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BCB After Dark: The best present the Cubs ever got

The cool spot for night owls, early risers and Cubs fans abroad asks you what was the best trade made by the Cubs over the past 75 years.

Chicago Cubs v Cincinnati Reds Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

Welcome back to BCB After Dark: the holiday party for night owls, early-risers, new parents and Cubs fans abroad. We’re so glad you stopped in for a little holiday cheer. Please let us take your hat and coat. We’ve got a prime table in the second row for you. There’s no cover charge tonight. Two drink minimum, but you’ve got to bring your own beverage. Please be kind to the waitstaff. They’re working the holiday.

BCB After Dark is the place for you to talk baseball, music, movies, or anything else you need to get off your chest, as long as it is within the rules of the site. The late-nighters are encouraged to get the party started, but everyone else is invited to join in as you wake up the next morning and into the afternoon.

Everything is still quiet in baseball, unless you’re excited about Buck Showalter being named manager of the Mets or Mark Kotsay being named manager of the Athletics.

Last week, I asked if you thought the Cubs signing free agent pitcher Carlos Rodón was a good idea or a bad idea. Few of you thought that it was a bad idea, as only 19 percent of the votes were ‘Nay!” But the race between “Yay!” and “Meh” was a tight one, with “Yay!” winning out by 43 percent to 38 percent for “Meh.”

Here’s the part where I talk about jazz and movies. You’re free to skip ahead to the baseball question at the end if you want. You won’t hurt my feelings. But you’ll miss out on the festivities.

We’re in the final week before Christmas and so we’ve got just a few more holiday jazz tunes before we return to the normal flow of things around here.

Here’s a brand new video that was just released yesterday and I couldn’t pass it by if only because of the venue. Here, direct from on top of the Empire State Building in New York, is Nora Jones singing “Blue Christmas.”

Joining Ms. Jones and her keyboards from the top of a very cold-looking venue is Sasha Dobson on backing vocals, Gus Seyffert on bass and Brian Blade on drums.

Today’s film is 1945’s Christmas in Connecticut, directed by Peter Godfrey. It’s a lively rom-com that is an enjoyable change-of-pace from some of the more traditional Christmas movies of the era. It’s not the greatest example of either a romantic comedy or a Christmas movie, but it manages to combine the two genres together into an altogether enjoyable farce. It ranked as the 12th-best Christmas movie ever on Vulture’s ranking of the best Christmas movies. It also manages to be a bit subversive about gender roles for a film from the 1940s.

Also, this is just a heads-up that I will give you now, if you have Turner Classic Movies, then Christmas in Connecticut will air on TCM Wednesday night at 7 pm Central time. It’s also available for streaming now on Watch TCM, which comes with most cable and satellite subscriptions, until December 24.

Dennis Morgan is Jefferson Jones, a sailor whose ship is torpedoed by a German U-Boat. Stranded at sea for 18 days, Jefferson can think of little else other than a first-class home-cooked meal if he ever gets rescued. After getting rescued, he ends up convalescing in a hospital where he gets fed an unappetizing liquid diet, smashing his culinary dreams.

The buddy he was stranded as sea with suggests that he try flirting with the nurse, Mary Lee (Joyce Compton) in order to get better food. This works a little too well, as Mary Lee is now thinking of marriage. Jefferson tries to tell her he’s not the kind of guy who can get tied down, so Mary Lee calls in a favor owed her by a magazine publisher, Alexander Yardley. (Sydney Greenstreet) She gets Jefferson invited for Christmas dinner with Elizabeth Lane (Barbara Stanwyck), who writes for one of Yardley’s magazines, Smart Housekeeping, in the hope that he will discover how happy a domestic life can be.

Elizabeth Lane is a Martha Stewart-type who writes a very popular column for Smart Housekeeping about her life on her beautiful farm in Connecticut that she shares with her husband and baby. She also writes about the beautiful holiday dinners she makes for her family, which make Jefferson Jones’s mouth water when he reads about them in the hospital.

The problem with all this, and this isn’t a spoiler as it’s revealed as soon as we meet her, is that Elizabeth Lane is a fraud. She’s not married, she doesn’t have a kid and she lives in a tiny Manhattan apartment. Not only that, but she can’t even make toast. All of her recipes are courtesy of her beloved uncle (S. Z. Sakall—whom you’ll recognize from Casablanca), who runs a nearby restaurant.

