If you’re looking for a fun classic Christmas movie, Christmas in Connecticut is a pretty good choice. It’s not the greatest film out there, but it’s light and funny, bought to life by a great cast. The central conflict of Christmas in Connecticut may be weak and contrived, but the laughs derived from it are still considerable. Also worth keeping in mind: it doesn’t deal much with the themes of Christmas itself. It’s more of a screwball comedy that happens to take place during Christmas.
Elizabeth Lane (Barbara Stanwick) writes a magazine column on homemaking. She is doing very well for herself until her editor comes in with some bad news; the head of the magazine, Alexander Yardley (Sydney Greenstreet), has promised returning war hero Jefferson Jones (Dennis Morgan) an opportunity to spend Christmas at Elizabeth’s perfectly domestic farm in Connecticut. Unfortunately, they don’t know that Elizabeth is single, can’t cook to save her life, and lives in an apartment in New York City. To save her editor’s job, she promises to marry John Sloan (Reginald Gardiner) and open up his farm to Jones for the holiday. Bringing along her uncle Felix (S.Z. Sakall) to do the cooking and babysitting a neighbor’s baby to pass it off as her own, hilarity ensues as she tries to convince her editor and Jones that the illusion she has created is real. Things are predictably complicated when Elizabeth and Jones start falling for each other.
The whole charade is rather flimsy, and it’s remarkable the lengths the character’s go through to keep it all intact when simply telling the truth would be much easier. Of course, if they character did that we’d have no movie, so it seems as if the whole thing exists to sell itself. There are many frustrating scenes that are nothing but Elizabeth failing to get a word in edgewise that get pretty old. However, there are several clever one liners and madcap situations that make the film worthwhile if you overlook its annoyances.
An interesting aspect of this film is the fact that is chooses to deal with a career woman. Elizabeth Lane makes a living on selling the housewife stereotype to Americans, yet couldn’t be farther from it herself. It’s pretty great to see a war hero, one who’s back story has him looking for a perfect home, accept Elizabeth even after he knows she’s nothing like the housewife she pretends to be. In the end, Elizabeth really does “have it all.” She gets the man and also gets a raise at work. A lot of the humor also comes from Elizabeth’s willingness to cheat on her “husband” with Jones; the film’s frequent brushes with immorality are one of its greatest highlights.
The cast is really the main reason to see this film. Barbara Stanwick is wonderful as always, but the real standout is Sakall. You may recognize him as the waiter at Rick’s in Casablanca. Here he is given quite a prominent role, an example of when the comic relief character runs away with the film and solves the conflict. He is far and away the funniest out of the bunch, accomplishing this mainly through his overdone facial expressions and eccentric explanations in broken English.
Christmas in Connecticut is certainly not a masterpiece, but it is an extremely effective comedy. The conflict may be a little ridiculous, but that doesn’t mean the film doesn’t make the most of it. The film is interesting from a social perspective, though that’s far from the main objective of the film and certainly doesn’t weigh it down in the least. For a fun classic Christmas film, Christmas in Connecticut is a pretty safe bet.
“Everytime I’d opened my mouth he talked. I felt like Charlie McCarthy.”
Long story short: 3/4 stars
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