August 29, 2009
Filmmaker PRESTON STURGES (1898-1959) made a joyful mockery of the Hays Code with his improbably wholesome card sharks, unwed mothers, imposters and flimflammers, his ballot box stuffers, shoplifters, party girls and bigamists. “I can’t keep on marrying people,” says Betty Hutton’s character in The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek, “no matter how sweet they are.” For his greatest characters are also decent and ordinary — that is, if you accept the premise, as he did, that ordinary people are loquacious, quick-witted, and generous. Sturges ennobled the lowest common denominator without ever stooping to sentimentality. The real sentimentalists, as he showed us Sullivan’s Travels, are the lugubrious do-gooders grasping for realism; his comedies were sustenance.
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