Friday, December 12, 2008

Christmas In Connecticut (1945)

Barbara Stanwyck stars in this movie as Elizabeth Lane, a magazine columnist who describes herself as happily married, new mother and expert homemaker who lives on a perfect Connecticut farm with her family. The would be wonderful if it were actually true. Instead, she is single and lives in a cramped apartment in New York City and, oh, can't cook. Unfortunately, her magazine publisher, Alexander Yardley (Sydney Greenstreet), is a stickler for the truth and has just come up with a brilliant plot to boost magazine sales. He wants her to invite a war hero, Jefferson Jones (Dennis Morgan), out to her lovely farm for Christmas. It goes without saying that Yardley wants to tag along so he too can experience a wonderful Christmas in Connecticut.

I felt like this was a holiday version of a screwball comedy. I love holiday movies and I love screwball comedies, so you put the two together and it is like peanut butter and jelly. The best thing was that the screwballiness took the edge off the holidayiness. What I mean is, the film didn't get sentimental about the holidays and that is a nice change for a film with "Christmas" in the title.

I also love that this is kind of a relevant theme given the rise of the Martha Stewarts and Rachel Rays of the world. In fact, I secretly love the idea of Martha Stewart really being like Elizabeth Lane - not having any clue how to cook or live on a farm - and just getting someone else to do all the work for her. heh heh.

Stanwyck, as Elizabeth Lane, attempting to "flip-flop the flop-flips" (yes, a Felix-ism)

The absolutely best part of the whole film though, hands down, was Uncle Felix. It is hard to say exactly how they became friends, but it is obvious that Elizabeth helped him finance the start up of his restaurant and he supplies her with recipes for the magazine in return for her kindness. He also seems to watch out for her and generally worry about her happiness. I always seem to gravitate to the supporting actors and Felix was no exception. S.Z. Sakall was so adorable as Uncle Felix, such a teddy bear. Plus, he had the best lines and so many great Felix-isms, for lack of anything else to call them. Here are a few of his great lines:

After smelling sardines Elizabeth was eating for lunch, Felix says, "Are you mad at your stomach darling?"

After seeing the mink coat she has just bought and her saying how she had to have it he says, "Nobody needs a mink coat but the mink."

When it looks like Yardley is about to find out the truth, Felix says they should go. He explains it with, "When the bag let's out the cat, somebody gets scratched."

What a wise man :-)

I should toss in a few great quotes out of Stanwyck's mouth too.

When she went to talk to the publisher to talk him out of making her invite the war hero and returned without luck she explains it as, "Every time I opened my mouth, he talked. I felt like Charlie McCarthy."

And when she is kissing her now fiance, "John, when you are kissing me, don't talk about plumbing."

I loved Stanwyck and her performance, of course, I think that almost goes without saying when you are talking about Stanwyck. Man is she amazing. Sydney Greenstreet as the publisher is brilliant too. It was interesting to see him in a lighter role - I think I have only seen him cast in dramatic roles. The only casting that I felt wasn't exactly perfect perhaps was Dennis Morgan. Don't get me wrong, he is incredibly handsome so I could see why he was cast, but I didn't really think he added much to the role other than a strong jawline.

I definitely suggest watching this one. It is hard to go wrong with it. You have your great performances, your witty dialogue, your screwball comedy, your holiday backdrop and if that isn't enough - UNCLE FELIX! He really does rock my world.


Jennythenipper said...

I discovered this movie last year at Christmas. Robert spiked a fever and we had to stay in the hotel for about 6 extra hours while waiting for it to come down. They showed Chirstmas in Conneticut on TCM. IT was the usual scenario, I had very low expectations, and I ended up loving it. I'm not a fan of Christmas movies usually. I really loved the idea too of the Martha Stewart type who was a complete fraud. Uncle Felix was great as well. (Isn't that actor in People Will Talk, too?) Sydney Greenstreet was great in his role. What a pill that guy is! I quite liked Dennis Morgan. Barbara Stanwyck has a way of making almost any leading man seem appealing just by her interest in him. He is hunky, to be sure. I'm sure he got the part because Morgan was a young star they were trying to build up. There was a bit of a leading man shortage in the war years and I think Hollywood was beginning to panic as one star after another enlisted.

AbbyNormal said...

My expectations were higher than yours, I think, and I still managed to love it.

No, I don't think he was in "People Will Talk". He was in "Ball of Fire" as one of the professors. In "Casablanca" in a small part too.

I didn't really think about the leading man shortage. I guess in a pinch the handsome devil will do :-)