“Every time I opened my mouth he talked. I felt like Charlie McCarthy,” says Elizabeth Lane in regards to her conversation with Alexander Yardley.
Christmas can be a time of magic, wonder, joy, and even a time for a comical farce to ensue. The 1940s were certainly a time when you could write for a popular housekeeping magazine, have the most popular column in the country, and yet still be a complete fraud. The fictional Elizabeth Lane does such a thing in Peter Godfrey’s 1945 holiday classic Christmas In Connecticut. Although I’ve seen it on TV a couple of times, it was only very recently that I was able to see it on the big screen. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to make it to Film Forum in New York City (where the film was going to play as part of a double feature with The Lady Eve), so I held a private screening for myself at the theater I work at. After an extremely long work schedule, this was the perfect movie for me to see on Christmas Eve.
Barbara Stanwyck stars as Elizabeth Lane, a popular writer at a housekeeping magazine who writes monthly columns about her farm in Connecticut, daily housekeeping tips, and amazing recipes while living in a NY apartment (only her closest friends know that she’s a fraud). The magazine publisher, Alexander Yardley (Sydney Greenstreet), receives a letter from a nurse who wishes to show her fiancee, a sailor (Dennis Morgan), what it’s like to have a home. Yardley meets with Lane, who tries to tell him the truth but is instead interrupted and coaxed into hosting the sailor at her farm in Connecticut for Christmas. Her friend John Sloan (Reginald Gardiner) agrees to let her use his farm in Connecticut (the inspiration for the farm in her articles) and she finally accepts his marriage proposal after rejecting him several times. Once at the farm, comical hijinks ensue as Elizabeth and John’s attempts to get married by the local judge are constantly interrupted, Yardley himself decides to join everyone at the farm, a running gag involving a neighbor’s baby occurs, and then there’s the little problem of Elizabeth falling for the sailor (and vice versa).
One of my favorite characters from the film is Felix (S.Z. Sakall), Elizabeth’s friend and true recipe creator (he runs his own restaurant, which he was able to start thanks to a loan that Elizabeth had given him). Whenever he wants to say that something is okay, he says, “Honkey donkey!” Yardley is another fascinating character, always talking and never really listening to what anyone else has to say (if he had simply let Elizabeth talk, then the farm fiasco could’ve been prevented). Of course, Stanwyck is excellent as Lane. She brings vulnerability to a somewhat desperate character. Equally impressive is Morgan as Jefferson Jones, the sailor who’s trapped in an engagement with a nurse and falls for Elizabeth, who he had originally presumed to be much older. Christmas In Connecticut is an enjoyable farce that is well-paced and filled with holiday fun for everyone. Frederick Hollander’s holiday-themed score is a real treat as well. Be sure to check out the 1945 original and NOT the 1992 TV movie remake (which is only noteworthy for having been directed by Arnold Schwarzenegger!) If you haven’t already watched this holiday classic, don’t hesitate any longer (the holidays are still with us).