Christmas in July (1940)

Christmas in July (1940), written and directed by Preston Sturges.

I wouldn't have reviewed this 68 minute comedy, but an early scene pulled me in and I was lost in nostalgia for a past I never knew. Just a guy and a girl on a tenement rooftop, listening to the radio and looking over the city, kissing and bickering, talking about apartments and getting married someday. A perfect setting.

At the office, practical jokers fake a telegram and convince him he has won a fortune in a coffee slogan contest. This causes enormous joyful upset and the fiction becomes reality for a while. The jokers are good enough to feel embarrassed about the prank, but they can't stop it once it is in motion.

A lot of Capra in this treatment: the good-hearted common folk of the Depression, the eccentric petty tyrant bosses, too funny to be wicked. Colorful ethnic characters: Irish, Jewish, Negro. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945) was set in the Irish/Jewish slum of Williamsburg; I wonder if this is supposed to be the same neighborhood?

Glimpses of the 1940 outer world creep in: our young lovers dream of visiting Europe -- but it's a bad time, so maybe go to the Grand Canyon instead. A little girl is in a wheelchair, a hint of the terrible polio epidemics that struck children in the hot summer months in the city.

Many familiar faces, members of the directors "crew". Sturges adapted this from his own 1931 play, A Cup of Coffee, not performed until 1988, 29 years after he died.

Photographed by Victor Milner. That's Sturges in the straw boater in the second image below.

Available on DVD.