Barbara Stanwyck, making stuff up. Image: Hooked on Houses

On a recent shopping trip, we rummaged through a discount bin of DVDs and found several $5 copies of the WWII-era comedy Christmas in Connecticut (1945).

We were delighted and dismayed. We were excited to see these DVDs, but why so many? We considered handing them out to fellow shoppers: “Take this and watch it tonight!”

The truth is, we (yours truly) watch this film Every. Single. Year. We can’t get enough of it, even though we’ve memorized most of the script.

It’s a comedy of deceptions – as many comedies are – about a New York food-and-lifestyle writer (Barbara Stanwyck) who pens a popular column for a national magazine, Smart Housekeeping. She’s famous for writing about “her” recipes (which are supplied by a restaurant owner), her (non-existent) husband and baby, and her (also non-existent) farm in Connecticut.

It’s a good gig that pays well, until the overbearing publisher of her magazine (Sydney Greenstreet) insists she invite a Navy hero (Dennis Morgan) to her Connecticut farm for Christmas. Greenstreet thinks this publicity stunt will boost the magazine’s circulation numbers.

But get this: Stanwyck can’t cook. So she has to figure out how to create a dazzling holiday menu and produce a family + farm if she wants to keep her job.

If that weren’t stressful enough, boss man Greenstreet decides to invite himself for Christmas to Supervise the Goings-On.

Stanwyck’s pals know her secrets. Image: Gateway Film Center

After WWII, the famously thrifty Warner Bros. Studio trimmed production budgets to recoup costs from the war years. This film was no exception; for example, Stanwyck’s mink coat is the same one Joan Crawford wore in Mildred Piece.

Nevertheless, this holiday classic feels as lavish as they come. The sets are expansive and tastefully appointed, yet they convey a cozy holiday feel that makes you want to curl up by the fire with a Tom & Jerry.

That’s not the only reason we love this film. Here’s why it’s one of our favourites:

  1. Barbara Stanwyck’s wardrobe, designed by the fabulous Edith Head.
  2. Witty lines, such as Stanwyck’s explanation as to why she was Out All Night: “We weren’t galavanting. We were in jail.”
  3. A large and interesting cast of characters, including a suspicious housekeeper (Una O’Connor), a jilted fiancé (Reginald Gardiner), and a kindhearted navy nurse (Joyce Compton).
  4. The unlikely hero – a sort of fifth column – played by S.Z. Sakall, manipulates the other characters to achieve the results he (and we the audience) think are best.
  5. The food, which has a starring role in this film. If you can watch without snacking, you’re a stronger person than us.
Making flapjacks. Image: Pinterest

Christmas in Connecticut was released in August, 1945, and it grossed $3M US, approx. $46.5M today. (A made-for-television remake, starring Dyan Cannon and Kris Kristofferson, was released in 1992.)

According to IMDb, Stanwyck’s character was loosely based on prolific columnist/author Gladys Taber, who lived on a Connecticut farm and wrote for Family Circle magazine. Even the way Stanwyck’s character writes her column is an homage to Taber’s style.

The film is a reflection of post-war America, when soldiers returned to upended lives, and women were encouraged to embrace domestic arts. Stanwyck’s presence, however, makes the film feel timeless. Her character is smart and talented, and she’ll Write Her Own Ticket, thank you very much.

We high recommend Christmas in Connecticut if you haven’t already seen it. It might become a new holiday favourite – and if you’re looking to own it, we know where you can pick up the DVD for only $5.

This post is part of The Umpteenth Blogathon, hosted by CineMaven’s Essays from the Couch.

Christmas in Connecticut: starring Barbara Stanwyck, Dennis Morgan, Sydney Greenstreet. Directed by Peter Godfrey. Written by Lionel Houser & Adele Comandini. Warner Bros., 1945, B&W, 101 mins.

Happily blogging about old movies and using the royal "We".

29 Comment on “5 Reasons We Can’t Get Enough of ‘Christmas in Connecticut’

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