Tuesday, December 15, 2009

12 Days of Christmas: Barbara Stanwyck Hosts a Christmas in Connecticut

Happily married housewife,
Mother of one precious baby,
Loves to cook with a passion
In a beautiful Connecticut farmhouse
Author of Smart Housekeeping column

The above profile of Elizabeth Lane, smartly played by Barbara Stanwyck, sounds pretty awesome. Yet the only elements of truth are contained in the last line and even this is fraught with lies because every recipe published in Lane’s column is taken from her friend, professional chef Felix Bassenak, delightfully portrayed by S. Z. “Cuddles” Sakall.

The problem with building an existence on deception is that it can catch up to you at the most inopportune moment. For Lane, this happens when the magazine owner decides that she should play hostess to both a war hero and himself for Christmas in her fantastic farmhouse, with her fabulous family, and delectable dining.

The comedy of errors begins with a frenzy here! The hero, Jefferson Jones, played by Dennis Morgan, turns out to be a handsome and caring young man who finds himself attracted to what he thinks is a married woman with a young baby while Lane is equally smitten with Jones.

Some humorous scenes include when different babies are dropped off at the farmhouse to pass for Lane’s made-up child, one a blonde boy and the other a brunette girl. There are a number of attempts at a marriage between Lane and John Sloane (Reginald Gardiner)--a fellow who does care for her, is hosting the farce at his Connecticut farm, and is acting as the husband/father--but something always interrupts the effort.

Barbara Stanwyck is quite fun in this role, though it bears a strong resemblance to her work as Ann Mitchell, in Capra’s Meet John Doe. Christmas in Connecticut ends predictably but fans would expect and want nothing less.

Again, this movie was disastrously remade in 1992 and is reported to being remade even as I write, this time with Jennifer Garner.


  1. Toto ,this is one of my wife's favorites and I like it Too., Felix trying to teach Elizabeth how to flip pancakes is a scream. BTW you did not mention Syndey Greenstreet as Lanes boss hw he's very funny, this is a nice change of pace for him and he has a ball with the part. The first remake was for TNT and was directed by The "Govennator " Arnold, enough said.

  2. Do you believe I've never seen this movie, Toto? I don't know why it got past me. It sounds like a lot of fun. Thanks for your great article about a holiday classic I need to see!

  3. This is a very funny movie. The revolving baby is a great gag. Stanwyck is a riot.

  4. This movie is a hoot! Sydney Greenstreet being funny is a treat in itself. As for the remake, why does anyone hire Kris Kristofferson?(The only movie I can he was good in was Blade) As for Jennifer Garner, can you say OVERRATED!?! She'll never come close to Stanwyck's comedic talent -- so a word to the producers CAN THE MOVIE NOW!

  5. Toto, I thoroughly enjoyed your post! You picked one of my favorite Christmas movies that just seems to get better with age. I'm always fond of movies that build to a frantic climax and then neatly resolve all the plot threads (another example is BRINGING UP BABY). The cast is delightful, especially Cuddles, whose performance is hunky dunky! I don't believe a lot of people think of Barbara Stanwyck as a comedianne, but she was a superb one, as shown in CHRISTMAS, THE LADY EVE, and BALL OF FIRE.

  6. This is a holiday favorite of mine now, too, but I first saw it only a few years ago - and on TCM - Becky, you've got to check this one out, I'm sure you'll like it. Stanwyck carries the picture - and with excellent support from 'Cuddles,' Greenstreet and Reginald Gardiner. Joyce Compton is in it briefly and I always like her little moments (the most memorable of which is probably in THE AWFUL TRUTH). There is something about the scenes of the Connecticut countryside at Christmastime that so appeal to me. HOLIDAY INN has a similar setting and I sometimes like to watch the two pictures back-to-back just to soak up that feeling. Thanks, toto, a first-class choice.

  7. Thanks for a great review, toto. Barbara Stanwyck is a fave! She was a versatile actress, and I think she was a bit underrated.

  8. Paul and Gilby: You are so right. Sydney Greenstreet is quite funny in this movie! It is such a change of pace from "The Maltese Falcon" and "Casablanca." And I honestly don't know why Schwarzenegger attempted this remake.

    Becky: From what I have read in your posts, this sounds very much like a film you would enjoy. I agree with Eve, check it out!

    Kim: I always laugh when I see the babies coming and going in this film!

    Rick: Your reference to "Bringing Up Baby" made me smile! I do so love Cary Grant!

    Eve: I know exactly what you mean about memorable settings. "White Christmas" also has that wonderful Vermont setting, although initially it is without snow. That is also the reason I love "Enchanted April." Sometimes we yearn for snow but other times we delight in the splendor of the green countryside.

    Sark: I thought it was a shame Barbara Stanwyck never won the Oscar.

    Thanks, all!