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THE MIRACLE OF MORGAN'S CREEK
1944 - Preston Sturges
United States
24
Opening Shot

A man comes rushing towards the screen and through the fading Paramount logo, "Hold the presses! Hold everything! Hold it! Get me the state capital! I got to talk to the governor immediately. It's a matter of life and death."... and cue the title cards.

The Film

Written and Directed by the master of dark comedy, Preston Sturges, The Miracle of Morgan's Creek is a film that works on all levels. Sturges was such a brilliant filmmaker, and though this may not be his very best, The Miracle of Morgan's Creek remains among the classic comedies of the 1940s. As with all Sturges films, everything just works. It's bold, wacky, hysterical and innovative all at once. There's some pretty serious and rather daring content (morality issues of sex, religion, politics, and the law) that must have been pretty risqué for 1944. The basic premise (a flirtatious woman gets pregnant by a GI on a drunk overnight fling prior to him leaving for war, she doesn't know who he was and chooses a draft reject as the father). Sturges may not have been popular with Conservative Religious groups but he truly believed that a father can exist solely out of love rather then the creation of life. Of course the usual Sturges non-stop zaniness and visual sight gags, as well as his commonly used inside jokes and self references are all evident in creating the pure joy and magical of this film. The performances are absolutely remarkably displays in comedic acting, and just about the entire cast gives the best work of the careers. Betty Hutton is particularly outstanding. This is the 4th (of 5 total) collaborations between Hutton and Eddie Bracken, and without question it was the best. It was also the only non-musical Hutton and Bracken made together, and Sturges hilariously adds an inside joke to this (as Hutton is first seen on screen singing with a distorted voice). When Sturges is making a film, everything just seems to work perfectly from the chaotic opening ("Let me talk to the governor! This is a matter of life and death!") to the hysterical- and oddly fitting- use of a Shakespeare quote at the end ("Some are born great, some achieve greatness, some have greatness thrust upon 'em"). The Miracle of Morgan's Creek is a miracle indeed.

The Filmmaker

After gaining success and recognition as a talented screenwriter (for such major directors as William Wyler, Raoul Walsh, and Howard Hawks on the wonderful film from 1934 Twentieth Century), Preston Sturges felt he needed to become a director himself since he felt his scripts were not being properly adapted. As such Sturges became Hollywood's first writer/director of the sound era. With this freedom, Sturges revolutionized the American comedy of the era, making films far ahead of their time. Today his films remain fresh as ever for their energetic comedic pacing, and witty dialogue. It is when you look closer that you discover a truly rare master of satire and irony who resisted the limitations and conventions of the time and gave the American comedy a daring new spin with scathing attacks on American values, morals, and ideals. A master of satire and cynicism, yet Sturges films are far from gloomy in tone, but rather endlessly humorous and entertaining films that stand as timeless masterpieces of comedy. One of the key aspects of the Sturges satirical comedy is the questioning of "The American Dream". In his films the optimists who work hard and are honest often get lost within the "real world" of American society. Sturges doesn't present an American society in which individuality doesn't exist, but rather one in which the thought of individuality doesn't exist. Everyone is concerned with "getting ahead" and of course they are absorbed with representing perceived images of themselves… one that is more inspiring and is not their own but is simply imaginary or exaggerated. For beliefs such as this Sturges certainly could not be considered anti-American by any means as he strives for a society of individual thought and freedom, and this is expressed through his cinematic satire (which was captured through a variety of different films). Sturges first film came in 1940 (The Great McGinty) and it was a financial and critical success winning Sturges a Best Screenplay Academy Award. The success gave Sturges a contract with Paramount Studios where he made seven more monumental classics over the course of four years. It is here that marked him as "The Prince of Paramount" and one of the greatest and most influential filmmakers of American comedies. During this stretch Sturges was at the peak of his mastery. In 1941 he made his most personal (Sullivan's Travels- a compassionate and intelligent satire of the Hollywood film industry that equally examines an American society during the Depression), and perhaps funniest (The Lady Eve- a hilarious romantic comedy that uses Hollywood restrictions and formulas as his source of being the creative auteur he is underneath them). Then came what I believe to be his greatest and most definitive achievement with 1944's Miracle of Morgan's Creek- which displays the essence of his richly scathing yet intelligently subtle skills as a filmmaker. After some disagreements with the 1944 film The Great Moment, Sturges ended his run at Paramount. After he left Paramount, Sturges only made four more films over the next eleven years. Many of them were box office failures and disappointments, but his 1948 film Unfaithfully Yours stands as a greatly under appreciated achievement and probably his last great film. One of the critical factors in comedy is timing and Sturges was pitch-perfect with comedic timing. Also, his films would contain equally simple and crazy moments of comedy and it is the small hidden little comedic details (as well as some personal and inside jokes) that make his films even more enjoyable on repeat viewings. Sturges films remain as remarkable today as they were during the 1940s, and watching them today you have to sit and wonder how he got away with the stuff he did. His creative comedic vision was clearly influence towards the career of Billy Wilder and certainly still lives today in American filmmakers like David O Russell and the Coen Brothers (who directly homage Sturges' Sullivan's Travels with the title of their 2000 film O' Brother Where Art Thou).

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