Christmas in July finds director/writer Preston Sturges operating near the top of his game, and when he's in good form, there's no one who can touch him. If July is not quite in the same league as an absolute Sturges masterpiece like Sullivan's Travels or The Lady Eve, it's still head and shoulders above most films. July is filled with the sparkling, snappy dialogue one associates with Sturges, dialogue that is all the more remarkable in that it feels natural and unforced; even when placed in the mouth of a regular working-class character, Sturges's words manage to make the character sound eloquent without sounding artificial. The writer clearly has a genuine, deep affection for the "common man," but unlike so many others with good intentions, he doesn't patronize or sentimentalize him. Sturges also displays his skill at creating a perfectly structured screenplay, one that builds to a fade-out that one can clearly see coming but which one welcomes nonetheless. As a director, Sturges knows how to keep his pace from ever flagging, but more importantly he knows just how and where to hit the dramatic and emotional high points. Another director might have overplayed the tragic consequences of the practical joke at the heart of the plot; Sturges modulates the emotions, making it therefore both more palatable and more affecting. He is aided in all of this by a superb performance from Dick Powell and a heartfelt one from Ellen Drew, as well as by a supporting cast of character actors that is perfectly in tune. July is a delightful Christmas present at any time of the year.