Preston Sturges
Film director, screenwriter
Preston Sturges
Preston Sturges, originally Edmund Preston Biden, was an American playwright, screenwriter and film director born in Chicago, Illinois. In 1941 he won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for the film The Great McGinty, his first of three nominations in the category.
Biography
Preston Sturges's personal information overview.
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Is Days of Heaven the most beautiful film ever made? - The Guardian
Google News - over 5 years
It would have to include Nicholas Ray's They Live By Night, Charles Laughton's The Night of the Hunter, Preston Sturges's The Great McGinty, Abraham Polonsky's Force of Evil, not to mention Citizen Kane. But even in the risk-taking era of the early
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'The Guard': Kenneth Turan's film pick of the week - Los Angeles Times
Google News - over 5 years
When the director says he envisioned something “in the classic tradition of John Ford and Preston Sturges,” he is not kidding. McDonagh has taken a “Beverly Hills Cop” framing device, with Gleeson's unconventional Irish cop giving conniptions to a cool
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The Guard: Bloody, funny, drug-busting buddies - Globe and Mail
Google News - over 5 years
The language is partly Irish, augmented with the screwball comedy tradition from Preston Sturges to Quentin Tarantino. Plot is strictly secondary to talk here. The movie introduces its trio of drug-dealing villains early on – Liam Cunningham as the
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Film Review: Tales from the Golden Age - Film Journal
Google News - over 5 years
The full absurdity of apparatchik image control is presented in its full horror here in a funny way that recalls early Preston Sturges. The Legend of the Zealous Activist is about a fanatically dedicated government employee (Calin Chirila) sent to
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Shelia S. Lanahan - The Star Democrat
Google News - over 5 years
Born in Hollywood, Calif., in 1929 to Virginia Whittemore and Edward Hersey, Shelia was a child actress, playing many parts from radio commercials and WPA theatre productions to roles in three of director Preston Sturges' films, including the Academy
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Friends With Benefits movie review: surprisingly beneficial - Crikey (blog)
Google News - over 5 years
Director Will Gluck's Friends With Benefits, starring Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis as two hanky panky buddy protags, is a frothy old-skool-with-a-modern-twist rom-com that taps into a deep vein of Hollywood romance-making spanning Preston Sturges's
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Bedside Manner: Isn't It Ironic? The stories behind the stories we're reading ... - Austin Chronicle (blog)
Google News - over 5 years
The top two – Preston Sturges by Preston Sturges, Peter Bogdanovich's Who the Devil Made It – I bought used off the internet a month or so ago; so far I've just read bits and pieces. (Enough to know that – no surprise – Preston Sturges was just as
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Movie review: 'The Guard' - Los Angeles Times
Google News - over 5 years
When the director says he envisioned something "in the classic tradition of John Ford and Preston Sturges," he is not kidding. The most familiar thing about "The Guard" is its "Beverly Hills Cop" framing device, with Gleeson's unconventional Irish
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A Little Help - Boston Globe
Google News - over 5 years
Either Weithorn has never seen a Preston Sturges or Alexander Payne comedy or he didn't know how to make one of his own. The farce at the center of this movie just sits there like a car with the keys in the ignition
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Doubles in the movies - The Independent
Google News - over 5 years
The Nutty Professor borrows liberally from Preston Sturges' subversive late comedy, Mad Wednesday (aka The Sin Of Harold Diddlebock, 1947) in which a humble, repressed bookkeeper (Harold Lloyd) loses his job, discovers the joys of alcohol and is
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'Captain America': Nostalgic Fun, With Muscles - NPR
Google News - over 5 years
I caught a faint whiff of one of my favorite films, Preston Sturges' Hail the Conquering Hero, also about a weakling who dreams of fighting in the war — but who doesn't have a German scientist to pump him full of super-sizing chemicals
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The 10 Greatest Movie Comedies of All Time - PopMatters
Google News - over 5 years
There will be those who look at this list and smile smugly, feeling superior that their love of Preston Sturges and/or the Farrelly Brothers trumps this troubled overview. Others will rage furiously at a lack of Abbott and Costello, some missing
