Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Christmas in Connecticut (1945)

Christmas in Connecticut isn't much of a present for movie fans.

That's too bad because look at this cast - Barbara Stanwyck (Double Indemnity), Sydney Greenstreet (Casablanca) and Reginald Gardiner (The Man Who Came to Dinner).

Real laughs are too hard to come by in this 1945 comedy from director Peter Godfrey (The Two Mrs. Carrolls, That Hagen Girl). Instead, too many scenes are just cute or mildly amusing. That's just not enough to make this movie a Christmas chestnut.

The set-up is inspired. American seaman Jefferson Jones (Dennis Morgan) is adrift in a dinghy for more than two weeks after the Germans torpedo his ship during the Second World War. With little to eat, he fantasizes about fantastic meals. There's no hearty chow when he's in hospital. His gut can't take the solids. A buddy suggests he feigns romance with nurse Mary Lee (Joyce Compton) to score a tasty steak. His faux falling in love with Mary Lee leads her to contacting publisher Alexander Yardley (Sydney Greenstreet).

Would the magazine titan let Jones, whose never had a real home, spend Christmas with one of his prized talents, Elizabeth Lane (Stanwyck? She writes about her idyllic life with her husband and baby in the country in Connecticut. Lane is billed as "America's best cook." Yardley's game, little knowing Lane actually lives in an apartment with not much of a view in the city, is single and can't cook. She relies on neighbourhood restaurant owner Felix Bassenak (S.Z. Sakall) for her culinary inspirations. Lane can't afford for Yardley to know her real work situation. His motto is "Print the truth and obey my orders."

She appeals to stuffy architect John Sloan (Reginald Gardiner), the bore who wants to marry her ("Saying no to your proposals has become a habit," she tells him), to pose as her better half and use his cottage in, yep, Connecticut.

Jones appears and falls for Lane. She's crazy for him too, but she's supposedly married to Sloan. He keeps trying to get a neighbour, Judge Crothers (Dick Elliott), to wed him and Lane. But their nuptials keep getting pushed back.

The scenario gets more complicated as Yardley suspects Lane is fooling around on her hubby and that a woman has kidnapped her prized writer's child.

Give this film credit for twists and turns to keep the story going. But come on folks, where are the laughs?

RATING: 6/10

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