Barbara Stanwyck, Sydney Greenstreet, and Dennis Morgan in Christmas in Connecticut (1945)


(director: Peter Godfrey; screenwriters: from the story by Aileen Hamilton/Adele Comandini/Lionel Houser; cinematographer: Carl Guthrie; editor: Frank Magee; music: Frederick Hollander; cast: Barbara Stanwyck (Elisabeth Lane), Dennis Morgan (Jefferson Jones), Sydney Greenstreet (Alexander Yardley), Reginald Gardiner (John Sloan), Robert Shayne (Dudley Beecham), Una O’Connor (Norah), Frank Jenks (Sinkewicz), Jo Gilbert (Mrs. Gerseg), Joyce Compton (Mary Lee), Dick Elliott (Judge Crothers); Runtime: 101; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: William Jacobs; Warner Brothers; 1945)

“Delightfully cheerful screwball comedy that is especially suited for the Christmas holidays.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Delightfully cheerful screwball comedy that is especially suited for the Christmas holidays. It’s winsome despite being so predictable and the dialogue not as snappy as a film of this sort requires. But it’s always entertaining and Barbara Stanwyck gives an outstanding performance, making her manipulative heroine’s part somehow appear endearing if you don’t think about what she stands for twice (she plays a cheater, pretending to be an ideal housewife). Stanwyck’s part was first offered to Bette Davis, who turned it down. At the time Stanwyck was married to Robert Taylor, who was serving in the wartime military. She jumped at the chance to take a homebody part as a change of pace. Stanwyck just got through making Billy Wilder’s fabulous film noir Double Indemnity, where she played the wicked femme fatale to rave reviews.

Elisabeth Lane (Barbara Stanwyck) is the successful spinster writer of a love, marriage and food column for the chic magazine Smart Housekeeping. The problem is she lies about her credentials as a homemaker to her readers and her ‘stickler for the truth’ corpulent mogul publisher–Alexander Yardley (Sydney Greenstreet). The truth is she can’t even boil an egg, isn’t married with a child, and doesn’t live on an ideal country farm in Connecticut but in a modest apartment in Manhattan. Her lies come back to haunt her when Navy war hero Jefferson Jones (Dennis Morgan), who is a great admirer of her column, is invited to her Connecticut farm on Christmas Eve for dinner at the request of her bossy publisher. Yardley agrees to the request made by a nurse who once treated his very sick child and now asks a favor in return. Navy nurse Mary Lee is now treating the ailing Jeff and his shipmate Sinkewicz in a Staten Island Naval hospital and has developed a crush on the hunky guy, and feels if he sees for himself how wonderful married life is in a perfect home then she can rope her reluctant suitor into marriage.

Since Elisabeth loves to keep her new mink coat and her cushy job, she agrees to Yardley’s request. She schemes to have her staid architect beau, whom she does not love, John Sloan (Reginald Gardiner), become her hubby and hold the dinner in his custom-made idyllic Connecticut farmhouse. The baby used is supplied by a neighbor working at a defense job during the day, who drops it off in the Sloan house where the maid (Una O’Connor) takes care of it. The cooking will be handled by Elisabeth’s Hungarian restaurant owner chef uncle Felix (S. Z. “Cuddles” Sakall), who adores her so much he will do her this favor. The story turns on Elisabeth and Jeff falling in love, and the marriage to John being delayed so the lovers can finally get to the truth.

It’s routine sitcom fare, but the fluff film has a certain irresistible fascination that makes it easy to overlook how facile it is.