Thursday, December 1, 2016

Christmas in Connecticut (1945)

A destroyer is sunk and two seaman are adrift for weeks. When rescued the nurse refuses to give one a satisfying meal, so he flirts with her to get fed. Now he’s “engaged”, and she thinks he is hesitant to get married because he never had a real home. SO she convinces a magazine publisher to have the famous cooking writer Elizabeth Lane (Barbara Stanwyck) invite him over for Christmas to show him what a home is like. Only, Lane a complete fraud. She doesn’t live in Connecticut, and can’t cook, and doesn’t have the husband and baby she wrote about. Also, the publisher Yardley (Sydney Greenstreet), who believes everything in his magazines is truthful, will be joining them as well. Wow, what a convoluted setup for a generic Rom Com.

So, pretty Elizabeth agrees to marry a doofus architect (Reginald Gardiner), have the bartender from Rick’s Cafe American handle the cooking, and try to sneak in a marriage ceremony to make it all legit. All the while she falls in love with a man she thinks is engaged, and thinks she is married. Will these two love birds ever get together?

Let’s spend some time chatting about Sydney Greenstreet. Very recognizable due to his great size and because of the quality of his films. Past 60 when he debuted in The Maltese Falcon, he’d be retired before he reached 70. I give him credit for outliving his two frequent costars Humphrey Bogart and Peter Lorre (by 17 and 14 years respectively), he didn’t exactly avoid health issues. His cause of death is listed as the effects of diabetes and nephritis, clearly brought on by his weight. But his work was outstanding and his library of films (24 in eight years) stands as a testament to his talent.

Una O’Connor has a somewhat similar story. She started in films at almost 50 and appeared in about 65 films, many of them classics. If you needed a comically shrill housekeeper, Una was your lady. She moved to television in the late 1940s but came out of retirement to finish her career with Witness for the Prosecution (1957). I am amazed how often her face turns up.

The success of a Rom Com relies entirely on the chemistry of the lovers (where have I heard this before?) and despite its flaws, Christmas in Connecticut succeeds. While fifteen minutes shorter would have been fifteen minutes better (now, I know I heard that before!), the story got us where it needed to. Safe, predictable holiday fare. AMRU 3.
“Having babies to boost your circulation takes time.”

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