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Searching for the American Dream in "A Better Life" - PW-Philadelphia Weekly
Google News - over 5 years
That's the plot of Preston Sturges' 1941 satire Sullivan's Travels. Alas, it's also too often a reality. The need to say something Important, but not the need to say it well, has struck Rob Reiner (Ghosts of Mississippi), Jonathan Demme (Philadelphia)
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The Greatest Hollywood Director You May Never Have Heard Of - Huffington Post (blog)
Google News - over 5 years
Penned by the peerless Preston Sturges (Sullivan's Travels), Wyler's Good Fairy is the kind of brassy, urbane, romantic lark that Ernst Lubitsch was perfecting in the early '30s. Sporting an irresistible good-girl charm, Sullavan never shone brighter
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In Character: Three legendary character actors - Los Angeles Times
Google News - over 5 years
The ultimate comedic fussbudget appeared in such farces as WC Fields' "The Bank Dick," and "Never Give a Sucker an Even Break," as well as numerous Preston Sturges classics. Originally a vaudeville performer, Taylor appeared in 1938's Oscar-winning
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Timeline
Learn about memorable moments in the evolution of Preston Sturges
    LATE_ADULTHOOD
  • 1959
    Age 60
    In 1959, Sturges summed up his career:
    More Details Hide Details Between flops, it is true, I have come up with an occasional hit, but compared to a good boxer's record, for instance, my percentage has been lamentable. I fought a draw in my first fight, stupified everyone by winning the championship in my second, got a couple of wins with picture rights, then was knocked out three times in a row. Dragging my weary carcass to Hollywood, I was immediately knocked out again, won a big fight some six months later, then marked time for six years as an ordinary ham-and-beaner, picking up what I could. Suddenly I saw a chance and offered to fight for the world championship for a dollar. To everyone's astonishment, I won that championship and defended it successfully for a number of years, winning nine times by knockout, fighting three draws, losing twice and getting one no-decision in Europe. I have just come over to America for a fight, but it was called off at the last moment, one of the promoters having gone nuts and having to have been locked up. Why I'm not walking on my heels after all this, I don't know. Maybe I am walking on my heels. It would be surprising if I weren't.
  • FIFTIES
  • 1953
    Age 54
    A 1953 lien by the Internal Revenue Service, with whom he had been having tax problems, cost Sturges the Players and other assets.
    More Details Hide Details Sturges put a brave public face on the situation, writing, "I had so very much for so very long, it is quite natural for the pendulum to swing the other way for a while, and I really cannot and will not complain." However, his drinking became heavy, and his marriage and many of his relationships continued to deteriorate. Sturges began spending more time in Europe, as he had as a young man. His last directorial effort took place there when he wrote and directed Les Carnets du Major Thompson, an adaptation of a popular French novel. The film was released in France in 1955 and two years later in the U.S., under the title The French, They Are a Funny Race. It failed to register with critics or the audience. Sturges made four brief onscreen appearances during his career: in two of his own films - Christmas in July and Sullivan's Travels -, in the Paramount all-star extravaganza Star Spangled Rhythm, and, in the years of his decline, in the Bob Hope comedy Paris Holiday, which was filmed in France and would be the last film he worked on. Two decades earlier, Sturges had been a writer on one of Hope's earliest film successes, Never Say Die.
  • 1952
    Age 53
    Katharine Hepburn, who had starred in the 1952 Broadway production of the George Bernard Shaw play, The Millionairess got Sturges to agree to adapt the script and direct.
    More Details Hide Details But she could not get a single Hollywood studio to back the project.
  • 1951
    Age 52
    Over the next several years, Sturges continued to write, but many of the projects were underfunded or stillborn, and those that emerged did not approach the same success as his earlier triumphs. His 1951 Broadway musical, Make a Wish, underwent extensive rewriting by Abe Burrows and ran for only a few months.
    More Details Hide Details His next Broadway project, Carnival in Flanders, a musical which Sturges wrote and directed in 1953, closed after six performances. Sturges was having no better luck in Hollywood, where his clout was gone.
  • 1950
    Age 51
    Released in 1950 by RKO, which was by that time owned by Hughes, the retitled Mad Wednesday was no more successful than Sturges' original version.
