It isn’t quite Christmas, and I’m far from Connecticut. (Yes, Santa, I’m in Virginia.) And the Martha Stewart or Gladys Taber style feel-good food-and-home magazine feature writing celebrated in the 1945 film “Christmas in Connecticut” doesn’t really match my “Newspaper Heroes” banner.
But the 1945 film about feature writer Elizabeth Lane, and its 1946 radio adaptation here, do flirt with “media ethics” issues enough to fit some future “portrayal of the journalist in popular culture” classroom discussions. That’s enough excuse to include them here.
And, after all, Christmas is right there in the title. So here it is, from radio’s Screen Guild Theater:
(Note: The recording speed appears “off” at the beginning, but levels out before long.)
Having gone to high school in a Connecticut city that The New York Times once said was marked by chimney stacks, church steeples and racism charges, I have always had strange feelings about the Hollywood association of the state with idyllic holiday-inn country retreats from New York. The smokestacks are relatively idle now, and I like to think the other ills have lessened in the 40 years since that Times story.
But then as now, for every Waterbury, Bridgeport or Hartford, the state still has whole counties (Litchfield, Middlesex, Tolland and Windham are my favorites) holding small towns like the one portrayed here, even if the romantic horse-drawn sleighrides are about 50 years in the past.
The sleighriders in the radio version of the story are, notably, not-yet-president Ronald Reagan and his then-wife Jane Wyman instead of the film’s Dennis Morgan and Barbara Stanwyck. Stanwyck already had played the ethically troubled sob-sister creating populist political fraud in “Meet John Doe,” a film with its own hint of Christmas.
In “Christmas in Connecticut,” the lead character is a fabulist again, but guilty only of spinning tales of a warm home and fireside to accompany recipes and child care tips. In reality, she has neither country home nor husband and child. At best, she can borrow farm, chef and baby to play-act when Smart Housekeeping magazine books a weekend visit from a war hero.
The radio version is as sweet and heart-warming as the film, and one can only imagine what the radio-studio audience was witnessing during the bathing a baby scene. The laughter is infectious, if a bit mysterious.
Reagan and Wyman are charming together (even if their real-life marriage was not in great shape; they divorced two years after this broadcast), and the program was good enough for me to be patient with the recording quality. After the first few minutes, the speed error is fixed and characters no longer sound like they have had whiffs of helium. If I find a better recording, I’ll add it here.
“Newspaper movie” fans may recall that Wyman also stepped into the “Torchy Blane” reporter character in 1939’s Torchy Blane, Playing with Dynamite, in which her reporting technique includes turning in false fire alarms to get thrown into jail to work on a story undercover, a rather Barbara Stanwyck thing to do.
At least Jane Wyman’s “Christmas in Connecticut” Liz Lane character doesn’t finish the story “John Doe” style by trying to get Ronald Reagan’s character to run for president. That would have seemed like too much of a fantasy in 1946. It still did 30 years later!
Editorial note. This item was composed and uploaded with the WordPress app on a Motorola Droid telephone. I added a YouTube clip of the movie trailer (later removed by whoever uploaded it), and fixed a broken link or two and succumbed to the temptation to add the “Yes… Virginia…” line to the first paragraph.