Unlike Remember the Night (1940), the Christmas flick starring Barbara Stanwyck, which is relatively unknown to the masses, Christmas in Connecticut is a Yuletide offering with Stanwyck that gains more of a following with each passing year. The highly successful actress, professional to a fault and proficient in both heavy drama and screwball comedy, created in this film, a character whose stylish sense of humor has charmed classic film lovers for over 60 years. In fact, the film itself has every bit of style and panache today ~ if not more so ~ as it did in 1945, when it was released by Warner Brothers. Even the department store delivery girl is chic and modern when she ushers in Stanwyck's swanky mink coat.
A Christmas Eve staple for decades, Christmas in Connecticut features Babs as Elizabeth Lane, author of a wildly popular homemaking column in the fictional magazine Smart Housekeeping. However, as it turns out, the Martha Stewart of her day is a complete fake and hasn't a domestic bone in her cosmopolitan body, and when her publisher asks her to play hostess to a young attractive war hero for Christmas, all heck breaks loose. The cast of characters, which is perfect to a fault, rings in the holiday with complete hilarious abandon, making each successive viewing more familiar and more smile inducing.
Barbara is joined in the merriment by Dennis Morgan as Jefferson Jones, the sailor, whose obvious charms entice both a Navy hospital nurse (Joyce Compton) and our magazine darling. But he's not alone, the cast is bulging at the seams with delightful talent including the rotund Sidney Greenstreet as Stanwyck's abominable boss Alexander Yardley, who huffs and puffs his way from Long Island to Connecticut, eating anything he can get his hands on along the way. And speaking of jolly fat men (no, HE'S not in this movie), this film offers double duty with S.Z. "Cuddles" Sakall joining Greenstreet in a corpulent clique. As Uncle Felix, the Hungarian Sakall's verbal massacre of the English language is matched only by his deadpan delivery of it. When he is informed of the definition of the word catastrophe, it leaves his mouth pronounced "cat'e stroph" ~ no final "e" ~ in the thickest Hungarian accent imaginable and used often at the most opportune times. Joyce Compton is a peach as Nurse Mary Lee, who orchestrates the whole fiasco in an attempt to nab a marriage proposal from "Jeffy Boy" (Morgan). Reginald Gardiner, Una O'Connor and Frank Jenks round out the top notch ensemble.
So much of the dialogue in Christmas in Connecticut is devoted to food. Stanwyck, the "fabulous cook" who can't even boil water basically depends on Uncle Felix, a fabulous restaurateur, for sustenance. The portly gourmet delivers to her door a "yummy mushroom omelette" after her own attempts at breakfast yield a tin of sardines! It is from Felix that she obtains the copy for her magazine cavalcade of culinary delights. " I took crisp lettuce, romaine, and crinkly endive from my own garden for my husband's favorite salad. For this I made a rich, creamy blue cheese dressing. Then to prepare roast duck his favorite way, I rub salt and pepper on the inside, then brown the duck in its own fat..." The gastronomic references continue with Mr. Yardley's refusal to partake in his doctor's recommended Christmas menu: mashed prune whip and creamed turnip fluff. I'd pass too. But the epicurean descriptions add a festive holiday element displayed throughout the movie, an element enhanced by several snowy horse drawn sleigh rides ( jingle bells included). Stanwyck, Morgan and the rest of the crew combine to make Christmas in Connecticut a light and fluffy holiday confection, which if missed would be "cat' e stroph."