It has been many years since I was first asked this question, which always seemed to be posed by a gay friend or acquaintance. Each ensuing discussion regarding why this 1945 film is a Christmas classic inevitably includes a mention of The Delivery Woman. “Just wait for her;” they would say.
The Delivery Woman appears 11 minutes into the film – just after we meet leading lady Barbara Stanwyck. She enters carrying a large box tied with a bow – it’s a mink coat. She has two lines – six words: “Miss Lane?” and “Same to you, Miss.” She smiles throughout her performance – she is beautiful. Stylish. She wears a hat, cape and gloves. Tasteful earrings. And she has a musical cue – a slinky clarinet riff. She seems to know things.
One friend described her as “sassy” although I think that assessment is a modern projection. She is on screen for just over 10 seconds. And then she is gone. She has other places to go. Other minks to deliver.
“Wouldn’t it be great if postal workers dressed like that?” is another comment I have heard more than once. I think she is actually a department store delivery person and not a postal worker. In any case, yes, I agree – capes and hats and leather gloves would be a welcome addition to any FedEx, UPS or Amazon Prime uniform.
We do not know the actresses name. The IMDB does not list her. One day I expect to receive a blog comment that says “You uneducated fool! Everybody KNOWS it’s a young Rudy Dee / Hazel Scott / Dorothy Dandridge.” Until that time… the mystery remains. At least in my house.
In the 1995 documentary The Celluloid Closet about the history of homosexuality in Hollywood, writer Susie Bright says something along the lines of “A gay audience is so accustomed to crumbs that you will watch a whole film just to see a hint of a gay subtext.”
In Christmas In Connecticut, it’s pretty clear that Barbara Stanwyck’s sham fiancee – a disinterested interior designer – would be gay if 1940’s society and the movie code allowed. But that’s beside the point. The same statement can be applied to any minority in a classic Hollywood studio film – you wait for someone to show up, cross your fingers for a positive depiction, and then hold onto it when you find it.
The Smart Bitches, Trashy Books website mentions The Delivery Woman in a 2016 post dissecting the film. “PERSON OF COLOR. PERSON OF COLOR;” they scream upon her entrance. “This movie is already more inclusive than several films released this year.”
And this is why, 75 years after it’s release, I am writing about 10 seconds of this film.
I tip my stylish cap to that nameless actress. We salute you!