Friday, December 9, 2011

Preston Sturges: Part 1

When we were making our director's lists, I wrote that I hadn't seen any of Preston Sturges' films, and that also he came highly recommended to me. The recommendation was spot-on. I love Sturges so far.

That was an interesting article that Jeff posted, as it acknowledges the whole "writer/director vs. director" debate. I had planned on mentioning that topic even before Jeff posted. Maybe it's because I enjoy writing and have attempted to write screenplays that I admire those who write and direct more (though mostly it depends on who we're talking about). I like the fact that the writer/director is completely involved in the process and his/her vision is largely held intact from pre-production to production.

Then again, because I have tried to write for the screen, I know that scripts aren't supposed to contain any sort of direction at all, unless it's crucial to the plot. And, of course, a great director puts his/or her stamp on a movie; you certainly know a Hitchcock film when you see one.

Preston Sturges has really impressed me so far. He adroitly pulls off both comedy and the more tender moments. His ideas/scripts also are original and highly entertaining. Reading the descriptions of each film was enough to get me excited about them. Here is what I've watched of his over the past two weeks...

Sullivan's Travels

I watched this shortly after watching Hitchcock's Foreign Correspondent, so I got a double-dose of Joel McCrea, whom I really hadn't been acquainted with. He's perfect here in the role as John Lloyd Sullivan. Mainly I was able to respond to the revelation that Sullivan has at the end of the picture. It's a great moment when he tells the producers that he's going to make a comedy, claiming that laughter is all some people have. The scene in the church is very powerful when all of the inmates are laughing hysterically while watching the Disney cartoon. That scene also made me think of how laughter is universal, and I also thought back to John's Film Society event when The Pawn Shop and Way Out West were playing and everyone, from John's daughters to the oldest person in the room, was consumed with laughter. Also, I want to mention the chase sequence with the bus toward the beginning of the film; it's really all you get in terms of physical comedy, but it was damn enjoyable.

Unfaithfully Yours

This is probably my favorite Sturges film so far. I'm a huge fan of dark comedies, and I found this one to be very enjoyable. I love the script, especially since Rex Harrison's visions for revenge are set to/influenced by the music he's conducting. And his first vision for revenge was actually pretty clever; both the plan and Sturges' directing go off without a hitch. There's also some great physical comedy toward the end when Rex is locating his recorder. I think my favorite part of the film is the courtroom scene where Tony is charged with Daphne's murder and Rex Harrison lets out an evil, boisterous laugh. It was darkly hilarious and just a great moment. Here's hoping that the remake with Dudley Moore is just as good. Wait...what??

The Great McGinty 

I watched this the other night. I can understand why John felt underwhelmed; I enjoyed it, but not as much as the other two. Next time I pour you a drink, John, remind me to tell you my life story. The frame story is a bit played out, but I never hated that aspect of it. Anyway, I was a bit compelled by Donlevy. He has the face of a crook, but he's also able to seem endearing. Muriel Angelus was even more impressive, though. And I know John doesn't care too much about performances, and so it's true that they aren't incredible enough to improve the film too much. I did enjoy the story, and was interested in the McGinty/Catherine relationship. The movie is apt in terms of our current political climate. I wouldn't compare Obama to McGinty, but Barack seems like a guy who is very much caught up in a horrible system. I still really admire his character. Also, I've been getting a full dose of corruption in politics lately, from watching Boardwalk Empire to watching my close friend Rod Blagojevich sentenced to fourteen years in federal prison. Come on, who's with me? Free Rod! Free Rod!

Are we going to try and watch Christmas In July together (minus Jason and Lisa...I'm sorry) at some point? I thought that was brought up. I plan on catching that, The Palm Beach Story, The Lady Eve, Hail the Conquering Hero, and possibly one or two others before the month is out.

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