As their last film review of the year, Uncle Earl’s movie critics, Manny and Annie, chose a holiday classic–Christmas in Connecticut (1945) starring Barbara Stanwyck.
Annie loved the movie. Manny struggled to find anything he liked about it. The result is another rousing review worthy of Ebeneezer Scrooge himself.
All of us at Uncle Earl’s Soap wish you a wonderful holiday and a Happy New Year! Enjoy the review!
Manny: Happy Holidays to everyone! And you too, Annie. I love this time of year, especially because it emphasizes the good things about religion. Fundamentals, like simple pleasures and thankfulness for what we have. Whether you rejoice in miracle births, eternal oil lamps, or the fact that days are getting longer isn’t important. It’s the fundamentals that count.
Which is why my present to you, this year, is a warning. Stay away from this movie! It’s a waste of time and space. The movie studio pushed this through quickly, paying absolutely no attention to fundamentals.
Where should I start? Let’s reflect the joy of the season and be positive. The best acting comes from Casablanca veterans Greenstreet and Sakall, and housekeeper O’Connor. All of these are supporting roles, but the actors are strong enough to support the rest of the movie.
That’s it. Nothing else about this hastily produced film is even worth complaining about. Annie, if you insist, I’ll go into details, but won’t know when to stop. Watch “It’s a wonderful Life” or “Miracle on 34th Street” for the millionth time instead. It will be far more rewarding than this.
Annie: Happy holidays to all! Yes, even you, Manny! I too love this time of year for all the reasons you mentioned, but I’ll add another. I love holiday films! From animated classics to sappy love stories, you’d be hard-pressed to find a holiday movie I don’t like. And, surprise, surprise, Christmas in Connecticut is one of my favorites.
As Barbara Stanwyck’s completely non-domestic character channels a future Martha Stewart and becomes tangled in one scheme after another, I can hardly stop laughing! Yes, her character is devious and might seem to have a questionable moral compass at best, but that’s her appeal. Sometimes it’s refreshing to come across a leading lady who has an edge and isn’t “cookie cutter” (if you’ll pardon the holiday pun). My love of this movie isn’t because the script is stellar or the acting phenomenal, although I enjoy watching Barbara Stanwyck in most anything. It’s because it’s just a darn fun, snarky movie! And when I’m up to my eyeballs in holiday hustle and bustle, sometimes a light-hearted film like Christmas in Connecticut (and a glass or two of eggnog) is all I need to de-stress and recharge. C’mon Manny, don’t channel Ebeneezer Scrooge!
Manny: Bah Humbug, Annie! You cracked one too many eggs into your nog. I love a good holiday movie, and this isn’t one of them. It takes terrible acting to pierce that fourth wall, and Barb’s overacting sticks pins through my eyeballs in every scene. The worst is when she first meets our “hero.” If the movie had been made today she would be tearing his clothes off!
Oh, and what kind of “hero” do we have here? His ship is torpedoed by an American sub for one thing! He stays alive on a raft with a companion for 18 days and looks like a champ? He dreams of fancy meals but we know absolutely nothing about his background? And it turns out he sings and plays piano. He’s supposed to be a Chief Petty Officer in the Navy, a position known for highly technical skills. In what?
Annie, our minimum standards for a story have to start with a GOOD STORY! Next we need to have solid characters. In a movie the story has to be told well, and the actors have to know how to ACT!
This movie has a terrible premise, and the characters are superficial and inconsistent. Worst of all, Barb and our “hero” weren’t even acting. They walked through their parts with exaggerated emotions. Please, watch A Christmas Carol, or A Christmas Story, or even Home Alone instead of this!
Annie: Manny, Manny, Manny (shaking my head). I may have cracked an extra egg in my nog, but I think you added a few extra shots of brandy! I find Stanwyck’s acting delightful and the premise of the story hysterical! Who cares if our hero sings and plays the piano and that we don’t get his resume of technical skills? And it’s Hollywood! He can’t show up in a holiday comedy looking like a shriveled raisin.
How quickly you forget that you gave Abbott and Costello high marks for just being “funny” and producing a lighthearted movie that helps lighten anyone’s stress load. And you DEFENDED their exaggerated emotions in the name of comedy. So you of all people should understand where I’m coming from with Christmas in Connecticut! Lighten up Ebeneezer or you’ll get coal in your stocking!
Manny: Annie, you are comparing the “A” team to Stanwyck? As actors, they were consistent, and played their parts perfectly, all the time. Barb went from fondling a mink stole to oggling her sailor like a high-school actor. Watch that second scene again and I dare you to say that’s professional acting!
And you want light-hearted comedy? Then chew on these snippets. His friend teaches him the “magoo” – seduce women to extract favors and then ditch them? When the architect and writer kiss in the bedroom he makes a joke about his “double ribbed” pipes? The sailor first meets the writer, and asks “can I watch you and the baby?” Creepy! And later he asks, “Is she happy with her husband?” Double creepy. What about the “nice firm rump” comment? Finally, and as a great “Martha Stewart” tour de force, tell me you weren’t insulted when the fat man demands seeing the “charming sight of an attractive woman flipping flap jacks.”
Annie, good comedy can be well written, well acted, and wrapped around a well-crafted story that doesn’t insult our intelligence or gender. Come on, raise your standards!
Annie: So I had the good fortune to watch Christmas in Connecticut over again, and you know what? I still love it! I’m going to completely ignore that you called Abbott and Costello the “A team of comedy” and assume you’re still adding too much rum to your nog. But at the risk of being slaughtered by feminists, the man demanding to see the “charming sight of an attractive woman flipping flap jacks” didn’t phase me. In fact, I’m pretty impressed by her flap jack flipping. Have you ever tried to flip a flap jack without a spatula? Take my word for it, it isn’t easy. There’s no need for anyone to get their tinsel in a tangle over in 2015 by every compliment given in the context of 1945. And need I remind you that the primary cook in the movie is–wait for it–A MAN!
So what if the sailor wanted to watch her bathe her baby? He’d been away from his very large family for eons and was nostalgic for home. Speaking of which, that scene also kicks your sexist rant out the window. It is–wait for it–A MAN who ultimately knew how to and did bathe and feed the baby!
My bottom line? Christmas in Connecticut is a great movie to get you in the holiday spirit. Sure, some scenes are corny, but that’s part of its charm. It’s heart-warming, nostalgic (if the horse and buggy scene doesn’t make you want to grab a mug of hot cocoa then you must have ice running through your veins!), and worthy of a place on anyone’s must-watch holiday movies list.
Happy Holidays Everyone!