Sunday, December 13, 2015

Holiday Watch: Christmas in Connecticut (1945)

I'm at the tail end of low-grade but extremely annoying cold.  Today it settled in my chest as this loud, dry cough.  So, I've been basically laying around since about Wednesday, which may explain why you've seen so much blogging and movie watching.

I really miss being twenty-five and never being sick for more than 48 hours.

I can't say I'm the world's biggest fan of Christmas in Connecticut (1945).  It's a sort of mid-century American farce.  Elizabeth Lane (Barbara Stanwyck) is the Martha Stewart of 1945, a popular home-making writer for a Redbook-like magazine, providing lifestyle and cooking tips from her New England farm as she makes delectable meals for her husband and baby.  What America doesn't know is that Lane is actually a city girl, unmarried and childless, who is sharing the recipes of her friend Felix, a restaurateur.  It's a wartime film, and so it follows a sailor who survives a U-Boat attack by drifting at sea and is considered a war hero.  Through some convoluted chicanery, Lane's publisher, Alexander Yardley (the always fantastic Sydney Greenstreet) invites both the sailor and himself to Lane's farm for Christmas.

Not wanting to lose her job, Lane borrows her stuffy suitor's farm for the event, having him pose as her husband and she manages to borrow a baby.  Like I said, it's got quite a bit of farce to the whole thing.

The movie is a bit of frothy Christmas fluff, a bit of something for the whole family.

I'm unclear on the timeline as the movie seems to have been released in the summer of 1945, a few months after V-E Day and before VJ Day, so we'll have to assume the movie took place between 42'- and 44'.  Also, they released this in Summer?

The movie also features Una O'Conner, Dennis Morgan (no, I have no idea what else he's in, either), S.Z. Sakall, and Adventures of Superman fans will recognize our own Inspector Henderson, Robert Shayne, in a role as Lane's editor.

I'm not sure the comedy reaches quite screwball levels, but it does manage to still translate fairly well.  This may be in part because the wartime role of women in the U.S. had changed, and, in some ways, the subtext of the movie is about the expectations of the American woman.  Lane can be adored for column where she's created the illusion of the perfect homelife by readers aspiring to domestic perfection, but she's really a tough city gal who reaches for a bottle when given the chance.  She's pounding out articles to pay her way through the life she's interested in leading, one that doesn't need a husband or someone taking care of her.  The movie doesn't mock the domestic life so much as the illusion of the lifestyle magazines.

Probably the oddest bit of the movie is the tension of Lane and the sailor's budding romance, with him believing she's a married a woman and mother and the fact that, if the timing had been correct, Lane would have actually been married to her stuffy suitor just before the arrival of the guests.  It's all played for laughs, and it's made clear that though she's marrying, she's not actually in love with the farm-owner.

It's just hard to complain about a contrived plot in a movie where the gags are all about absurd contrivances and situations.

Anyway, it's a Christmas classic.  Maybe not in the same way as It's a Wonderful Life or The Bells of St. Mary's, after all, it's unlikely you'll get weepy.  But for something light and silly, sure, why not?  Not everything needs to take you to the pits of despair in order to be a welcome Christmas movie.

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