If you hear it’s a Preston Sturges film you know what to expect:
Sharp comedy set at lightning pace, plenty of interesting dialogue, classic two-shots emphasizing all the good talk, ample visual slapstick, sharp comedy often delivered by major Hollywood stars and the director’s favored gang of superb character actors.
In short a Sturges film is at minimum worth a close appreciation; at best it’s a certified classic.
But before he got to director Sturges was responsible for some pretty interesting screenplays. Let’s look briefly at just two of those.
1937’s Easy Living
This film is perhaps a personification of Sturges at his strongest — as a writer (and later director) of “screwball comedy .” Jean Arthur costars as a worker drone who finds an expensive fur coat descending on her as she rides the bus to work. Edward Arnold in fulsome presence is on hand as a verry important banker. (Ray Milland is his errant son). The plot takes off from there.
And let’s not overlook 1940’s Remember the Night.
This one is an entertaining love match involving a veteran shoplifter caught in the act just before Christmas (Barbara Stanwyck) and a sympathetic prosecuting attorney (Fred MacMurray). Remember the Night is being heralded as a superb Christmas movie, almost in the same league as It’s A Wonderful Life. See the film, and you decide.
We’ll have lots more to say about Sturges in our tribute to his work this week. In the meantime, let’s get to our Quiz. As usual, questions today and answers tomorrow.
1) Question: This Forties Sturges film propelled him into Hollywood’s higher echelons as a writer-director of the first rank. Which one of the following did the trick? a) Christmas in July; b) The Lady Eve; c) The Great McGinty; or d) Never Say Die.
2) Question: As a director/writer Sturges has been compared (mostly favorably) with Orson Welles. a) True; b) False.
3) Question: Another one of Surges pictures, dealing with sexual content, miraculously evaded Hays office censorship, and became the director’s biggest box office hit. Can you name this film?
4) Question: As mentioned, Sturges cultivated a faithful “stock company” of character actors who appeared in many of his pictures. Which one of the following was NOT among this group? a) Franklin Pangborn; b) William Demarest; c) Eric Blore; or d) Clifton Webb.
5) Question: In the mid Forties, Sturgis left the Paramount Pictures stable to form an independent production company partnered with which one of the following? a) Harry Cohn; b) Charlie Chaplin; c) Howard Hughes; or d) Darryl F. Zanuck.