The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek (1944) is the movie that prompted critic James Agee to remark that the Hays Office had been “raped in its sleep” when the film was first released. In truth, it was more like they’d been smooth talked into a consensual quickie without realizing what had happened—only to then understand that writer-director Preston Sturges had completely played by their rules. The result was this frenetic comedy about a soldier-mad girl, Trudy Kockenlocker (Betty Hutton), who—fueled on “Victory Lemonade”—maybe married a soldier named Ignatz Ratzkywatzky, but is in any case pregnant, and in need of a convenient husband. Just ripe for that position is nebbishy 4-F Norval Jones (Eddie Bracken), who’s long been in love with Trudy anyway. Of course, this being a Preston Sturges picture, the course of true convenience never runs smooth. As Sturges films go, this may well be the most subversive thing he ever made, and there’s no denying that it’s very funny, but it depends a little too much on the viewer’s tolerance for Eddie Bracken and Betty Hutton trying to out-mug and out-frenzy each other to be everyone’s cup of tea—more so now than in 1944. The presence of Sturges’ stock company of character actors compensates. Two historical asides: The characters of McGinty (Brian Donlevy) and the Boss (Akim Tamiroff) are from Sturges’ 1940 film The Great McGinty, and this is one of the few golden age Paramount films that wasn’t sold to MCA (Universal) in 1958, simply because they’d just remade it as the Jerry Lewis vehicle Rock-a-Bye Baby.
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