My brain's getting a little bit fried from thinking about the hurricane. I'm doing my best to keep tabs on damaged theaters and to learn everything I can about relief efforts—this, I've found, is much easier than actually helping—but sometimes, a boy needs a break. Yesterday, I let myself think a little about Preston Sturges. It was a welcome relief.
From 1940 to 1944, Preston Sturges made eight films, and at least six were great. I didn’t love Christmas In July , and I haven’t seen The Great Moment, a peculiar-sounding dramedy about the invention of anesthesia. But The Lady Eve, Sullivan’s Travels and The Palm Beach Story find a perfect balance between madcap and sentiment, and are among the finest comedies of all time. For what it’s worth, he also wrote and directed a propaganda short, the snappily titled “Safeguarding Military Information,” which you can watch for free online if you are deeply, deeply bored.
Born in Chicago, Sturges was raised on both sides of the Atlantic by a flighty society mother whose best friend was Isadora Duncan—the dancer fondly remembered for having her head pulled off by her own scarf. At sixteen, he began working in the arts, managing his stepfather’s theater into near-oblivion while the older man was busying himself with World War I. After a stint in the air force, Sturges bounced around Broadway, finally writing his first two plays in the late twenties. They flopped hard, but his third effort, the speakeasy comedy Strictly Dishonorable did not. He claimed to have written the play in six days—tying God’s record—and it ran for more than two years.
Ahhh. That's better. Keep reading, or turn off New York 1, put on a movie and let your brain shut up for a while.