    More Details Hide Details In the meantime, California Pictures had put another film into production, Vendetta. At Hughes' behest, Sturges had written the script as a vehicle for Hughes' protégé, Faith Domergue. Max Ophüls was hired to direct, but after only a few days of filming, Hughes demanded that Sturges fire Ophüls and take over the direction himself. Seven weeks later, Sturges himself was fired or quit (accounts differ). The promising partnership between the two iconoclasts was dissolved after just one completed picture. As Sturges later recalled, "When Mr. Hughes made suggestions with which I disagreed, as he had a perfect right to do, I rejected them. When I rejected the last one, he remembered he had an option to take control of the company and he took over. So I left." Coming on the heels of the failure of The Great Moment, these further flops, disappointments and setbacks served to tarnish the once stellar reputation of the golden boy of Hollywood.
  • FORTIES
  • 1944
    Age 45
    In early 1944, Sturges and Hughes formed a partnership called California Pictures.
    More Details Hide Details The deal represented a major pay cut for Sturges, but it established him as a writer-producer-director, the only one in Hollywood besides Charles Chaplin and one of only four in the world, along with England's Noël Coward and France's René Clair. The status led, again, to widespread admiration and envy among his Hollywood peers. However, this career peak also marked the beginning of Sturges' professional decline. While the startup California Pictures was being created and structured, it was three years until Sturges' next release. That film, a Harold Lloyd vehicle entitled The Sin of Harold Diddlebock (1947), for which Sturges had coaxed the silent film icon out of retirement, went over budget and far behind schedule, and was poorly received when it was released. Hughes, who had promised not to interfere in the film's production, stepped in and pulled the movie from distribution in order to re-edit it, taking almost four years to do so.
  • 1942
    Age 43
    The prolonged clashes between Sturges and Paramount came to a head as the end of his contract approached. He had filmed The Great Moment and The Miracle of Morgan's Creek in 1942 and Hail the Conquering Hero in 1943, but Paramount was suffering from a surfeit of films.
    More Details Hide Details Indeed, some of the studio's finished movies were sold off to United Artists, which needed films to distribute. The studio held onto Sturges' three films, since he was their star filmmaker at the time, but did not immediately release them. Internally, studio heads expressed serious reservations about them, as did the censors at the Breen Office. Sturges managed to get The Miracle of Morgan's Creek released with only minor changes, but The Great Moment and Hail the Conquering Hero were taken out of his control and tinkered with by DeSylva. When the revamped Hail the Conquering Hero had a disastrous preview, Paramount allowed Sturges – who by that time had left the studio – to come back and fix the film. Sturges did some rewriting, shot some new scenes, and re-edited the film back to his original vision, all without pay. He was unable to similarly rescue The Great Moment, however. The historical biography about the dentist who discovered the use of ether for anesthesia ended up being Sturges' only flop during this period. More significantly, it marked the onset of a downturn from which Sturges did not fully recover.
    In 1942, in his review of The Palm Beach Story, critic Manny Farber wrote:
    More Details Hide Details He is essentially a satirist without any stable point of view from which to aim his satire. He is apt to turn his back on what he has been sniping at to demolish what he has just been defending. He is contemptuous of everybody except the opportunist and the unscrupulous little woman who, at some point in every picture, labels the hero a poor sap. That the invariable fairy godfather of each picture is not only expressive of his own cold-blooded cynicism but of typical Hollywood fantasy is an example of how this works. Another phase of his attack is shrouding in slapstick the fact that the godfather pays off not for perseverance or honesty or ability but merely from capriciousness. Production on these films did not always go smoothly. The Miracle of Morgan's Creek was literally being written by Sturges at night even as the production was being filmed in the daytime, and Sturges the screenwriter was rarely more than 10 pages ahead of the cast and crew.
  • 1939
    Age 40
    Though he had a thirty-year Hollywood career, Sturges' greatest comedies were filmed in a furious five-year burst of activity from 1939 to 1943, during which he turned out The Great McGinty, Christmas in July, The Lady Eve, Sullivan's Travels, The Palm Beach Story, The Miracle of Morgan's Creek and Hail the Conquering Hero.
    More Details Hide Details Half a century later, four of these – The Lady Eve, Sullivan's Travels, The Palm Beach Story and The Miracle of Morgan's Creek – were chosen by the American Film Institute as being among the 100 funniest American films. Sturges' rich writing style has been described as that of "a lowbrow aristocrat, a melancholy wiseguy." His scripts were almost congenitally unable to deliver a single mood. In Hail the Conquering Hero, the series of lies, crimes, and embarrassments all somehow bolster the film's theme of patriotism and duty. Sometimes this attitude could be conveyed in a single line of dialogue, such as when Barbara Stanwyck describes the man of her dreams with a combination of love and malice: "I need him like the axe needs the turkey."
