Combustible Celluloid
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With: Dick Powell, Ellen Drew, Raymond Walburn, Alexander Carr, William Demarest, Ernest Truex, Franklin Pangborn, Harry Hayden, Rod Cameron, Adrian Morris, Harry Rosenthal, Georgia Caine, June Preston, Ferike Boros, Torben Meyer, Julius Tannen, Al Bridge, Lucille Ward, Kay Stewart, Victor Potel
Written by: Preston Sturges
Directed by: Preston Sturges
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 67
Date: 10/18/1940

Christmas in July (1940)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Slam Bunk

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Preston Sturges's second film as director, Christmas in July was released the same year as his first, The Great McGinty, though it came out neither in July, nor at Christmastime. (It opened in October.) It's a small gem, almost too short to mention (67 minutes), but glitteringly perfect nonetheless. Dick Powell plays the chipper Jimmy MacDonald, who enters lots of contests. His latest one is for a coffee company, despite the fact that he works for a rival coffee company. He thinks his slogan — "If you can't sleep at night, it's not the coffee, it's the bunk" — is genius and worthy of winning the huge cash prize. Some co-workers overhear Jimmy talking about it, and send him a fake telegram declaring him the winner. Jimmy and his girlfriend Betty (Ellen Drew) immediately embark upon a spending spree, beginning with buying Jimmy's mother a fold-out couch she wants, and continuing with buying gifts for everyone they can think of. It turns into a melee, and the police are called. Meanwhile, the actual contest is on hold because of a hung jury. The cranky Mr. Bildocker (William Demarest) refuses to sign off on the bland slogan the other 11 jurors have chosen. The punchline is self-explanatory, but Sturges delivers it as only a master comic could. It's all based on a play he wrote in 1931.

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