Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Preston Sturges: Hail the Conquering Hero, The Palm Beach Story

This week I'm returning the Quick Picks closer to their original inspiration: less talk, more titles and links.

Preston Sturges was one of the first great writer-directors of comedies in the 1940s.  Besides the classics listed here, he also wrote and directed Christmas in July (1940), Sullivan's Travels (1941), and The Miracle at Morgan's Creek (1944).  Last year Vanity Fair published a good survey of Sturges's career by Douglas McGrath.  If you're just now introducing yourself to Sturges's films, you're in for a treat.

The Lady Eve (Preston Sturges, USA, 1941, 94 minutes)
Netflix: Seductive gold-digger Barbara Stanwyck and her conniving father (Charles Coburn) set out to fleece wealthy but naïve ophiologist Henry Fonda, the socially inept heir to a brewery fortune. But the tables turn when Stanwyck falls for her prey and Fonda gets wise to their scheme. Stanwyck then goes all-out to recapture Fonda's heart in this raucous battle of the sexes from renowned writer-director Preston Sturges. Netflix link.

The Palm Beach Story (Preston Sturges, USA, 1942, 87 minutes)
Netflix: Preston Sturges helmed this screwball comedy about Gerry Jeffers (Claudette Colbert), a woman who'll do anything to help her struggling architect spouse, Tom (Joel McCrea), succeed. When she realizes Tom will never strike it rich, Gerry decides to divorce him, wed a wealthy man and finance Tom's projects -- so she heads to Palm Beach, Fla., where she tries to land eccentric billionaire John D. Hackensacker III (Rudy Vallee). Mary Astor costars. Netflix link.

Hail the Conquering Hero (Preston Sturges, USA, 1944, 101 minutes)
Netflix: Discharged from the Marines for a hay fever condition, Woodrow Lafayette Pershing Truesmith (Eddie Bracken) is too embarrassed to return home. Encouraged by some fellow soldiers to fabricate a story of being wounded in battle, Truesmith soon finds himself in over his head as he's treated to a hero's welcome. Written and directed by the great Preston Sturges, this comic satire also stars Ella Raines, Raymond Walburn and William Demarest. Netflix link.

Unfaithfully Yours (Preston Sturges, USA, 1948, 105 minutes)
Netflix: In this pitch-black comedy from legendary writer-director Preston Sturges, Rex Harrison stars as Sir Alfred De Carter, a world-famous symphony conductor consumed with the suspicion that his wife's having an affair. During a concert, the jealous De Carter entertains elaborate visions of vengeance, set to three separate orchestral works. But when he attempts to put his murderous fantasies into action, nothing works out quite as planned. Netflix link.

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