Preston Sturges

A smart ass writer’s heaven tonight on TCM–The Lady Eve (Barbara Stanwyk is vamping Henry Fonda as we speak), Sullivan’s Travels, The Palm Beach Story, Hail the Conquering Hero and an earlier gem, the Great McGinty. All that’s missing are that other early gem, Christmas In July, and his penultimate classic (that’s the fourth time I’ve written penultimate this week, and this is the next to the last time) Miracle on Morgan’s Creek. Preston Sturges wrote and directed these two near perfect and five flat out classic screwball comedies beginning in December 1939 and ending in September 1943. Seven flicks in less than four years, and not one of them less than great, and most of them as near to perfect as any comedy on film has ever been. Then it dried up just like that and he released a string of OK comedies that only worked in places (such as 1947’s The Sins of Harold Diddlebock, with Harold Lloyd, the final flick in this Sturges marathon), as if he were the less talented younger brother of Preston Sturges, say, or the son who could never compare to his old man. But it was him, sadly, mysteriously, and he faded away, not forgotten, but certainly wondered about. He died in 1959. You can’t blame the studios, as with Buster Keaton, and you can’t blame psychotherapy, as with Woody Allen. Sometimes you are incredibly funny and suddenly you’re not so funny anymore. Creativity is a strange thing, you never know when it will dry up and wither away. But I forget all about that and lose myself in these flawless scripts and perfect direction and jokes for days. They call me the Weenie King, the old man says.

(September 1, 2016)

Preston Sturges


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