Before watching the movie:
Here’s a cheery little comedy about how society’s changed so much women can become functioning adults without knowing how to cook! What a crazy, upside-down world! At least the lead can fake it in print.
I feel a little bad that I’m most interested in seeing what Sydney Greenstreet brings to this movie, when he appears to be in a supporting role. I come across Barbara Stanwyck so much I ought to know more about her. Unfortunately, she’s from an era where it seems like everyone in Hollywood, and especially women, were encouraged to be interchangeable. From what I’ve seen of her she’s pretty good, but she ends up failing to leave an impression on me because I can’t tell her apart from any other woman on film in the 40s. Also, speaking of interchangeable, I’ve never heard of Dennis Morgan.
After watching the movie:
Magazine publisher Alexander Yardley receives a letter from a nurse asking that he invite her sweetheart sailor to the farmhouse home of his star cooking writer, Elizabeth Lane, for Christmas. He likes the idea so much he invites himself over as well. Unfortunately, Miss Lane’s column is pure fiction. She’s never lived on a farm, isn’t married, doesn’t have a baby, and can’t cook. She basically dresses up her friend Felix’s recipes with homey prose. In order to save her job, she agrees to marry her longtime suitor John, a man she can barely stand, in order to be able to maintain the fiction and use his farm home. However, she and John can never quite find the time to actually get married, and she’s never met a man like sailor Jefferson Jones…
The misdirection farce plot is very familiar, and all the details slot in well. The plot is such a well-oiled machine that it doesn’t really seem like the two leads are doing much for themselves, because fate is pushing them together so forcefully. It’s all for a Christmastime romp, so I don’t mind so much, but this story runs on contrived coincidences when it isn’t playing the comic irony.
Barbara Stanwyck is very good. I should get to know more actresses from her time, since I don’t know how what she did with the role would have been different from Lauren Bacall, Hedy Lamarr, or Rita Hayworth as far as style. Similarly, Jefferson Jones the name this story gives to the generic Romantic Comic Lead, and I can’t see how it would have been different in other hands. The real interest here comes from the character actors supporting them. I’ve never seen S.K. “Cuddles” Sakall, but his comic relief role as “uncle” Felix does a lot to carry the film, and Sydney Greenstreet’s performance as the domineering big boss shows a more fun side to what he can do. All the while Reginald Gardiner as the self-absorbed architect fiancè adds extra shine.
I think my biggest complaint with the storytelling comes at the very end. I would have preferred that it ended just after the two leads made their confessions to each other, but for some reason the movie continues on for another scene where they come out and tell everybody about it, and the film ends on Sydney Greenstreet (slightly out of character, in my opinion) mugging at the camera about what a Christmas this is, completely detracting from the stars’ moment.
Watch this movie: for a bit of fun and romance at Christmastime.
Don’t watch this movie: if you’re hoping for a Grand Theft Sleigh chase scene.