In Boys Town (1938), Spencer Tracy won an Oscar for his portrayal of Father Flanagan, who dedicates himself to helping juvenile delinquents go straight. Mickey Rooney plays one of the tougher kids, figuring out early on that Flanagan is nobody's fool. Warmhearted and inspiring, the film's inevitable sentimentality is nicely cut by Tracy's performance and a smart script by Eleanore Griffin and Dore Schary (who also won Oscars). A good film for all ages, directed by Norman Taurog (Adventures of Tom Sawyer). Also included is the minor sequel, Men of Boys Town (1941), also starring Tracy and Rooney. The 1938 MGM version of the Dickens classic A Christmas Carol is not the most rewarding of the various adaptations (that honor goes to Biran Desmond Hurst's 1951 film, starring Alistair Sim), but it has a strong if narrow performance by Reginald Owen as the miser Ebenezer Scrooge. Directed by Edward L. Marin, the movie is stiffer and less imaginative than it ought to be, but there are some compensations in the supporting cast, including Leo G. Carroll, and the film debut of little June Lockhart. Christmas in Connecticut 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. Cut to Jefferson Jones, a sailor adrift at sea for weeks after his destroyer is torpedoed. After his rescue, a marriage-minded nurse thinks she might nudge Jones to the altar if he could only be included in America's ultimate Christmas--the one to be held at the Lane family farm in Connecticut. 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.
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