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The Miracle of Morgan's Creek (April 22, 2010)

The comedies written and directed by Preston Sturges between 1940 and 1948 are some of the great glories of the Hollywood studio system. Sturges first wrote a story about an unwed mother in the late 30s. He developed it into the screenplay of this movie, which was filmed at Paramount from October, 1942 through February, 1943, and which was released in January, 1944. Sturges’ biographer, Diane Jacobs, notes that the previous Sturges comedies were all set against city backgrounds, while this one is set in a small town, but a dazzlingly diverse one.

From the first release of the script to the Hays Office, the organization in charge of adherence to the studios' jointly adopted Production Code, which strictly regulated what could be shown in a Hollywood picture, Sturges’ script was closer to the edge than anything had been in a long time. “Much of the material in the present script,” said the office, “appears to us to be unacceptable, not only from the standpoint of the Production Code, but likewise from the viewpoint of political censorship.” So what seemed to happen then is that gasoline and rubber use depicted in the picture were made to adhere to the rationing regime then in place, while matters relating to the comic predicament of a girl who can’t remember who the father of her children was were left unaltered. Jacobs thinks that the Hays Office both abhorred the film and found it funny, timely and true. The critic James Agee wrote “the Hays office must have been raped in its sleep” to allow the film to be released.

Bosley Crowther expressed his opinion in the New York Times, “For a more audacious picture—a more delightfully irreverent one—than this new lot of nonsense at the Paramount has never come slithering madly down the path. Mr. Sturges. . .has hauled off this time and tossed a satire which is more cheeky than all the rest. . .it’s hard to imagine how he ever. . persuaded the Hays boys that he wasn’t trying to undermine all morals.” The Production Code office got many letters of protest. Paramount got its highest-grossing film of 1944, which played to standing-room-only audiences in some theatres. I hope you enjoy Preston Sturges’ The Miracle of Morgan Creek tonight.