Christmas in Connecticut (1945)

This has long been one of our favorite Christmas films, primarily because of the star, Barbara Stanwyck, plus loads of other wonderful character actors, especially S.Z. “Cuddles” Sakall.  Even without the Christmas setting, it would still be a fine screwball comedy.  If you have never seen it, add it to your Christmas list.

PLOT SUMMARY

Barbara Stanwyck plays a famous magazine writer, similar to today’s Martha Stewart, an expert on everything from cooking to interior decoration and family management.  Her publisher (Sydney Greenstreet) convinces her to host an injured naval hero at her home for the holidays to see how happy a home life can be. Except it is all a fiction.  She doesn’t live on a Connecticut farm, she isn’t married, doesn’t have a baby, and she can’t cook. The plot involves the elaborate schemes to fool Greenstreet and the naval hero (Dennis Morgan), with whom Stanwyck soon falls in love. Of course, everything gets happily resolved at the last minute.

CHRISTMAS CONNECTION

The film takes place primarily on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and includes lots of snow and an elaborately decorated tree.

CHARACTER ACTORS

Fred Kelsey, who played the street Santa Claus in O. Henry’s Full House, is the link to this film, where he plays Harper.  He appears in several other films on the Christmas cinema list, including Never Say Goodbye (1945), Larceny Inc. (1942) and The Man Who Came to Dinner (1942). He appeared in two Busby Berkeley films: Footlight Parade (1933) and The Gold Diggers of 1933.

S.Z. Sakall (Felix Bassenak) will be the link to our next film, Never Say Goodbye (1946), so we will wait till then to discuss his career.

Reginald Gardiner (John Sloan) will be seen soon in The Man Who Came to Dinner (1942).

Robert Shayne (editor Dudley Beecham) appeared primarily in TV roles, but he had a small part in Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest (1959), as Cary Grant’s client meeting for drinks at the bar in the Plaza.

Una O’Connor (Norah) appeared in three Errol Flynn films: The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938),  The Sea Hawk (1940) and The Adventures of Don Juan (1948). She appeared in two classic Universal horror films:  The Invisible Man (1933) and The Bride of Frankenstein (1935).

Frank Jenks (Sinkewicz) appeared as one of the city hall reporters in His Girl Friday (1940).

Dick Elliott (Judge Crowthers) will be seen two more times during Christmas: as the man on the porch in It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) and in Good Sam (1948). He appeared in another Capra film, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) and also had roles in Little Miss Broadway (1938) and Another Thin Man (1939).

Joyce Compton (nurse Mary Lee) was an absolute delight as the night club entertainer Dixie Lee (singing “Gone with the Wind” with special wind effects) in one of the best screwball comedies, The Awful Truth (1937).

Charles Arnt (Homer Higginbottom) will be seen shortly as the policeman in The Shop Around the Corner (1940) and in Remember the Night (1939). His other notable roles include Ball of Fire (1941) and After the Thin Man (1936).

Sydney Greenstreet (Mr. Yardley) is best known for his four films with Humphrey Bogart:  The Maltese Falcon (1941), Casablanca (1942), Across the Pacific (1942) and Passage to Marseille (1944).

ASTAIRE CONNECTION

Fred Kelsey appeared in A Damsel in Distress (1937), the first RKO film Astaire did without Ginger Rogers.

Reginald Gardiner also appeared with Astaire in A Damsel in Distress.

Frank Jenks appeared in two Astaire films: Swing Time (1936) and Follow the Fleet (1936).

Dick Elliott played a train conductor in The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle (1939).

WHY WE LOVE THIS MOVIE

Just about everything: the scenes in Felix’s Manhattan eatery on Restaurant Row (West 46th Street), S.Z. Sakall’s pronunciation of “catastrophe” and BARBARA STANWYCK!

WHERE CAN YOU SEE THE FILM

Turner Classic Movies will show Christmas in Connecticut on December 22 at 10 p.m. and December 24 at 4 p.m.

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