“Macbeth” or “Christmas in July”?

"Christmas in July"

Preston Sturges’s film, “Christmas in July,” with Jane Drew and Dick Powell

It rained all weekend.

You can only read so much. You can only knit so much.

And so we decided to see the new Macbeth movie, with Fassbender.

There was a hitch:

I thought Fassbender was Rainer Werner Fassbinder, the brilliant German director of Ali:  Fear Eats the Soul.  I’m a little behind.  Fassbinder died in 1982.

Probably not my Macbeth.

Probably not my kind of Macbeth.

Turns out Michael Fassbender is an actor in movies I’ve never heard of, such as X-Men:First Class and X-Men:  Days of Future Past. To be fair, I have heard of 12 Years As a Slave. 

The movie has been well-reviewed, but I was leery when the reviewer at the Independent called it ” Shakespearian tragedy as macabre action movie. “Oh, dear. And the clip is graphically violent.  Probably not my kind of Macbeth.  Sorry, but I like my Shakespeare as in Shakespeare in the park.

And so what could we do?  All the theaters show the same movies.  None of them seemed to be aimed at adults.

The Night Before has Mindy Kaling, the brilliant creator and star of The Mindy Project,  but it is a slapstick male bonding movie, with guys on cocaine (see clip).  Not my kind of thing.

Never let it be said that I don’t go for star vehicles.  I was willing to see Trumbo, because Bryan Cranston is in it.  But my husband hated Breaking Bad.

So we stopped at the library to look for Christmas movies, because we were now in a thoroughly bad mood.

The only thing we could find with Christmas in the title was Preston Sturges’s Christmas in July.

Turns out this charming, sentimental 1940 comedy is not really about Christmas.

Preston Sturges won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for The Great McGinty, a satiric movie about a politician who ruins his life by a moment of honesty.  In Christmas in July, the conflict is between the naive little guy and soulless Big Business.The hero, Jimmy (Dick Powell), is an office worker.  He and his co-worker girlfriend, Betty (Jane Drew), want to get married, but they are very poor.  He dreams of winning $25,000  in a slogan contest for the Maxford Coffee Company.  His slogan is not snappy.  “If you can’t sleep at night, it’s not the coffee, it’s the bunk.”

Neighbors standing with Jimmy and Betty when Maxford tries to arrest him.

Neighbors standing together with Jimmy and Betty when Maxford accuses Jimmy of fraud.

At work, practical jokers convince him he has won the contest. He claims the winning check at Maxford Coffee with no problem: no one knows what’s going on.   Jimmy  and Betty are so excited and happy: it is like Christmas.  Department store clerks know the power of the dollar and can’t do too much for  Jimmy, who buys  an engagement ring and fur coat for Betty, a  sofa bed with comical pop-up accessories for his mother,  and gifts for all their working-class neighbors.  The only one he doesn’t buy for is himself!

But even true happiness has its enemies.   Dr. Maxford learns the contest judges are deadlocked and haven’t decided on a winner. So who the hell is Jimmy?  He calls the department store, and everyone calls his lawyers.  Maxford drives to the apartment house to confront Jimmy, who is celebrating with the neighbors.  When Dr. Maxford wants him arrested, everyone is stunned.  They stand up for Jimmy’s character.  The police refuse to arrest him.

The dialogue is simple but good, and takes shots at Hitler and Mussolini.

What really got me about this comedy was the idealism.  Everybody deserves enough money to live, and so much of it is about getting a chance in the workplace.

Very different from the kind of comedy playing in most movie theaters now.