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Friday, July 26, 2013

'The Miracle of Morgan's Creek:' Divine Preston Sturgess Comic Masterpiece

The Miracle of Morgan
Warner Archive's DVD release of the 1944 Preston Sturges comedy "The Miracle of Morgan's Creek" is a great opportunity to introduce modern audiences to the genuine genius of this man behind personal favorites, which have the same awesome social commentary as "Creek." "Sullivan's Travels," "Christmas in July," and "Hail the Conquering Hero," along with "Creek," show that Preston is king.

In his own way, Sturges is just as good as his contemporaries Orson Welles and Alfred Hitchcock; he also provided Woody Allen an excellent model. 

The DVD extras that "Creek" provides in the form of a surprisingly informative and entertaining 14-minute look at Sturges' career and a 7-minute review of Sturges' gleeful manipulation of the Hayes Code censors regarding "Creek" are just as "must see" as the film itself.

Sturges gets the frantic action in "Creek" started literally as the famous Paramount logo fades; the audience sees a mad dash to the newspaper office in the small town of Morgan's Creek and an excited call to Governor McGinty, who is also featured in the 1940 Sturges film "The Great McGinty." McGinty's uncertainty regarding whether Morgan's Creek is in his state is particularly funny.

The action then shifts to the commencement of the events that cause the hubbub. Town police constable Edmund Kockenlocker, played by Sturges regular William "Uncle Charley" Demarest, forbids late teens daughter Trudy, played by Betty Hutton, from attending a dance for soldiers who are on their way to fight in World War II.

Trudy agrees to forgo the dance and see a movie with nerdy but sweet longtime friend/not-so-secret admirer Norval Jones, played by "Conquering Hero's" Eddie Bracken. However, Trudy's thoughts while walking to the theater that the soldiers deserve a loving sendoff prompt ditching Norval and defying her father by attending the dance.

In true Struges fashion, hilarity ensues and sacred cows provide the basis for a thoroughly awesome barbecue.

The fun starts when the evening's festivities result in Trudy, who insists that she only drank sugar-free "victory lemonade," blacking out and soon discovering both that she is married to a soldier regarding whom she has absolutely no memory and that said doughboy has put a bun in her oven.

The threats of  her father's extreme wrath and of a small-town scandal prompt Trudy to recruit Norval to participate in a fraudulent proxy wedding.

One of the most hilarious scenes in "Miracle" involves an attorney telling Norval that the attorney is glad to sue anyone anytime for any reason but simply needs to know who to sue. An even  more memorable scene has Edmund stating the concept that is radical for the '40s that God may not be the universe's guiding force.

Sturges also skewers the formula, which the 1946 film "It's A Wonderful Life" executes especially well, of a Christmas miracle at the end of the film. Trudy giving birth during the Christmas season is predictable, but Sturges' twist on that blessed event is not.

A spoiler is that papa does not preach at the in-trouble deep Trudy, who keeps her baby.

Hutton and Bracken are well-cast and play their roles well, but straight-man Demarest steals the show. His blustering frustration regarding dealing with a town full of fools of all ages and wonderful personal schtick that he learned during his vaudeville days is wonderful entertainment.

Demarest's best bit by far involves lining up a kick to the seat of someone's pants only to end up flat on his back. Seeing '60s sitcom "My Three Sons'" Uncle Charley being over-the-top feisty and physical is a genuine treat.

Fans of top-grade comedy and awesome social commentary should take advantage of the "miracle" regarding "Creek" coming out on DVD and get a copy.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Creek" or Sturges is welcome to email me.