Once upon a time…during World War II…
A U.S. Navy Destroyer is hit by enemy torpedoes. The results are catastrophic and only two men survive. After nearly twenty days floating at sea, the two are rescued and taken to a naval hospital for care.
One of the two men, Jefferson Jones (Dennis Morgan), a bachelor with zero interest in settling down, becomes the object of the affections of one of the nurses. Determined to show Jefferson what he’s missing in a stable family life, the nurse sends a letter to a local paper asking that they invite the veteran to dinner at the home of Elizabeth Lane (Barbara Stanwyck). Elizabeth Lane is the perfect housewife who pens the “Diary of a Housewife” column.
The newspaper publisher, Alexander Yardley (Sydney Greenstreet) loves the idea proposed by the nurse in her letter so he announces a publicity stunt, which cannot fail. Perfect housewife Elizabeth Lane will host the decorated veteran for a traditional Christmas dinner in the beautiful farmhouse in Connecticut she shares with her husband and baby.
In “Diary of a Housewife” Elizabeth Lane offers decorating tips, housekeeping secrets, fancy recipes and discusses the idyllic life she leads in the Connecticut farmhouse. It’s a popular column and she’s good at her job. But a problem arises when the columnist learns of her boss’ plans. Miss Lane, you see, is no housewife. In fact, it’s doubtful she’s ever stepped foot in the kitchen of her New York City apartment, which is as far from a farmhouse as one can get. All that Lane knows about farms is in her imagination, she has no husband and no baby and is now in a major pickle. Needless to say, panic sets in as Elizabeth has to try to figure out how to create a life she knows nothing about so she doesn’t lose her job.
With time running out and the pressure on to come up with a plan, Elizabeth meets her editor and friend, Dudley Beecham (Robert Shayne) at the restaurant of Felix Bassanek (S. Z. Sakall), another close friend who also happens to be the “real” author of all the fancy recipes Elizabeth includes in her column. Also there is John Sloan (Reginald Gardiner) who has been proposing to Elizabeth for quite some time, proposals she’s always refused. Sloan is pompous and a bore, but a decent chap and that day – in a crunch – Elizabeth accepts his marriage proposal. It turns out that Sloan owns a farmhouse in Connecticut, which means they now have the setting for the staged Christmas festivities. Elizabeth, Dudley and Felix set the rest of the elaborate plan in place and script their respective roles.
Directed by Peter Godfrey, Christmas in Connecticut is a hoot of a movie, a romp with a lot of heart and an outstanding cast. It should be on everyone’s must-see list during the holidays. Barbara Stanwyck who plays Elizabeth Lane reminds us she’s as great at comedy as she is holding a pistol and smelling of honeysuckle. She and the film’s outstanding supporting players ensure
Adding to the mayhem in Connecticut, by the way, is the fact that Elizabeth and Jefferson fall in love the moment they meet, making the woman even more nervous about the entire affair. She is, after all, a married woman with a baby. The newspaper publisher, Yardley, further complicates matters when he decides to be a part of the Christmas celebration.
Not mentioned above but certainly worthy of note is the great Una O’Connor who plays the maid in the Connecticut house. Not surprisingly, she and Sakall provide some of my favorite moments in the film.
I was a bit skeptical about choosing Christmas in Connecticut as my choice for the Journalism in Film blogathon hosted by Comet Over Hollywood and Lindsay’s Movie Musings because it’s a holiday film and this is September. However, the film opened at New York City’s Strand Theater on July 27, 1945 – right in the middle of summer! So here it is as my contribution. Plus, who’s to say Christmas movies are not great all year ’round?
Although Christmas in Connecticut offers no serious message with regard to journalism or its practices, the character of Elizabeth Lane was loosely based on a real journalist, popular Family Circle Magazine and Ladies’ Home Journal columnist and editor, Gladys Taber. Ms. Taber (1899-1980) lived on Stillmeadow Farm, a 17th-Century farmhouse in Southbury, Connecticut, which served as the setting for
much of her writing. She is best remembered for a series of books, commonly referred to as the Stillmeadow books in which she discussed her simple life on a farm with homespun wisdom and earthy humor. Taber expressed an appreciation for the small things in life, which was irresistible to readers. She published more than twenty books related to Stillmeadow, including several cookbooks. This is posted is her honor.
“Christmas is a bridge. We need bridges as the river of time flows past. Today’s Christmas should mean creating happy hours for tomorrow and reliving those of yesterday.”
― Gladys Taber