Christmas in July (Preston Sturges, 1940, USA)

Though only the second film in Preston Sturges' oeuvre, Christmas in July already betrays the signature style of its director. Clocking in at a mere 60 minutes, the film packs more energy than most comedies twice its length. Sturges got his start in Hollywood as a writer, and Christmas in July evolved out of a play Sturges wrote in 1931. The film tells the story of Jimmy MacDonald (Dick Powell), a working-class guy who is eagerly trying to win a slogan contest for a coffee contest. His co-workers trick him into believing he has won the contest, and he begins to change his lifestyle to fulfill his dreams. Eventually, this all begins to unravel. 

There are so many great lines in Christmas in July that it is hard to keep track of, but the shining star of the film might just be Raymond Walburn as the owner of the Maxford House Coffee company - Dr. Maxford. Walburn talks a mile-a-minute, and he has a seemingly endless supply of insults. This alone makes the movie worth watching, as some of these lines are truly laugh-out-loud funny. 

On a more serious note, the film can be viewed as a satire of the American dream. Generally, the film is very broad in what it makes light of - including large corporations and rich people. The film is also of course about advertising and its role in the public imagination. The film is largely about the fetishization of wealth in our society and still holds today. Although the film is perhaps wrapped up too tidily with a speech from Jimmy's girlfriend Betty (Ellen Drew), the film is overall quite satisfying. Sturges would go on to direct some of the best comedies of the 1940s, and it is easy to see that he was on the path to greater success.



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