It's From The 40's For Sure
Have Yourself a Merry Christmas In Connecticut (1945)
Sirius radio broadcast a startling holiday greeting last week --- from Sydney Greenstreet. This is the Jolliest, Merriest, Christmas I Ever Spent, he declares just ahead of signature guffaw that by 1945 came with every Greenstreet performance. The line was part of Christmas In Connecticut's trailer, and I wonder how many 2014 listeners recognized the movie, or him. The picture wasn't built to last, being bound in 40's milieu, but somehow it has. Warners lately voted with a Blu-Ray release --- did their buyer research suggest eagerness for the title? Christmas In Connecticut never had a reissue, but like so many Yule-set oldies, was annual gift to viewers from initial syndication in 1956. Individual markets either had it regular, or not at all. We were among the not-at-alls, NC stations having backed off pre-49 WB's by the mid-60's and not shopping with them again until UHF burgeoned in the early 70's. Nowadays Christmas In Connecticut looks like a million. You can almost taste fake snow that fell upon sound stages posed as outdoor winter. Like so much of wartime Warners, this was shot entirely between walls, even as action called for trees, sleighs, the rest. Here is close as you'll get to a 40's Christmas card come to highly artificial, but endearing, life.
It's all less about Christmas than food. Everyone's got eating on their minds. Dennis Morgan dreams of a feast while on a lifeboat awaiting rescue, then affiances himself to a hospital nurse just so he can get steak and chops rather than gruel his stomach can stand. Barbara Stanwyck poses as a homemaker for sake of her magazine column where, among other things, she dispenses recipes. S.Z. Sakall is a chef who prepares meal after scrumptious meal. Ritual is observed for pancakes and how they're flipped. Menus are read like sacred text. Greenstreet is, of course, obsessed with eating, and will travel a distance to Christmas dine with strangers, so long as they set lavish table. So why this mulling over meals? Part of reason was ongoing shortage of ingredients. Sugar was still rationed in the
Christmas In Connecticut fairly drowns in topical reference. Men are either in uniform or explaining why they're not. Neighbors work in war plants. A dance is held to sell victory bonds. Stanwyck "feels like Charlie McCarthy" when Greenstreet speaks for her. A player like S.K. Sakall, funny in the 40's, less so now, plants Connecticut roots deep in that era. "Cuddles" could earn laughs just for jiggling jowls, to sometime annoyance of fellow players (Cagney found Sakall a pain, Alan Hale couldn't stand sight of him). Christmas In Connecticut is based on 40's assumption that everyone read slick magazines, which at that time they nearly did. Sydney Greenstreet is high and mighty publisher of same, a benign forebear to Charles Laughton's Earl Janoth in three years later The Big Clock. Barbara Stanwyck is nationwide famous for her homemaker column, a concept utterly foreign to much-changed present day. Magazines did matter then, like newspapers. Now both seem quaint, as does notion that a whole country would read them.
Christmas In Connecticut has a lot of bawdy humor, the war having loosened censorship where sex jest was based on misunderstanding. In that circumstance, you could talk about the act, so long as no one was engaging it outside marriage vow. Housemaid Una O'Connor is ready to quit her post for thinking Stanwyck and fiancé Reginald Gardner have slept together. Greenstreet comes to towering rage in belief that Stanwyck has borne a bastard child. He'll come close to uttering the word, while O'Connor virtually does when misprouncing Sakall's character name, Felix Bassenak. Stanwyck and Dennis Morgan stand with a cow that he appreciates for having "a nice rump," Stanwyck assuming, of course, that he means hers. That's the sort of humor we're talking about, but I'll bet it raised ceilings at a crowded
Home came Christmas In Connecticut for holidays, decor after Early American example. This had been fashion since
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