phrases, sayings, idioms and expressions at

Christmas Tiger

Posted by Bruce Kahl on February 15, 2004

In Reply to: Christmas Tiger posted by ESC on February 15, 2004

: : I was watching "Mr Smith Goes To Washington" - and the journalists describe him as being a Christmas tiger. Anyone know what that means?

: That's a good one. I've looked in regional and youth slang books and haven't found it so far.

A Cliff's Notes version of the movie:

From the IMDB at
"Jefferson Smith (Jimmy Stewart), the bumpkin leader of his local Boy Rangers, is appointed by the state's governor to serve in the senate, under the assumption that he can be molded and influenced by the state's older, more experienced senator, Joseph Paine (Claude Rains). But Smith proves to be an upbeat idealist who's unwilling to conform to the cynical, shady ways of Washington, D.C., including a crooked plan to finance a new dam. Smith's unusual outlook impresses his skeptical secretary (Jean Arthur), but it also leads to a nasty conflict with Jim Taylor (Edward Arnold), the state political boss. When Smith can't be bought, Taylor tries to smear his name. Will Smith's morals win out in the end?"

The scene is Mr. Smith being taken to task by a mob of unruly, wise cracking reporters. Keep in mind that this was a Capra film. In nine major films, Capra and his writers created big-city smart-alecky journalists and their greedy bosses who would come to represent everything the public believed about the mass media:

"Oh, but he'll vote, sure, just like his colleague tells him to."
"Yes sir, like a Christmas Tiger, he'll nod his head and vote," as the other reporters chime in,
"You're not a senator. You're an honorary stooge. You oughtta be shown up."

So a "Christmas Tiger" is a decoration, a brainless puppet, someone who will "nod his head and vote", someone who just follows along and does what he is told to do.