Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Christmas in July


This trifle is Preston Sturges’ second film, after The Great McGinty, and before he really hit his stride with The Lady Eve. Preston Sturges wrote the play it was based on, “A Cup of Coffee,” in 1931, but it wasn’t produced off-Broadway in New York until 1988. Jimmy MacDonald (Dick Powell), major-league schmuck and loser, compulsively enters contests, writing slogans, guessing how many peanuts are in a jar. It’s antithetical to the American Ideal of getting ahead by hard work, but so what? Striking it rich is also part of the American Dream. He is led to believe he’s won $25,000 in a coffee slogan contest. (He believes, in spite of everything anyone tells him, including his long-suffering girlfriend, that coffee helps you sleep. Slogan: “If you can’t sleep at night, it’s not the coffee, it’s the bunk!”) But it’s a cruel joke played on him by his co-workers. Through a series of mix-ups, the president of the coffee company believes Jimmy has won the contest, and gives him a check. The pair then go on the Great American Spending Binge … though to be fair, most of what they buy is for their friends and neighbors. He gets a better position at work because his boss thinks that if he won a contest, he must be worth listening to. Then it all falls apart … I kept waiting for Dick Powell to break into song in that famous tenor. But he didn’t. Not a bad film, and it shows some themes that Sturges would use to better effect later.