Monday, December 12, 2011

Christmas in Connecticut (1945)



At the moment I have been feeling like Nora Charles in The Thin Man in the scene where she is decorating the tree and someone walks in the room wishing a Merry Christmas to which she replies “The next person that says Merry Christmas to me I’ll kill them.” I am not being a grump I love Christmas I love the time of the year and the excitement but working as a hostess where I greet people and say so long to them I hear the greeting over and over again to the point where I want to give them a reply just like Nora’s!! But since I really need my crappy job at the moment I cannot be rude to the customers. Not being too much of a Christmas grump I saw that Barbara Stanwyck’s film Christmas in Connecticut was playing on TCM and I can never pass up a Barbara Stanwyck film I had to see it and to make the film even better the outrageously handsome Dennis Morgan plays her love interest.
            Jefferson Jones (Morgan) is a naval officer whose ship was blown up and he and his friend spent fifteen days adrift on a life raft. While in the hospital recovering all he wants is a steak and something hearty to eat but he cannot since his stomach needs to get used to food again and all he can eat is mashed food. His friend has been eating steaks and anything he wants. The friend tells Jeff to be really sweet with the nurse Mary Lee to the point where she will think he wants to marry her. That is exactly what Jeff does and Mary Lee is convinced that he wants to marry her but she feels he has been away too long and needs to remember what it was like to be in a nice house and have home cooked food. Mary Lee once helped magazine mogul Alexander Yardley’s (Sydney Greenstreet) daughter to health so she writes to him for a favor. The favor is he has to get his famous food columnist Elizabeth Lane (Stanwyck) to let Jeff go to her home for Christmas and cook for him.
            Yardley agrees because he sees this as good publicity for his magazine. In her column not only does Elizabeth write about her lovely recipes but also about her husband and infant son Robert. In reality Elizabeth does not know the first thing about cooking!! Neither does she have a husband or a son! Her whole column is a lie but hey she is America’s most successful and read food writer she cannot do any better. Now she and her agent have a huge problem on their hands. She meets with Yardley to give him some lie why she cannot have Jeff over but before she knows it she agrees and cannot bring herself to tell the truth.
            Elizabeth, her columnist, and her friend John Sloan (Reginald Gardner) come up with a plan. The plan is to have Jeff and now Yardley go to John’s farm house in Connecticut since it is was she has described in her column and for restaurant owner Felix (S.K Sakall) to come to the house to cook since he is the one she gets all her recipes from. Elizabeth and John decide while they are at the house they may as well get married for real since he keeps asking her to marry him and she sees it as a better time than not to finally do so.
            Everything has been arranged once they get to the farm house even right down to the baby who is a local woman’s baby that is being watched by the maid. Before the judge can marry them Jeff shows up to the house early. Jeff is pretty excited to be there and see Elizabeth in her home surrounded by her “family”. She finds him immediately charming and very handsome.
            Over the two days things become complicated: Yardley suspects that Elizabeth is cheating on her husband and John does not like the idea that his girl is in love with the soldier; the baby has been given back to his real mother; Yardley thinks that the replacement baby’s mother has kidnapped Elizabeth’s baby while she was in jail with Jeff (they got thrown in there over an accidentally stolen sled). Elizabeth’s whole deal is blown but she does not care anymore.
            I really liked this film it was so cute and so funny. The story was different and just got funnier as it progressed. The comedy and the story was not over done and neither was the acting everything about it was just right. One of my favorite things about the film was how something would always keep Elizabeth and John from marrying. One time it was a cow who needed to be put back in the barn which Elizabeth and Jeff attended to and when they put the cow away snow from the roof fell on them knocking them out a little bit.
            I love Barbara Stanwyck in her comedy roles more than her dramas. I loved her as Elizabeth, she was totally convincing as a career driven woman living in the city completely out of her element in the country. Stanwyck was very warm and sweet this is one of my favorite roles I have seen her in. I cracked up when Elizabeth was sitting in her apartment explaining her “country surroundings” which were inspired by clothes hanging on her line, the radiator, and other city things. She even had a little running gag for a while with a china figure at John’s house where every time she would get mad or frustrated she would pick up the figure like she was going to throw it. Finally near the end of the film she gets to smash it. The look on her face whenever she picks the figure up is so funny.
            Dennis Morgan was great as well. Whenever he is the male lead in a film you can completely believe that women would fall head over heels in love with him and be totally captivated by his charm and looks. I really like how his character was not mad at Elizabeth when the truth came out about her, he just liked her and was willing to look past that.
            The supporting cast was fabulous. Sydney Greenstreet as the bumbling but nice boss was great since I am so used to seeing him as corrupt, crooked characters. Reginald Gardiner was nothing short of a charming gentleman as always. S.K. Sakall was adorable he brought so much humor and lightness to the film. His character knew the whole time that Elizabeth and John were not meant to be so he did a few things to keep the marriage from happening.
            Edith Head designed Barbara Stanwyck’s costumes. Her costumes for the film are some of my favorites I have seen from her. The jackets and dresses were gorgeous and looked perfect on Stanwyck. The cuts of the jackets matched Stanwyck’s domineering frame and facial structure the way many of her previous film costumes did not.
            Christmas in Connecticut is an adorable, fun film. It is not overly Christmas-y which I liked it was just perfect for the mood I was in. Although it is in the title Christmas is not the central dominating theme. The entire film was very well made with the cast being one of the best I have ever seen they all worked so well with one another. Christmas in Connecticut has now become a film I will look forward to seeing around the holidays.