Spotlight on The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek
When it comes to directors I have a long list of favorites but there’s one who rises above the rest – Preston Sturges. Though not as prolific as most he’s responsible for some of the greatest comedies that have ever graced the silver screen. Sullivan’s Travels, The Lady Eve and The Palm Beach Story, all Surges productions, frequently make the list of top comedy films. I love them all but my favorite film of his is 1944’s Miracle of Morgan’s Creek which is why I chose it for The Favorite Director Blogathon hosted by Phyllis Loves Classic Movies and The Midnite Drive-In.
Beginning his career as a screenwriter Sturges stepped behind the camera in 1940 directing his own screenplay, The Great McGinty. The subsequent success of the film (Sturges won an Oscar for the screenplay) led to the next phase of his career as a writer/director. Christmas in July, The Lady Eve, Sullivan’s Travels and The Palm Beach Story followed in quick succession and 1942 brought Sturges his lastest project – The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek. A zany story about a missing GI and an unplanned pregnancy drove the censors crazy and several adjustments had to be made to the script. It’s no surprise then that the film was shelved for 2 years until it’s release in 1944 though the official cause of the delay was a glut in production and Paramount needing to wait for a break in the schedule to release it.
Though there was a delay in release the film was a success both critically and financially. Sturges earned another Oscar nomination for best screenplay and it was Paramount’s top grossing film of the year. Since then it’s consistently listed as a top American comedy and is one of my personal favorites.
The film stars Betty Hutton and Eddie Bracken as lifelong friends, Trudy Kockenlocker, and Norval Jones. Norval has long had feelings for Trudy but she only has eyes for GI’s. Unfortunately, Norval has been declared 4F due to a nervous condition and can’t serve. After a particularly raucous night Trudy discovers she secretly married a soldier who’s disappeared without a trace and she can’t even remember his name. To make matters worse she soon discovers she’s pregnant. Raised by a widowed father who happens to be an overprotective cop she doesn’t know what to do. Enter Norval, who she enlists to help her get through her unfortunate predicament. But will he save the day or will his nervous condition ruin everything?
With a plot that zany how could The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek be anything but hilarious? And the performances by the cast are out of this world. Betty Hutton and Eddie Bracken are perfect as a young couple suddenly confronted with the hardships of adult life. Hutton, who I often find grating, tones down her madcap persona and injects true heart into her turn as Trudy. Bracken is equally sweet and hilarious and proves himself as a leading man. The supporting cast, made up of much of Sturges stables of actors, is also stellar, especially William Demarest as Mr. Kockenlocker. Known for playing tough characters he’s at his bulldog best but is also responsible for much of the film’s heart. He perfectly portrays an overprotective single father responsible for two teenage daughters. Trudy’s little sister, Emmy, is also perfectly portrayed by Dianna Lynn and is the sensible center keeping the rest of the charters from getting in over their heads.
For me, The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek is pure perfection. Absolutely hilarious and wonderfully heartwarming it’s one of my absolute favorite films. It could have come from none other than the great Preston Sturges and ranks among his best works.