As you can see from that setup, there are lots of room for comedy there as Elizabeth is forced to pretend to be the woman she pretends to be in her column, since her publisher doesn’t realize she’s a fraud and would fire her (and her editor) if he ever found out.

(Spoilers for a 76-year-old movie to follow)

Elizabeth has a steady boyfriend, a fussy architect named John Sloan (Reginald Gardner). Elizabeth refuses to marry him because, as she puts it bluntly, she doesn’t love him. But as luck would have it, Sloan has a beautiful farm house in Connecticut that he designed himself. Seeing little other way to get out of this jam while keeping her job, she agrees to marry Sloan in exchange for using his house to pull off the ruse.

Alexander Yardley, Elizabeth’s boss, also invites himself out to “Elizabeth’s” farm for Christmas dinner. He also have several ideas for Elizabeth to increase the magazine’s circulation, all of which require Elizabeth to do things she has no idea of how to do.

Sloan has set up everything because as he likes to point out, a good architect always takes care of all the details. He even has a baby in the house, as two of the local mothers leave their kids to Sloan during the day while they work in the local munitions plant. He also has invited the local minister over to the house so the two of them can be married before Jefferson Jones arrives for Christmas dinner.

Jefferson arrives early, however, interrupting their wedding plans. This is a running gag throughout the film as Sloan keeps trying to have a wedding ceremony and something or other comes up to prevent it from happening. Elizabeth’s uncle Felix is also against his niece entering a loveless marriage and tries to de-rail the wedding ceremony as well through ridiculous maneuvers.

When Elizabeth meets Jefferson at Sloan’s house, she’s thunderstruck by this handsome soldier. Jefferson finds Elizabeth to be much different than he expected as well. He thought Elizabeth Lane would look like a frumpy farm wife and not like Barbara Stanwyck in her mid-thirties. The only problem with these two kids getting together is that Elizabeth is married. Or at least everyone thinks she is.

There are a lot of hijinks that go on after this you would find in any good farce. The baby starts to cry and Elizabeth has no idea how to deal with him, but Jefferson knows how to give the baby a bath and change his diaper from watching his sister’s children. Of course, he’s a bit confused when he puts little Robert in for his bath and discovers that it’s actually little Roberta that he’s been bathing. Later on, “Roberta’s” mother comes to get her and another mom leaves a different baby “Robert” with Sloan while she goes to work. Jefferson and Alexander are dumbstruck by this amazing gender-changing baby.

Elizabeth and Jefferson have several little romantic adventures where Elizabeth is forced to pretend she knows what she’s doing and Jefferson handling the work in the end. Alexander is also always coming up with dishes for Elizabeth to cook for him and ideas to increase circulation that require Elizabeth doing things she has no idea of how to do.

Eventually the ridiculous situations pile up and there’s a major uproar when one of the moms returns from work and picks up her kid, which Alexander Yardley mistakes for a kidnapping. Elizabeth is finally forced to admit the truth on everything and Yardley fires her on the spot.

But a rom-com has to have a happy ending, so Felix invents a job offer for Elizabeth from a rival publication. That forces Yardley to give Elizabeth her job back because he doesn’t want his most popular columnist writing for another magazine.

Mary Lee, the nurse, also arrives for Christmas with bad news for Jefferson. While Jefferson was in Connecticut with Elizabeth, Mary Lee has married his buddy from the sunken ship. This frees Jefferson to marry Elizabeth and they all live happily ever after, presumably.

End Spoilers (although c’mon. You know they live happily ever after.)

As with any farce, the charm of Christmas in Connecticut comes from the increasingly-ridiculous situations and the lead’s attempts to keep all the plates spinning for as long as possible until the inevitable crash comes. Barbara Stanwyck was one of the greatest actresses of her generation and she could do a role like this one in her sleep. It’s funny that a light comedy like this was her follow-up to Double Indemnity, but she had that kind of range.

Sydney Greenstreet was normally typecast as villains, so it was a nice change of pace for him to be able to do a comedy. His character, Alexander Yardley, is a typical boss of mid-century Hollywood. He’s loud, he’s demanding and he never listens to anyone who tries to tell him anything. But he’s not a bad person and really, he’s the one who is being deceived as much as anything.

