Christmas in Connecticut, 1945, Warner Bros. Starring Barbara Stanwyck, Dennis Morgan, Sydney Greenstreet. Directed by Peter Godfry. B&W, 102 minutes.
To all of America, columnist Elizabeth Lane (Barbara Stanwyck) is the perfect housewife, living on a farm, creating a cozy home, and cooking exceptional meals — the kind of fare a man lost at sea dreams about.
That’s exactly what Jefferson Jones (Dennis Morgan), a sailor who drifted on the lonely ocean waters for nearly three weeks, has done. He’s also been flirting with one of the nurses handling his care. She surprises him by writing to Miss Lane and asking if the nation’s favorite wife and cook will entertain a war hero for the holidays.
Problem is, Elizabeth Lane can’t boil water, is single and hasn’t been on a farm since who knows when. Her image is all a pretense, a cover for her immensely popular column in one of the country’s favorite magazines. Her editor knows the truth, but her publisher, Alexander Yardley (Sydney Greenstreet), does not. When Yardley not only invites Jones, but decides to join the fictional Lane family and the lonely sailor for a Christmas meal, Elizabeth is panicked.
To her rescue is John Sloan (Reginald Gardiner), a long-time friend in love with Elizabeth. Despite her lack of feeling for him, he convinces her to marry him. Working in his favor is his upstate farm, which quickly becomes the meeting place for this eclectic crew.
John and Elizabeth plan to marry immediately, but those plans are foiled time and again by circumstances both coincidental and contrived, for Elizabeth finds herself falling for Jefferson from the moment she sees him.
This is a charming movie with an incongruous plot, but reality is hardly necessary here. Morgan is dashing as the sailor who is as attracted to Elizabeth as she is to him, but believes her to be married. Greenstreet plays the pompous millionaire motivated solely by financial gain to great effect; his voice and presence lend themselves as well to this light comedy as they did to dramas such as The Maltese Falcon and Casablanca.
Historically, the context is a time when women were an increasing part of the workforce while millions of men were in combat. Elizabeth Lane is a working woman, but her work is to promote a traditional, and perhaps dying, way of life. She is thrilled to buy a fur coat with her own money, but the thought of settling down with the right man seems much more appealing. In the end, she has the best of both worlds.
Christmas in Connecticut is light fare, predictable and for today’s audience, nostalgic. It makes for wonderful holiday viewing with its escapist story and talented cast, including the adorable babies and folksy locals. Stanwyck, as always, gives a wonderful performance, and Morgan shows his somewhat unheralded talent as a romantic lead. It is a movie to look forward to every Christmas season.