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Film / Christmas in July

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Christmas in July is a 1940 Screwball Comedy film written and directed by Preston Sturges, starring Dick Powell and Ellen Drew.

Jimmy Macdonald (Powell) is an accounting clerk who wants to win the Maxford House Coffee Slogan Contest because it means a cool $25,000 in his pocket. With that kind of dough, he can marry his sweetheart, Betty (Drew) and give his mom (Georgia Caine) the davenport she’s always wanted.

His excitement is noticed by his employers and colleagues alike. In a prank to see how he’d react, his fellow clerks forge a telegram from Maxford, saying his slogan won the $25k prize. And Jimmy believes it, and so does everyone else without knowing that the jury deciding which slogan will win is still out. Jimmy and Betty begin to spend and dream until the truth comes out to ruin everything.

Sturges' second directorial effort, he adapted the screenplay from his own 1931 play A Cup of Coffee. The supporting cast includes several of the character actors who would frequent a number of Sturges' other films and become a sort of stock company, including Georgia Caine, William Demarest, Franklin Pangborn, Jimmy Conlin, and Frank Moran among others.

Not to be confused with the trope Christmas in July.

This film displays the following tropes:

  • An Aesop:
    Betty: He ‘’does’’ belong in here, Mr. Baxter.
    Mr. Baxter: Now what is the joke this time?
    Betty: He belongs in here because he thinks he belongs in here, because he thinks he...
    Mr. Baxter: Oh, that's all very deep dish and high fallutin', but from a practical...
    Betty: : It is practical, Mr. Baxter. It's the most practical idea you ever had. He belongs in here because he thinks he has ideas. He belongs in here until he proves himself or fails and... then... someone else belongs in here until he proves himself or fails and somebody else after that and somebody else after him and so on and so on for always. Oh, I don't know how to... put it into words like Jimmy could, but... all he wanted, all any of them want is a - is a chance to show - to find out what got while they're still young and burning like a short cut or a stepping stone. Oh, I know they're not gonna succeed, at least most of them won't, they'll all be like Mr. Waterbury soon enough, most of them, anyway. But they won't mind it. They'll find something else, and they'll be happy, because they had their chance. Because it's one thing to muff a chance once you've had it... it's another thing never to have had a chance. His name's already on the door.
  • Benevolent Boss: Waterbury kindly advises Jimmy that being a dreamer isn’t necessarily bad, but he can be satisfied with what he has. The only problem is that Jimmy isn’t satisfied with his accounting job.
  • Blessed with Suck: The 25k brings mostly trouble to Jimmy.
  • Catchphrase: Dr. Maxford’s “Jumping Jehoshaphat!”
  • Cat Scare: Jimmy and Betty run into a black cat in the office and wonder if it’ll bring them bad luck. It doesn’t.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Dr. Maxford isn't quite on the corrupt scale, but he really doesn’t care how much his contest means to honest folk.
  • Creator Cameo: Sturges makes his cameo as one of the listeners to the Maxford House Coffee radio show, getting a shoeshine.
  • The Determinator: Jimmy has entered contest after contest to win money to live the life he wants.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Dr. Maxford just wanted a contest that would get people into his coffee but he gave a lot of power to the jury and underestimated Bildocker and his determination to pick a slogan.
  • Enormous Engagement Ring: With his 25k cheque, Jimmy and Betty go shopping. They’re shown a lot of huge diamond rings, but Betty settles for a smaller ring.
  • Forged Message: Jimmy’s co-workers send him a phony telegram announcing him as the winner and things unfold from there.
  • A Fool and His New Money Are Soon Parted: Jimmy nearly spends all the money he got from the prize on gifts for the whole neighbourhood!
  • Good Feels Good: Jimmy and Betty manage, after getting an engagement ring, to buy gifts for their whole block.
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!: Dr. Maxford’s “Jumping Jehoshaphat!”
  • Get-Rich-Quick Scheme: Jimmy has been obsessed with slogan contests and guess how many “blank” things are in a jar contests because he wants easy money.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: The radio announcer for Maxford's radio show anxiously ends the broadcast because the winner was not announced.
    I wish I could have given you the news you were so anxious to hear. But since I could not, I will conclude with what the prisoner said when the hangman couldn't find the rope: "No noose is good noose".
  • Pretty in Mink: Betty gets a pretty one from the Shindel Department store.
  • Pursue the Dream Job: Jimmy’s “win” with the Maxford contest makes him interesting to his bosses' boss, Mr. Baxter, and Jimmy has a bunch of ad ideas. This lands him a job as an ad executive.
  • Rags to Riches: From zero to hero because of 25k!
  • Running Gag: Mr. Bildocker’s unwillingness to give up the fact that the ad he’s chosen is better than the rest of the jury’s.
  • Shaped Like Itself: When the leader of the jurors picking the new slogan read it to Bildocker:
    Bildocker: It's putrid.
    Foreman: But why is it putrid, Bildocker.
    Bildocker: Because it stinks.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: At the end, Bildocker tells Dr. Maxford he and the other jurors have finally agreed on a new slogan for his coffee. Naturally, it's Jimmy's logan.
  • Tagline: Jimmy’s In-Universe slogan for the coffee:
    If you don't sleep at night, it isn't the coffee. It's the bunk.
  • Soul-Crushing Desk Job: Jimmy’s an accounting clerk who only earns $22 per week and is much too creative to be slumping over numbers.
  • Title Drop: Betty says it while they drive home with all their gifts to the neighbourhood.
  • Working-Class Hero: Jimmy has natural smarts and a way with words that help him succeed.