This film was released in July of 1945 (yes, a Christmas movie released in July) while World War II was still going on, at least in the Pacific. The war is present in this picture (Jones’ destroyer getting sunk, the moms working in the arms factory), but the biggest way the war was reflected in this film was in the way that it addressed gender roles.

As “Rosie the Riveter” was forced into the workplace during the war, American culture began to question the traditional gender roles in society, at least briefly. Elizabeth Lane is a woman who can’t cook, can’t clean and can’t take care of a baby. But her uncle Felix is a great cook, her sailor guest knows all about child rearing and her boyfriend architect can go on and on about the details of building and decorating a home. Sloan also runs an informal day care center for the moms who work in the war plant.

Unfortunately, this questioning of gender roles was short-lived in American culture. Very quickly when the war ended, women were expected to exit the workforce so that jobs became available for the returning soldiers. On top of that, the Cold War caused a re-emphasis on “traditional” values in opposition to communism, who, at least publicly, declared that women were the equal to men.

But beyond that point, Christmas in Connecticut is just a very silly farce. It’s not a movie that is going to change your life, but it’s a film that is an enjoyable way to kill 100 minutes. Barbara Stanwyck is always terrific and watching her in a silly romantic comedy is a special treat.

Also as a fun fact, Christmas in Connecticut was remade as a made-for-television movie in 1992 starring Dyan Cannon, Kris Kristofferson and Tony Curtis. I haven’t seen it, but its main claim to distinction is that it’s the only movie ever directed by Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Here’s the scene where Barbara Stanwyck and Dennis Morgan give the neighbor baby a bath and a diaper change. As you can see from this scene, Elizabeth Lane should never be allowed near a baby in her life.

Welcome back to everyone who skips the jazz and movies.

Things have really never been quieter in MLB right now. So I’m going to take a page out of and ask a question about Cubs history.

I’m going to ask you what the greatest trade is in Cubs post-war history. I’m not going to ask about Mordecai Brown or Rogers Hornsby or Kiki Cuyler, but I do have some candidates for the greatest trade in Cubs history, or at least in the memory of anyone reading this.

The obvious choice for the greatest trade in Cubs history is the Ryne Sandberg deal, when Cubs general manager Dallas Green got his former organization the Phillies to include Sandberg in as a throw-in in an Ivan DeJesus for Larry Bowa deal. But there are several other candidates to consider.

  1. Ferguson Jenkins, John Herrstein and Adolfo Phillips from Philadelphia for Bob Buhl and Larry Jackson.
  2. Rick Sutcliffe, George Frazier and Ron Hassey from Cleveland for Joe Carter, Mel Hall and Don Schulze. Plus a minor leaguer who never made the majors.
  3. Sammy Sosa and Ken Patterson from the White Sox for George Bell.
  4. Aramis Ramirez and Kenny Lofton from Pittsburgh for Jose Hernandez, Bobby Hill and a minor leaguer.
  5. Derrek Lee from Florida for Hee-Seop Choi. The Cubs also included a minor leaguer.
  6. Anthony Rizzo from San Diego for Andrew Cashner. One more minor leaguer went each way.
  7. Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop from Baltimore for Scott Feldman and Steve Clevenger.

So that’s eight choices along with the Sandberg deal. Please tell us how and why you voted in the comments.


What was the greatest Cubs trade since 1945?

This poll is closed

  • 9%
    The Fergie Jenkins trade
    (19 votes)
  • 35%
    The Ryne Sandberg/Larry Bowa trade
    (68 votes)
  • 1%
    The Rick Sutcliffe trade
    (3 votes)
  • 4%
    The Sammy Sosa trade
    (9 votes)
  • 5%
    The Aramis Ramirez/Kenny Lofton trade
    (10 votes)
  • 2%
    The Derrek Lee trade
    (4 votes)
  • 5%
    The Anthony Rizzo trade
    (10 votes)
  • 35%
    The Jake Arrieta/Pedro Strop trade
    (69 votes)
  • 0%
    Something else (leave in comments)
    (1 vote)
193 votes total Vote Now

That’s it for another night at BCB After Dark. We’re so glad you could join us this evening. I hope we brought you some holiday joy on a cold night. Be sure to tip your waitstaff and give them a little holiday joy as well. Drive home safely.