Michaeline: Learning from a Christmas Story for 1945

Barbara Stanwyck being kissed by Dennis Morgan in a Warner Bros Poster for Christmas in Connecticut
Rom-com for the holidays! Barbara Stanwyck is fabulous in Christmas in Connecticut. (Image via Wikipedia Commons)

Happy Boxing Day, everyone! It’s the second day of Christmas as well as Saturday, which means for a lot of people, it’s a day off and the hustle and bustle of the holiday season is starting to slow down.

Christmas isn’t such a big deal in Japan, although the merchants try to make it so. This year, most people worked; some kids got off school but only because Christmas fell on Friday this year and we lost the old emperor’s birthday in December now that the new emperor is on the throne. My kid and I had the day off, so I decided to make a Christmas feast on Christmas Day for the first time in, well, far too long.

To keep me company while I sliced and diced and boiled and roasted, I put on Christmas in Connecticut, a 1945 screwball comedy starring Barbara Stanwyck, Dennis Morgan and Sydney Greenstreet with Reginald Gardner and S.Z. Sakall. I wrote about it being my favorite Christmas movie back in 2017, and guess what? It still is!

Stanwyck plays Elizabeth Lane, a magazine writer who is scamming her publisher with fables of rural American womanhood – cooking, cleaning, shopping for antiques and even taking care of cattle. In reality, Elizabeth doesn’t

cook, lives in a tiny city apartment and gets her ideas from her restauranteur friend Felix and her would-be fiancé, John. A shipwrecked sailor (Jeff) winds up in the hospital and learns about Elizabeth’s wonderful home from a nurse who writes to Elizabeth’s publisher. The publisher, the very pushy Yardley, manipulates Elizabeth into hosting the sailor over Christmas, and also hosting Yardley.

John pressures Elizabeth to marry him so she can use the farm to host Jeff and Yardley, and she gives in. Little does she know that Old Man Cupid has an arrow with her name on it. She falls in love with Jeff at first sight, and he with her . . . but there’s that huge problem – she’s supposed to be happily married with a baby, and he’s engaged to the nurse who got him the visit.

The early 1940s was a very strange time, and there are many elements of the story that only could take place then. It was during World War II, and the social strictures around marriage were more relaxed. A sailor could wash up on shore and wind up engaged to marry his nurse in the course of a few weeks. Many marriage-aged men were overseas, so women seemed to feel a lot of pressure to take what they could get. For example, John looked like a good bet on paper – a well-off architect, smart, clean, and sober. But he was a pompous bore whose idea of conversation often revolved around triple-ply insulation.

SZ Sakall and Una O’Connor battle in a Connecticut kitchen. Via YouTube

The plot also makes it necessary for Elizabeth to have a baby, and there was a wonderful wartime solution for providing one. Mothers who worked at a local munitions plant left their babies to be cared for by John’s maid, Norah (Una O’Connor). Norah would watch the babies while taking care of the household, and the mothers would pick up the babies at odd hours when their shifts ended. So, John could not only provide a home and a husband, he also had a baby for Elizabeth (but only between the hours of afternoon and wee-hours of the morning).

As a plot device, it up there with the Great Plot Elements. It easily solves a problem for the heroine, and later creates a huge one that I won’t spoil.

I find this timeliness particularly fascinating, and you may have noticed it in my stories. A lot of them try to incorporate things that are happening for people in 2020. Zoom meetings, keeping quarantine, vaccine trials . . . .

It’ll be interesting to look back 20 years from now, and see what we really remember from this time. Will we remember Zoom, or will it be like a brand name of a cigarette we’ve forgotten? I guess we can only wait and see.

But, if you have 101 minutes to spare during the 12 days of Christmas, I highly recommend Christmas in Connecticut for the twisty plotting, sweet romantic moments, and fabulous side characters.

6 thoughts on “Michaeline: Learning from a Christmas Story for 1945

  1. Christmas is Connecticut has long been one of my favorite romcoms.

    WWII makes a good metaphor for thinking about our current situation. So many things are different and it’s hard to know which changes are permanent and which are temporary.

    • It’s like this year, everyone is singing, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” Just in the past few days, I’ve seen covers done by Sheryl Crow, Puddles Pity Party and Norah Jones. The song was written in 1943 and used in a Judy Garland picture that was based around the turn of the century, so it looks back. People have seen some really bad times, but “faithful friends who are dear to us will gather near to us once more.”

      Post-influenza, post-war . . . we’re more aware that we might not see our loved ones again, that death lurks around even the brightest corners. But, we also bring the light in our hearts, and it’s a human trait to hope that things will be bright again someday. I hope so; I believe so.

      It’s been a hard Christmas for so many, but we’ll see. I hope we can let go of some garbage, and keep the good stuff.

    • I hope you had some time to watch it! I like it a lot. NHK (the public TV option here) had a bunch of old movies on for New Year’s Eve Day and beyond — first full movie of the year was “Singing in the Rain” but I went to bed before I could get sucked in, LOL. Have it on DVD, anyway. My husband and I missed the 12:01 Happy New Year because we were watching the tail end of a movie called “A Big Hand for the Little Lady” which was about Cowboy Poker Scammers. Joanne Woodward was the little lady; it looked like something that might be fun to watch from the beginning.

    • It was a lot of fun! We’re having a bit of a movie year end/year beginning at our house. My husband and I watched Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure for the first time yesterday evening. A light way to bring in the new year! He has the sequels, as well, so we might be watching every night for a couple more days.

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