Christmas In July (1940, Preston Sturges)

Briskly plotted and barely over an hour long, seems like a good first movie… but it was his second, after The Great McGinty, which I enjoyed a bit more.

If you can’t sleep at night, it isn’t the coffee – it’s the bunk!
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A very blustery, fast-talky movie with maybe one too many blustery fast-talking characters. We’ve got the president of our loving couple’s coffee company employer (Ernest Truex, a reporter in His Girl Friday the same year – the guy whose desk the killer hides inside), our guy’s direct boss the strict office manager (Capra veteran Harry Hayden), the president of their largest competitor, the company which is running the contest (Capra veteran Raymond Walburn), and department store head Alexander Carr (of Bela Lugosi movie The Death Kiss, which sounds good). Then there’s the most blustery man of all, the virtuoso, the blustermaster, Capra veteran William “Muggsy” Demarest, as the stubborn contest jury holdout who, in the most predictable twist ending of Sturges’s career, picks our man as the grand prize winner after his previous grand-prize-win had been exposed as a fraud.

Our heroes:
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Dick Powell was already a star, having appeared in all three of Busby Berkeley’s big 1933 musicals. No singing or dancing here. Katy called him a poor man’s Jimmy Stewart. Ellen Drew was saddled with the worst Sturges-penned female role, just grabbing her man’s arm and breathlessly saying “Oh, Jimmy” with a variety of inflections. She was just getting started in the pictures, would spend the next decade acting in movies I will probably never see, ending up in Stars In My Crown, which I probably will.

Other familiar faces: Capra veteran Frank Moran as an Irish cop (the bus driver in Sullivan’s Travels), below with Alex Carr.
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Capra veteran Franklin Pangborn as the radio announcer (played a realtor in Palm Beach Story), below with Ray Walburn.
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And Capra veteran Snowflake as the janitor (terrified bartender in the Ale & Quail club car in Palm Beach Story). Lots of Capra actors here… maybe Katy’s right, and Sturges tried to get Jimmy Stewart and throw a total Capra-party.

Muggsy!
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