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Christmas in Connecticut (1945)

by on 2011/12/28

“It’s from the Greek. It means ‘a misfortune, a cataclysm or a serious calamity.'”

* * *

Phew. Christmas is exhausting.

Shopping. Navigating angry, stressed-out crowds.

Cooking. So much cooking. I’ve cooked so many roasted beasts this season, I’ve lost track. Christmas means a dizzying array of meals, a towering stack of dishes. In fact, my dish pan hands are having trouble tapping out these words.

Mostly, Christmas is marked by unrealistic expectations. That’s the real devil of the season. Some of us are hungering for perfection. Unfortunately or fortunately, as I’ve discovered, there’s no such thing as perfection.

No perfection, unless you are Elizabeth Lane (Barbara Stanwyck) that is. She’s a food columnist for a national magazine. She cooks beautifully. She’s a loving parent and a devoted wife. She has a lovely farm in Connecticut.

The nation adores her. No woman is as perfect as Elizabeth Lane.  And by perfect, I mean, as perfect as Lane is pretending to be. There’s no farm. There’s no husband and there’s no children. Lane can’t even boil water.

In reality, Lane is a resourceful, if rather deceitful, single woman living alone in an apartment in New York City. She poaches her recipes from her friend Felix Bassenak played by the charming S.Z. Sakall (Casablanca). She makes a tidy income on her elaborate fiction, enough to keep her in minks and champagne, until a war hero, Jefferson Jones (Dennis Morgan), asks the publisher to spend Christmas with Lane, in her ideal home with her perfect family.

Cue the panic.

Barbara Stanwyck (Double Idemnity), in this Peter Godfrey-directed vehicle, is great. In fact, I am unaware of her ability to be anything less than great. She can play tough. She can play kittenish. She can play ruthless and she can play helpless. She’s terrific.

Christmas in Connecticut is a toddle in the park for Stanwyk. It is a delight to watch her blunder charmingly through this Christmas farce.  Her character is so resourceful that she secures a fake husband, child and farm – and you don’t doubt this holiday miracle for a moment.

The thin plot is seasoned by rich performances from Sydney Greenstreet (The Maltese Falcon) as blustering publisher Alexander Yardley. Lane’s pompous fake husband is played convincingly if not sympathetically by Reginald Gardiner.

With all the pressure of the Christmas season to cook the perfect meal, deliver the perfect family celebration, it was a nice break to watch an actress as smooth as Stanwyck send up the pressure cooker that Christmas can be with a savvy wink and smile like a steel trap.

“The things a girl will do for a mink coat.”

* * *

102 minutes

Rated G for good, clean holiday fun with a sound message for all of those festive over-achievers out there

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