His comedy dialogue dazzled the ears. When he won the freedom to direct his own screenplays, you were dazzled at how he could combine and balance slapstick comedy, sophisticated comedy, social satire and sentimentality -- with a little sex. Nominated for the Best Screenplay of 1944 Academy Award, THE MIRACLE OF MORGAN'S CREEK was written and directed by Preston Sturges. It's a classic I dig seeing every Christmas season. It's fast. It's funny. It's a social satire and a story of redemption. It takes elements of the Christmas legend and relocates them to Smalltown, USA.
At the dance, she has some champagne before she hits the dance floor with a G.I. to "cut a rug" to some swing music. She gets swung into the air and konks her noggin on a rather phallic-shaped ballroom ceiling decoration. A bit of the bubbly followed by a bump on the head lead to amnesia. After the soldiers have all gone off to fight in WWII, she discovers that she's pregnant. She can't remember who the G.I. dad might be. An unwed young mother may be celebrated in the Nativity Story but not in a Christian, All-American small town. Back then, that was the ultimate shame. The solution? Norval as a modern-day Joseph to Trudy's Mary.
To me, that's the basic genius of this comedy. Hitler, like a new Caesar, and his troops had to be stopped. Our G.I.'s were fighting a good fight to rid the world of his evil. Trudy gets pregnant by a force of good we don't see. When Christmastime comes, the Kockenlockers have been forced to leave town due to her scandalous situation. It's the holidays, but Trudy has lost all hope of things working out. Officer Kockenlocker, known for his firecracker temper, tenderly tells his pregnant daughter, "You got to have more confidence in the Almighty. Or whatever it is that makes the wheels go 'round..." He adds, "You might be waiting for the President of the United States. You got to have more confidence." Even though he's not the papa, Norval wants to take on the papa role to help the woman he loves. By doing so, he has greatness thrust upon him due to a very historic birth that local politicians can use to the town's financial benefit. Trudy learns to love Norval and to think of someone else besides herself.
One more thing that always tickles the heck out of me in the classic Sturges-directed Paramount comedies from the 1940s -- the brisk pace and how he could give a bit player fabulous and memorable dialogue that not only crystallized the character but made it as memorable as the leads. Trudy Kockenlocker's boss at the music store sounds like he's ready to star in a revival of "Fiddler on the Roof." But his name is Mr. Rafferty. He brings the poor Kockenlockers a bird to bake for holiday dinner. I always wait to hear Mr. Rafferty say "I brrrought you a toi-key!" I love that line. I love that character. I love The Miracle of Morgan's Creek -- and hope you do too.