    He accomplished this goal in 1939 by trading his screenplay for The Great McGinty (written six years earlier) to Paramount in exchange for the chance to direct it.
    More Details Hide Details Paramount promoted the unusual deal as part of the film's publicity, claiming that Sturges had received just one dollar (in reality, he was paid $10 for legal reasons). Sturges' success quickly paved the way for similar deals for such writer-directors as Billy Wilder and John Huston. Sturges said, "It's taken me eight years to reach what I wanted. But now, if I don't run out of ideas – and I won't – we'll have some fun. There are some wonderful pictures to be made, and God willing, I will make some of them." Sturges won the very first Academy Award for Writing Original Screenplay for The Great McGinty. He also received two screenwriting Academy Award nominations in the same year, for 1944's Hail the Conquering Hero and The Miracle of Morgan's Creek. Critic Andrew Dickos wrote that "the touchstone of Preston Sturges' screenwriting lies in the respect paid to the play and density of verbal language" and "establishes the standard of eloquence as one of poetry, of a cacophony of Euro-American vernacularisms and utterances, peculiarly—and appropriately—spoken with scandalous indifference."
  • THIRTIES
  • 1930
    Age 31
    Three other Sturges stage plays were produced from 1930 to 1932, one of them a musical, but none of them were hits.
    More Details Hide Details By the end of the year, he was working more in Hollywood as a writer-for-hire, operating on short contracts, for Universal, MGM, and Columbia studios. He also sold his original screenplay for The Power and the Glory (1933) to Fox, where it was filmed as a vehicle for Spencer Tracy. The film told the story of a self-involved financier via a series of flashbacks and flashforwards, and was an acknowledged source of inspiration for the screenwriters of Citizen Kane. Fox producer Jesse Lasky paid Sturges $17,500 plus a percentage of the profits, a then-unprecedented deal for a screenwriter, which instantly elevated Sturges' reputation in Hollywood – although the lucrative deal irritated as many as it impressed. Sturges later recalled, "The film made a lot of enemies. Writers at that time worked in teams, like piano movers. And my first solo script was considered a distinct menace to the profession."
  • TWENTIES
  • 1928
    Age 29
    In 1928, Sturges performed on Broadway in Hotbed, a short-lived play by Paul Osborn, and Sturges' first produced play, The Guinea Pig, opened in Massachusetts.
    More Details Hide Details The play was a success and Sturges moved it to Broadway the following year, a turning point in his career. That same year also saw the opening of Sturges' second play, the hit Strictly Dishonorable. Written in just six days, the play ran for sixteen months and earned Sturges over $300,000, a staggering amount at the time. It attracted interest from Hollywood, and Sturges was writing for Paramount by the end of the year.
  • TEENAGE
  • 1916
    Age 17
    In 1916, he worked as a runner for New York stock brokers, a position he obtained through Solomon Sturges.
    More Details Hide Details The next year, he enlisted in the United States Army Air Service, and graduated as a lieutenant from Camp Dick in Texas without seeing action. While at camp, Sturges wrote an essay, "Three Hundred Words of Humor", which was printed in the camp newspaper, becoming his first published work. Returning from camp, Sturges picked up a managing position at the Desti Emporium in New York, a store owned by his mother's fourth husband. He spent eight years (1919–1927) there, until he married the first of his four wives, Estelle De Wolfe.
  • CHILDHOOD
  • 1902
    Age 3
    When Sturges was three years old, his eccentric mother left America to pursue a singing career in Paris, where she annulled her marriage with Preston's father. Returning to America, Dempsey met her third husband, the wealthy stockbroker Solomon Sturges, who adopted Preston in 1902.
    More Details Hide Details According to biographers, Solomon Sturges was "diametrically opposite to Mary and her bohemianism". This included her close friendship with Isadora Duncan, as the young Sturges would sometimes travel from country to country with Duncan's dance company. Mary also carried on a romantic affair with Aleister Crowley and collaborated with him on his magnum opus Magick. As a young man, Sturges bounced back and forth between Europe and the United States.
  • 1898
    Born
    Born on August 29, 1898.
    More Details Hide Details
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