This is a holiday film that plays 365 days of the year. Barbara Stanwyck gives a brilliant, sardonic performance as Elizabeth Lane, a columnist for Smart Housekeeping
magazine, whose enticing descriptions of the exquisite meals she prepares for her husband and baby on their bucolic Connecticut farm earns her fame as "America's Best Cook." A writer, she is; a cook, she is not. As she types the words, "From my living room window, as I write, the good cedar logs cracking on the fire..." the view is of clothes flapping on the line outside her bachelorette Manhattan apartment. An able supporting cast keeps her lie on life support: her editor, her stuffy and detestable architect suitor, and the wonderful "Uncle" Felix (S.Z. Sakall), an English-garbling Hungarian chef who provides the recipes that fill her column.
Cut to Jefferson Jones, a sailor adrift at sea for weeks after his destroyer is torpedoed. Memories of the food described in Lane's columns are central to his survival. After his rescue, as he's recuperating in a naval hospital, a marriage-minded nurse thinks she might nudge Jones to the altar if he could only experience a real domestic Christmas. And it just so happens that she was nurse to the grandchild of Alexander Yardley, the wealthy and powerful publisher of --you guessed it--Smart Housekeeping magazine. And so, she pens the letter that could unravel Lane's carefully constructed fraud. She writes to Yardley asking that Jones be included in America's ultimate Christmas--the one to be held at the Lane family farm in Connecticut. The pompous Yardley (ably portrayed by Sidney Greenstreet) believes the Lane myth and instantly sniffs a story that will send his magazine's circulation skyrocketing. And staring down a lonely holiday, he decides to join the Lanes for Christmas on the farm, too. Now, all Lane has to do is come up with a farm. And a husband. And let's not forget the baby. Christmas in Connecticut is classic screwball entertainment of the best kind, with its on-target skewering of social convention and house-of- cards-about-to-tumble tension: a perfect farcical vision of domestic blitz. --Susan Benson