Christmas in Connecticut (1945)
Reviewed on 2011 December 15
I’ve seen about every type of Christmas movie I can think of. I’ve seen Christmas get saved, celebrated, endured with crazy families, maudlin stuff where people look for the meaning of Christmas, and annoying glurges where they’re cheerful even where their facing stuff like eviction because hey, it’s Christmas. I think this is the first Christmas screwball comedy I’ve seen, and I love it.
Jefferson Jones (Dennis Morgan), a handsome sailor, is coming home after several grueling days of being on a life raft. Even though it’s a WWII-era film, the good souls at Warner Brothers start up the screwball stuff right away, giving him a food dream worthy of one of their cartoons. His poor buddy probably thought Jones would look at him and start hallucinating him as a crown roast with those little paper hats, but they’re rescued before that.
Jones’s plight is discovered by Alexander Yardley (Sydney Greenstreet), a magazine publisher who wants to reward the man, but no doubt thinks about how sales will soar once the public hears of his patriotism. Realizing that the sailor went from military food to nothing to hospital food, Yardley comes up with the ultimate reward for the man: he’ll spend Christmas with Elizabeth Lane (Barbara Stanwyck), the most famous food writer in his stable. Lane created a persona for herself that would make Martha Stewart pick up her ball and go home. She lives on a gorgeous farm in Connecticut with a perfect husband and perfect baby, and whips up stuff for dinner like goose in fig compote with a foie gras reduction. The catch is that this is all fictitious. The real Elizabeth lives in an apartment in New York and can barely wield a can opener. It gets worse when her boss decides he wants to come for one of “her” famous Christmas dinners too.
Besides being a great holiday film, I have a soft spot for it because on some level I know this is the exact sort of thing that would happen to me if tried a stunt like this. I have a hard enough time bootlegging Mr. Shukti’s Christmas presents into the house without getting caught. I got a kick out of the whole movie, but my favorite bits were the lifeboat food dream (what can I say, I grew up with cartoons) and the introduction of Elizabeth. I also loved S.Z. Sakall as Felix, her “uncle” and über-chef who scrambles along with her to make the whole charade work. Even the romantic bits are sweet without being too soggy. One moonlit stroll features a very special guest, Mo Chuisle.
Three chocolate morsels.