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  Christmas in July Make Your Presents Felt
Year: 1940
Director: Preston Sturges
Stars: Dick Powell, Ellen Drew, Raymond Walburn, Alexander Carr, William Demarest, Ernest Truex, Franklin Pangborn, Harry Hayden, Rod Cameron, Adrian Morris, Harry Rosenthal, Georgia Caine, Ferike Boros, Torben Meyer, Julius Tannen, Al Bridge
Genre: ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Engaged couple Jimmy MacDonald (Dick Powell) and Betty Casey (Ellen Drew) are sitting out on the roof of the tenement block where they both live, and Betty is outlining her new idea for containing a four room apartment in one single room, but Jimmy isn't really paying attention and doesn't think much of the notion when he does. He's more interested in the radio which is due to announce the big money winner of the slogan competition he has entered, in fact he's so convinced of the quality of his slogan that he's sure he's going to succeed. Meanwhile in the studio, the radio announcer (Franklin Pangborn) has to fill for time as the news comes through to the head of the coffee company running the contest that nobody can decide which is the best entry - disaster! And so it is that while the executives argue into the night, the winner remains unclear...

Christmas in July was writer and director Preston Sturges second movie as director, and nowadays it looks more like a lost Frank Capra work with its sentimentalising of the little people and their struggle to make it through a sometimes unfriendly world. Of course, nowadays this is seen as a minor work for Sturges in the shadow of Sullivan's Travels, and it's true that at just over an hour long the film doesn't hang around for much in the way of philosophising, but then neither does it depend on preaching, thankfully. Jimmy's slogan is "If you can't sleep at night, it isn't the coffee - it's the bunk!", which is so bad he has to slowly explain it to everyone, along with his eccentric belief that coffee doesn't keep you awake at all, nope, it sends you to sleep. Obviously there's no way that it would win in the real world, and it's from that point that the light satire stems.

What happens isn't that Jimmy wins, but three of his co-workers pull a cruel trick on him by mocking up a fake telegram saying that he has won, and he should go along to see Dr. Maxford (Raymond Walburn) to collect his cheque. Unfortunately what starts as a prank snowballs into a fully fledged mix-up, with Jimmy not only being congratulated by his bosses, but given his own office to conjure up yet more clever slogans for the company he works for. When he and Betty visit Maxford, the boss is none the wiser and happy for the whole thing to be over with, and he hands over the cheque, so they go off to start buying presents (including a ridiculous automatic sofa bed) for their family and friends at the nearest department store. The joke is that now people think Jimmy has won the competition, they can't see anything wrong with either his slogan or his other ideas, and when the trick is revealed, Jimmy heads for a fall. Get money and you get influence is the moral, here in a bittersweet coating. Christmas in July has its poignant and thoughtful moments, but usually breezes along from amusing line to outright slapstick; it may be minor, but it is pleasing.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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