If you haven’t seen it:
Christmas in Connecticut stars Barbara Stanwyck as Elizabeth Lane, a famous journalist who is living a lie.
In her magazine columns Elizabeth paints a vivid picture of her life as a hard working cook, wife, and mother, on an idyllic Connecticut farm. In truth however, she is a single woman who cannot cook, living in a New York apartment. When her employer decides that it would make a good story for a war hero and shipwreck survivor to spend Christmas with her, it seems her secret is about to come out.
This is a lighthearted comedy, with some witty lines, and moments of screwball and gentle farce. It is well paced and does not over-play its hand. It is not as sentimental as some of the other classic Christmas movies, which is probably why it is not as well loved and remembered, but if you are looking for something a bit different this year, something nostalgic and easy on the eye, then you might want to consider giving this one a try.
If you have seen it:
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SPOILER ALERT: The plot summary and comments below contain details that might spoil your enjoyment of the movie if you have not already seen it.
When a German U-boat torpedoes an American destroyer, two of the survivors, Jones and Sinkiewicz, find themselves lost at sea for 18 days before being rescued. While recovering in hospital, on a liquids-only diet, Jones becomes a fan of a magazine columnist called Elizabeth Lane, “America’s Best Cook”, who writes about her life on a Connecticut farm as a working mother. By coincidence, Jones’s nurse in the hospital knows the magazine’s owner, Mr Yardley. She calls in a favour and arranges for Jones to be invited to Elizabeth’s farm for Christmas.
In truth however, Elizabeth Lane is a fraud. She is a single woman living in New York. She cannot even cook – it is her friend Felix, a top Manhattan restauranteur, who provides the recipes for the column. When Elizabeth finds she is about to be exposed, she accepts a marriage proposal from an old friend John, who does in fact own a Connecticut farm, and they decide to try to fool the sailor (and Yardley, who has invited himself along too) into believing the fantasy.
The original plan was for Elizabeth and John to be married before the guests arrive, but Jones arrives early, and the ceremony has to be postponed.
As soon as Elizabeth meets Jones, she is attracted to him, and realizes she does not want to marry John after all. However, of course, Jones believes that Elizabeth and John are already married, and he is not the type of man who is interested in married women. Over the next few days, awkward situations arise involving babies borrowed from neighbours, flapjacks, a cow, the increasing attraction between Elizabeth and Jones, and an inconvenienced judge who’s attempts to perform a marriage ceremony are constantly thwarted.
The charade eventually falls apart when Yardley sees the baby being carried off by his real mother, and, assuming it is a kidnapping, calls the police. Elizabeth confesses all, quits her job, and she and Jones are married.
Steve Sunday Says:
I enjoyed Christmas in Connecticut a lot. It’s undemanding fun, and the sets look great – enormous fireplaces, spectacular Christmas trees, winter wonderlands, horse-drawn sleighs – really Christmassy. And the food! The only thing I have watched this Christmas with more food in it was the Gordon Ramsay festive special. I think it is fair to say that if I had to choose a movie to spend Christmas in, this would be the one.
It is not your typical festive feelgood movie though. The main characters of Christmas in Connecticut are not especially likable. Over the course of the 102 minutes we see lying, betrayal, vehicle theft, bullying, shockingly bad childcare arrangements, and not just one but two totally inappropriate nurse/patient relationships. I did not mind the lack of sentiment particularly. I am pretty confident that by now, at my age, I really do know the true meaning of Christmas, and I do not object if the occasional Christmas movie fails to remind me of it.
Despite the dubious behaviour, most characters do get a happy ending. Poor John is the exception, he gets dumped. I have to say though, I have my doubts about John’s motives. He is very neat and tidy isn’t he, and he is also a little camp. Did you notice how excited he got when it was first mentioned that a sailor was coming to stay? In any case we are not supposed to care about John because he is an architect, and architects were apparently boring in 1945.
Apart from John though, it is a happy ending for just about everyone. I cannot help but think though, that when the honeymoon period is over, Jones will slowly realize the implications of the fact that he has spend the rest of his life, not on a beautiful farm with America’s best cook, but in a tiny apartment with an unemployed shopaholic who cannot boil an egg.
One last note – it was nice to see an intelligent and well-spoken black man early on in Christmas in Connecticut, especially after all the negative portrayals I have seen in other old movies I have watched recently. I suspect that at the time, his eloquence might have been intended to be ironic, but even so, at least it was a step in the right direction.
Trivia Trish Says:
- Elizabeth Lane was based on a real-life writer called Gladys Taber (who genuinely did live on a farm in the Nutmeg State).
- You probably recognized the actors playing Yardley and Felix – Greenstreet and Sakall – both had appeared in Casablanca three years earlier.
- The phrase “everything is hunky dunky” was a regular catchphrase used by Sakall
- Dennis Morgan sang at Errol Flynn’s funeral.
Arnold Schwarzenegger Remake:
Christmas in Connecticut was remade in 1992, directed by Arnold Schwarzenegger. Honestly. I am not joking – feel free to look it up if you don’t believe me.
It starred Dyan Cannon, Kris Kristofferson, and Tony Curtis. It was not a success. Perhaps it would have been more popular if Arnie had incorporated a few of the things that had proved so popular in his own movies.
Here are the top ten changes that Arnie should have included in his remake:
- Instead of quitting her job, Elizabeth should have blown Yardley away with an Uzi 9mm.
- Instead of being a shipwreck survivor, Jones should have been a cyborg from the future.
- John and Felix should have been twins
- Jones should have been played by a bodybuilder who took off his shirt a lot.
- When the sled goes out of control, it should have crashed and burst into flames.
- Winter wonderland should have been created by Mr Freeze gun.
- Instead of a cow, it should have been a camouflaged homicidal alien.
- They could have hired a babysitter who was really a tough undercover cop.
- John might seem mild mannered and boring, but what if he was secretly a spy?
- “Come with me if you want to sieve!”
Main Cast and Crew:
Barbara Stanwyck as Elizabeth Lane
Dennis Morgan as Jefferson Jones
Sydney Greenstreet as Alexander Yardley
Reginald Gardiner as John Sloan
S.Z. Sakall as Felix Bassenak
directed by Peter Godfrey
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