This fast and funny 1945 holiday movie is from the oldie but goodie vault. It stars Barbara Stanwyck as Elizabeth Lane, a writer for Smart Housekeeping magazine. This movie also brings back together actor alumni from 1942’s “Casablanca” – Sydney Greenstreet and S.K. Sakall, both of them playing somewhat similar roles three years later. Instead of the business-minded proprietor of The Blue Parrot, Greenstreet is the business-minded publisher of Smart Housekeeping and Sakall plays a kindly Hungarian chef instead of the kindly waiter of Rick’s Café Americain.
Elizabeth writes a very popular column about country life, with an emphasis on gourmet cooking. How popular is Elizabeth’s column? When she writes about searching for that perfect antique rocking chair for her farmhouse, her fans send dozens of rocking chairs. Her descriptions of the meals she concocts for her family are so vivid they sustain a sailor named Jefferson Jones (Dennis Morgan) while he floats on a raft, awaiting rescue after his ship sinks. A nurse at the hospital where he ends up writes to Smart Housekeeping publisher Alexander Yardley to ask a favour: could a war hero spend Christmas with his favourite writer at her farm? Visions of increased circulation (i.e. fatter profits) dance like sugar plum fairies in Yardley’s head. A publicity stunt is born.
What her boss and her fans don’t know is that Elizabeth is a big fraud. She’s a single woman living in New York City, not Connecticut. When she writes about cedar logs crackling in her fireplace, she’s looking at laundry flapping outside her apartment window. The family farmhouse she writes about so convincingly is owned by an architect suitor named John Sloane. She doesn’t cook because she can’t. Her mouth-watering menus are dreamed up by Felix, a chef friend. But with her job on the line and an expensive mink coat to pay for, what’s a girl gonna do? Especially when her boss decides to invite himself over for Christmas dinner.
Why, fake it of course, with a little help from her friends.
Elizabeth reluctantly consents to marry fussy John and Felix agrees to do the cooking. Now there’s only the baby problem. Luckily, John’s stereotypical Irish maid also babysits for local women who work at a nearby factory. But of course, nothing is as easy as it sounds, especially when it comes to the baby Elizabeth supposedly has!
When Jefferson appears, the sparks practically snap between Elizabeth and him. Besides looking dashingly handsome in a uniform, Jefferson can handle babies, play the piano and sing too. But as a “married woman and mother”, Elizabeth is out of bounds. Regardless, they flirt at every opportunity, making John more determined to marry Elizabeth. He’s got a judge at the ready; now it’s only a matter of timing.
While this movie isn’t exactly slow-paced, once we get to the country abode (which looks nothing like the farmhouse my grandparents once had), events proceed at almost breakneck speed from one near disaster to another in classic screwball comedy style.
“Christmas in Connecticut” is available on DVD. There’s also a 1992 TV remake with Dyan Cannon and Kris Kristofferson and yet a third remake is in the works for 2009.