Dennis Morgan and Barbara Stanwyck in Christmas in Connecticut (1945), image courtesy Warner Bros.
Director Peter Godfrey and Warner Bros. delivered the delightful comedy Christmas in Connecticut to movie theaters in 1945. Barbara Stanwyck plays the magazine columnist-turned-happy homemaker, with Dennis Morgan as her special holiday guest.
Peter Godfrey Directs Christmas in Connecticut
William L. Jacobs produced Christmas in Connecticut. Lionel Houser and Adele Comandini penned the screenplay based on a story by Aileen Hamilton, with the British-born Peter Godfrey (Hotel Berlin, That Hagen Girl, One Big Affair) directing. Friedrich Hollaender created the festive music score and Carl Guthrie served as cinematographer.
Barbara Stanwyck (Elizabeth Lane) and Dennis Morgan (Jefferson Jones) head the cast. Other players include Sydney Greenstreet (Alexander Yardley), Reginald Gardiner (John Sloan), S.Z. Sakall (Felix Bassenak), Robert Shayne (Dudley Beecham), Una O’Connor (Norah), Frank Jenks (”Sinky” Sinkewicz), Joyce Compton (Mary Lee), Dick Elliott (Judge Crothers), Marie Blake (Mrs. Wright), John Dehner (State Trooper #2), Betty Alexander (Nurse Smith), Walter Baldwin (Sheriff Potter) and Charles Arnt (Homer Higgenbottom).
The Stanwyck character was reportedly based on Gladys Taber, a columnist for Family Circle who resided at scenic Stillmeadow Farm in Connecticut.
Christmas in Connecticut Filmed in Hollywood
Christmas in Connecticut was filmed in Hollywood from May to July 1944. Producers used the same Connecticut home set as featured in the 1938 Cary Grant/Katharine Hepburn screwball comedy Bringing Up Baby.
By most reports filming went well, with director Peter Godfrey and Sydney Greenstreet – old friends from the London stage – entertaining both cast and crew with their humorous spoofs. Godfrey, who became a close friend of star Barbara Stanwyck, would direct her in two other films, The Two Mrs. Carrolls and Cry Wolf, both released in 1947.
Barbara Stanwyck and Dennis Morgan: Home for the Holidays
Christmas in Connecticut opens with handsome title cards featuring horse-drawn sleighs and stunning snowscapes. “Jingle Bells” is the dominant song, with the main title card declaring, “Barbara Stanwyck, Dennis Morgan, Sydney Greenstreet wish you a merry Christmas in Connecticut.”
The action begins at sea, where a German U-boat unleashes two torpedoes that find their mark on an American destroyer. Now floating in a life raft are the ship’s two survivors, who are incessantly dreaming of food.
Eventually rescued from their ordeal, the two sailors recuperate in a naval hospital. One of the survivors, Jefferson Jones, spies a sumptuous recipe offered by magazine columnist Elizabeth Lane. Sympathetic nurse Mary Lee later writes to Lane’s Smart Housekeeping publisher Alexander Yardley, relating the plight of her sailor patient who is still on a restricted diet.
Sensing a public relations coup, Yardley phones his editor, Dudley Beecham, inquiring about Elizabeth Lane’s domestic bliss column and supposed “ideal” home life in Connecticut. But unbeknownst to Yardley, the unmarried Lane actually lives alone in a New York City apartment, where her chef neighbor, Felix, provides the recipes for her column.
Elizabeth is dragooned into hosting sailor Jefferson Jones for the holidays. Fearing for their jobs lest their publisher discovers the truth, Elizabeth and her editor engage in an elaborate bit of subterfuge, drafting John Sloan as Elizabeth’s “husband,” borrowing a neighbor’s baby and setting up shop at Sloan’s Connecticut farm.
War hero Jefferson Jones arrives at the farm, where Elizabeth and her confederates go to great lengths to conceal their plot. The elaborate conspiracy, however, soon unravels, but a budding romance between Elizabeth and Jeff eventually saves the day.
Christmas in Connecticut Opens in New York City
Christmas in Connecticut opened at New York City’s Strand Theatre on July 27, 1945.
“Barbara Stanwyck is not happily cast in this picture, though she does attempt to be quite concerned about the whole business, and Dennis Morgan is in there smiling his engaging best and singing a few songs as the homesick war hero,” reported Thomas M. Pryor of The New York Times (7/28/45).
Christmas in Connecticut Trivia, DVD
- Jefferson Jones spent 18 days in a life raft and another six weeks recuperating in a naval hospital.
- Restaurant Felix is located at 325 46th Street in New York City.
- The borrowed baby is christened “Roberta.”
- At the piano, Dennis Morgan performs “Oh Little Town of Bethlehem” and “I Wish That I Wish Tonight.”
- Alexander Yardley offers a $25,000 reward for the return of the infant.
- American Housekeeping is a rival magazine.
- Dick Elliott, who plays Judge Crothers, also appears as the man on the porch who urges James Stewart to kiss Donna Reed in It’s a Wonderful Life (1946).
- Christmas in Connecticut was released in the United Kingdom under the title Indiscretion.
- TV remake: Christmas in Connecticut, directed by Arnold Schwarzenegger, was telecast over TNT on April 13, 1992. Dyan Cannon, Kris Kristofferson and Tony Curtis star.
- Big screen remake: Christmas in Connecticut starring Jennifer Garner is in development.
- Deceased stars: Barbara Stanwyck (1907-1990), Dennis Morgan (1908-1994), Sydney Greenstreet (1879-1954), Reginald Gardiner (1903-1980), S.Z. “Cuddles” Sakall (1884-1955), Robert Shayne (1900-1992).
- On DVD: Christmas in Connecticut (Warner, 2005).
“What a Christmas! What a Christmas!” a spirited Sydney Greenstreet proclaims at the end.
Indeed, especially for a holiday picture released in July…