Christmas in July (film)

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Christmas in July
theatrical poster
Directed by Preston Sturges
Produced by Paul Jones
Buddy G. DeSylva (uncredited)
Written by Preston Sturges
Starring Dick Powell
Ellen Drew
Music by John Leipold
Leo Shuken
(both uncredited)
Cinematography Victor Milner
Edited by Ellsworth Hoagland
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release dates
October 18, 1940
Running time
67 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Christmas in July is a 1940 comedy film written and directed by Preston Sturges based on his 1931 play A Cup of Coffee. It was Sturges' second film as writer-director, after The Great McGinty, and stars Dick Powell and Ellen Drew.


Dr. Maxford (Raymond Walburn) is thoroughly exasperated. He is supposed to announce on national radio the winners of a slogan contest for his Maxford House Coffee; the first prize is $25,000. Maxford's jury is deadlocked by the stubborn Mr. Bildocker (William Demarest). As a result, the program ends without an announcement.

One of millions of contestants, office worker Jimmy MacDonald (Dick Powell) dreams of winning, hoping to validate his faith in himself, provide some luxuries for his mother (Georgia Caine), and marry his girlfriend Betty Casey (Ellen Drew). Betty, among others, does not understand his slogan: "If you can't sleep at night, it's not the coffee, it's the bunk."

As a joke, three of his co-workers place a fake telegram on Jimmy's desk informing him that he has won. Jimmy's boss, J. B. Baxter (Ernest Truex), is so impressed, he promotes Jimmy on the spot to advertising executive, with his own office, a private secretary (Betty), and a raise. Tom Darcy, one of the pranksters, tries to clear things up before they go too far, but loses his nerve.

When Jimmy arrives to collect the check, Dr. Maxford assumes his committee finally reached a decision without informing him, and writes a check to Jimmy. Jimmy and Betty go on a shopping spree at Shindel's department store. After telephoning Maxford to confirm the check is good, Mr. Shindel gives Jimmy credit to buy an engagement ring for Betty, a luxury sofa-bed for his mother, and presents for all of their neighbors.

When the truth comes out, Shindel descends on Jimmy's street to try to repossess his merchandise. Maxford follows them and confirms Jimmy did not win. In the commotion, Shindel learns that Maxford's signature is genuine; instead of reclaiming the merchandise, he tries to force Maxford to pay for it. Tom and the other two pranksters admit they are to blame.

That night, Jimmy and Betty confess to Baxter. Betty's heartfelt plea persuades Baxter to let Jimmy try to prove himself and keep his promotion, although on a very short probationary period and with no raise. Meanwhile, Bildocker bursts into Maxford's office to announce that the other jury members have finally given in and accepted his choice for the grand prize winner: Jimmy.


Cast notes:


The working titles for Christmas in July were "The New Yorkers", "Something to Shout About" and "A Cup of Coffee", the latter of which was the name of the play Sturges wrote in 1931 on which the film was based. A Cup of Coffee remained unproduced until 1988, when Soho Rep in New York City mounted a production. In 1934, Universal hired Sturges to direct a film based on the play, but that project fell through when the studio found other work to assign him, including doctoring the script of Diamond Jim. Once that task was completed, Sturges' mentor at the studio, producer Henry Henigson, left, leaving nobody at Universal to champion Sturges' film. Once Sturges himself moved to Paramount, he made a deal with the studio to buy the script for $6,000.[2]

William Holden and Betty Fields were to have played the leads, with Arthur Hornblow Jr. as producer.

Production on Christmas in July began on June 1st, 1940 and continued through June 29th.[3] According to author Donald Spoto in his book Madcap: The Life of Preston Sturges, Sturges directed Christmas in July wearing a straw boater and carrying a bamboo cane.[4] It has also been reported that the set was open to allow Sturges to observe the reactions of visitors while he was shooting, that Sturges helped to invent the rigged sofa used in the department store scene, and that Sturges made a cameo appearance as a man listening to the radio while his shoes were being cleaned.[5]

The film was released on October 18th, 1940[6] and marketed with the tagline, "If you can't sleep at night, it isn't the coffee - it's the bunk"[7] a line from the movie. The film was released on video in the U.S. on July 12th, 1990, and re-released on June 30th, 1993.[8]


Lux Radio Theatre presented a radio adaptation of Christmas in July on June 26, 1944, with Dick Powell and Linda Darnell as leads. On September 9th, 1954, NBC presented a television version on Lux Video Theatre with Nancy Gates, Alex Nicol and Raymond Walburn starring; the director was Earl Eby and the adaptation was by S.H. Barnett.[2][9]


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