this movie and the Star In The Night short that is included with it on the Blu-ray and DVD releases!
This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Warner Home Video.
With this being my last post before the holiday, I want to wish you all a merry Christmas (and to those who don’t celebrate it, I wish you happy holidays), and I wish you peace on earth, and goodwill to ALL!
Also, if you are interested in joining in on my first month-long “Screen Team Of The Month” blogathon for 2022 featuring Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy, please be sure to check out my Announcing the Jeanette MacDonald And Nelson Eddy “Screen Team Of The Month (January 2022)” Blogathon post to sign up!
Film Length: 1 hour, 41 minutes
My Rating: 10/10
List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections
The Maltese Falcon (1941) – Sydney Greenstreet
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