Classic Christmas Movie Review #2 – Christmas in Connecticut
Welcome to the 2nd Classic Christmas Movie Review: Christmas in Connecticut. Made in 1945, it is the story of a woman who knows how to write a good magazine feature but doesn’t know how to deal with the consequences. Starring Barbara Stanwycke as Elizabeth Lane, Dennis Morgan as Jefferson Jones, Sydney Greenstreet as Mr. Yardley, and S.Z. Sakall as Felix Bassenak.
Elizabeth Lane is a woman who has it all, a husband, a baby, a farm in Connecticut, an excellent talent with food, of which she writes in detail as a feature in a housekeeping magazine under the Yardley Publishing Company. The American public adores her every word, women for her knowledge and tips on success, men for her wonderful cooking and interesting articles. What they don’t know though, is the truth.
In reality, she lives in an apartment in New York, is not married, and, worst of all, she cannot cook. But she sells magazines, and makes Mr. Yardley happy.
Unfortunately, trouble comes in the form of a sailor. The sailor himself is not a problem, as Elizabeth soon finds out, but what Mr. Yardley asks concerning him is. The sailor and fellow seaman had been stuck on a raft for days with no food, and now that he is recovering in the hospital, the nurse contacts Mr. Yardley to see if he can organize a good home experience over the Christmas holiday to brighten his thoughts toward the two of them settling down together.
With the help of her editor and boyfriend/fiance, Elizabeth Lane manages to obtain a “husband, farm, and a baby” in time to have the sailor stay with them for Christmas. To make matters more difficult, Mr. Yardley himself decides to spend the holiday with them.
Its Christmas Eve and Elizabeth is preparing to marry her fiance, John Sloan, an architect, when the sailor, Jefferson Jones, arrives sooner than expected. With a mad dash, they hide the good-natured judge, and welcome their guest.
Jeff, preparing to meet an older woman he believes to be Elizabeth Lane, is dumbfounded when he sees Barbara Stanwycke meet him at the door. And he is not alone in his impressions. Elizabeth herself realizes Jeff is more attractive than she expected and both are taken with each other. But the fact that she is “married”, at least in his eyes, begins to present problems to what Elizabeth wishes would become a beautiful relationship.
A stark contrast is made between her controlling and slightly self-consumed fiance and kind, unobtrusive Jefferson Jones. She finds his charms hard to ignore. But the eagle eye of Mr. Yardley is always present, to her chagrin.
Meanwhile, with her “uncle” Felix assisting her in the kitchen, everything seems to be going well. That is until Mr. Yardley insists, as only he can do, on seeing the famed housewife flip a flapjack for breakfast. Felix schools her beforehand with no success, but I won’t ruin it by telling you how it turns out. You’ll have to see it for yourself.
Christmas Day arrives and with it an invitation to a dance. The evening is going swimmingly until Elizabeth realizes Jeff will be going home the next day. Walking about in the snow, they board a sleigh that doesn’t belong to them just to keep their feet from getting cold. The horse takes off, to their surprise, but being too content in each others company, they delay in returning to the dance. When they are picked up by the police for stealing the sleigh, the two find it amusing but little does Elizabeth know that Yardley, her boss, has seen them leaving and now suspects her of unfaithfulness.
Following the suspicious disappearance of Elizabeth and Jeff, Yardley comes back to the farm to discover the baby being kidnapped. Uncle Felix tries to explain that the baby actually belongs to the woman doing the kidnapping, but Yardley won’t listen to anyone. Before long the house is surrounded by police and reporters, but Elizabeth is still not home.
Jeff and Elizabeth are released when the cops realize who they are but by then its already morning. The two are in high spirits when they arrive and find the house filled with sleeping newspapermen. After making a brash arrival, Elizabeth is finally told what has happened.
Her flippant attitude in Yardley’s eyes is evidence that she is not the woman of high standards he thought her to be. She admits that she has fallen in love with the sailor and then explains to him how she was never married and does not own a farm. Yardley promptly fires her in a rage and at the same time Sloan dissolves their engagement realizing she is not the woman for an esteemed architect like himself.
Even though the cat is out of the bag, Elizabeth doesn’t have a chance to tell Jeff the truth before his fiance, the nurse that arranged it all, comes to take him back. The gaiety of the evening before is now dampened as they all prepare to return to their lives.
While Elizabeth is packing, Uncle Felix finds out from the nurse she is already married. So he takes Jeff aside and tells him the truth.
Meanwhile, Yardley, afraid that his rival magazine might snatch the Elizabeth Lane feature from him tries to get Elizabeth back. All the pent up emotions finally snap as Elizabeth tells Yardley how “tired” she is of being pushed around. And for once Yardley is speechless.
Unknown to her the circumstance between the nurse and Jeff, Elizabeth tries to fend off Jeff’s sudden advancements. She calls him a sea wolf as he declares that now he is the kind that kisses married women.
All turns out well as the two get together and Yardley holds no hard feelings. In the words of Yardley himself, “What a Christmas!” And what a Christmas movie.
Its a tie each year to say which of these classic Christmas movies are my favorite, but this one vies for the top. What do I like about it? First of all, as I have said again and again, the atmosphere of the World War II era is absolutely charming, but I also love the way the movie plays out. Imagine pulling off a con like that. As a writer myself, its evidence of someone who really knows how to spin a yarn.
If you haven’t noticed, the pictures showing the inside of the farm house reveals an extravagant interior that delights me every time I watch it. The rooms are vintage farmhouse style with a modern 40’s touch. The window in the back ground of this picture is actually slanted out as it goes up. My family and I always wonder what the benefits of such a window might be. If you happen to know, please let me know so that our curiosity might be satisfied.
This is probably my favorite movie with Dennis Morgan. He’s so charming, and that uniform does it all. You know what they say about a man in a uniform. And on the sideline, I love the song he is playing at the moment in the picture above. It is called The Wish That I Wish Tonight. It actually makes up a lot of the films score, and its gives a perfect feeling for it.
I think I’d have to say this is my favorite with Barbara Stanwycke as well. At times she seems almost wishy-washy (in this role, that is) but its more of a “pulled along by the situation” deal. She really gives out, though, when she tells Yardley off in the end. Finally someone tells the “fat man” whats what. And he turns out to be a good egg.
S.Z. Sakall is a grand actor. Out of all the roles he has played, he is still called Uncle Felix by us despite who he is playing at the time. Second to this role, my next favorite with him would probably be Doris Day’s uncle in Tea for Two.
Sydney Greenstreet plays the overpowering Mr. Yardley and he plays it well. If you think he’s unbearable in this role, you need to see The Woman in White (1948). Compared to that movie, his role as Yardley makes him look like an angel.
Reginal Gardiner is the selfish, if not a little slow, fiance. For years we had seen him play this part and when we saw anything else with him, we viewed him the same. That is until we saw him in A Yank in the R.A.F.. Absolutely hilarious! He played the funny character who just kind of hung around and made dry jokes. Very different.
And that sums up this review. I hope you liked what you read. And I hope I gave you a good idea of the movie. Unfortunately I am running behind in my reviews, but I am still hoping to get them all in before Christmas. That is, except maybe It’s a Wonderful Life. I’ll tell you why in the review. And if for some reason I forget to, remind me.
Thanks for reading. Merry Christmas!