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Preston Sturges DIRECTOR


Preston Sturges was born Edmund Preston Biden on August 29, 1898 in Chicago, Illinois. When he was young, his mother Mary Desti moved away, and he spent his early childhood traveling back and forth between America and Europe. With his mother he led the high life – going to museums, attending concerts, and journeying throughout the continent wherever his mom’s friend, dancer Isadora Duncan, would take them. His first school was in Chicago, and he would dress in a Greek tunic to show his mother’s Duncan-style dedication to the arts. Later, he attended various boarding schools throughout Europe, while his mother married a few different men and opened up her own salon called the Maison Desti. Sturges worked at her cosmetic shop during his teens, but with the eruption of World War I he returned to America to serve in the Air Corps. Following his discharge, he went back into the cosmetic industry and invented a kiss-proof lipstick.

Around the same time, he fell in love, sailed to Paris to meet his mother’s newest husband, then returned to America to marry the woman he left behind. Unfortunately, the marriage only lasted a few years, and Sturges was left heartbroken. He had a fling with an actress and became intrigued with play writing, only to discover she was only with him for his creative abilities. Nevertheless, their relationship opened his eyes to a grand world of writing. Sturges continued on with a couple of outstanding shows. His second, “Strictly Dishonorable”, did so well that by the end of the year Paramount had contracted him to come work in Hollywood.

His first job was to adapt the stage presentation of “The Big Pond” (1931). A year later Universal had him make another film adaptation called “The Invisible Man” (1932). The director disapproved of his work on the sci-fi flick, so Sturges decided to begin making his own screenplays. He sold his first piece, “The Power and the Glory” (1933), to Fox, where they made it a film and placed star Spencer Tracey as the lead. The story of a man who discovers he wishes to connect with family, but only after it is too late, fared well and became a source of inspiration for the screenwriters of “Citizen Kane” (1941). For the remainder of the thirties, Sturges worked on a number more scripts for the big Hollywood studios.

Although highly paid, he was not happy with the way the director’s would handle his dialogue. Thus, after completing many works like “The Good Fairy” (1935), “Easy Living” (1937), and “Never Say Die” (1940), the writer finally resolved to take complete creative control over his pictures. Starting with “The Great McGinty” (1940), Sturges began directing. He did this by selling the screenplay of the film to Paramount for only a dollar, in exchange for him to get the chance to direct it. With this, he became one of the film industry’s first writer/directors, paving the way for many after. “The Great McGinty” also helped bring the political satire out of its Hollywood closet, exposing filmgoers everywhere to his brilliant humor. As well, it earned Sturges an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. The director consistently delivered following his debut, putting out such hits as the funny and sweet “Christmas in July” (1940), the sexy romantic comedy “The Lady Eve” (1941), his personal “Sullivan’s Travels” (1941), and the business satire “The Palm Beach Story” (1943). Shortly after, he helmed two more Academy Award nominations for Best Writing for his comedies “The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek” (1944) and “Hail the Conquering Hero” (1944).

After the latter two, Sturges left Paramount to find some more independence. He then partnered with Howard Hughes to form the California Pictures Corporation. However, this turn of events signaled the decline of the director’s career. Their first picture, “The Sin of Harold Diddlebock” (1947), was to serve as a comeback for silent star Harold Lloyd, but it went way over budget and time, and failed miserably once released. In the meantime, he was working as the director and writer for another film, “Vendetta” (1950), but got fired. The final product did not come out until later, way after he left the studio. Sturges left California Pictures and moved to 20th Century Fox after the miserable fail of “The Sin of Harold Diddlebock”, where he put out the successful, refined dark comedy “Unfaithfully Yours” (1948), about an orchestra conductor who suspects his wife of having an affair, and experiences fantasies of revenge. His next work, the western spoof “The Beautiful Blonde from Bashful Bend” (1949), was a box office failure and mere shadow of the great writer’s prior works.

After the latter, Sturges’ career was all but ended. He moved back to Europe, where he only directed one more movie, “The French, They Are a Funny Race” (1955), a comedic love story between a serious English man and a frivolous French woman. A year later he collaborated with a couple other writers on “The Birds and the Bees” (1956), and two years later he had his last involvement in the motion pictures as an actor in “Paris Holiday” (1958). In the same year, his film “The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek” (1958) was redone and titled “Rock-a-Bye-Baby” (1958), and in 1984 his “Unfaithfully Yours” was also recreated.

Sturges was back in America when he passed, planning to meet with a publisher about his memoirs. On August 6, 1959, while in his New York City Algonquin Hotel room, the prestigious filmmaker suffered a fatal heart attack. However, his legacy still lingers in the hearts of his viewers. With his outstanding writing and splendid style, he managed to entice audiences in a number of fantastic features. Even more impressive, he achieved this standing with films made in a single decade. For his incredible work, the Writers Guild of America honored him with a Laurel Award for Screenwriting Achievement and Hollywood gave him a star on their famous Hollywood Walk of Fame.


1984       Unfaithfully Yours 

1958       Rock-a-Bye Baby 

1958       Paris Holiday

1956       The Birds and the Bees 

1955       The French, They Are a Funny Race

1954       Lux Video Theatre

1951       Strictly Dishonorable

1950       Vendetta

1949       The Beautiful Blonde from Bashful Bend 

1948       Unfaithfully Yours 

1947       The Sin of Harold Diddlebock 

1947       I'll Be Yours  

1944       The Great Moment

1944       Hail the Conquering Hero

1944       The Miracle of Morgan's Creek 

1942       The Palm Beach Story 

1942       Safeguarding Military Information

1942       I Married a Witch

1941       Sullivan's Travels 

1941       New York Town

1941       The Lady Eve 

1940       Christmas in July 

1940       The Great McGinty

1940       Broadway Melody of 1940

1940       Remember the Night

1939       Never Say Die 

1938       If I Were King

1938       Port of Seven Seas 

1938       College Swing 

1937       Easy Living 

1937       Hotel Haywire 

1936       Love Before Breakfast 

1936       Next Time We Love 

1935       Diamond Jim 

1935       The Good Fairy 

1934       Imitation of Life 

1934       We Live Again 

1934       Thirty Day Princess

1934       Twentieth Century 

1933       The Invisible Man 

1933       The Power and the Glory 

1933       Child of Manhattan 

1932       They Just Had to Get Married 

1931       Strictly Dishonorable 

1930       Fast and Loose 

1930       La grande mare 

1930       The Big Pond  

Matinee Classics - Sullivan's Travels starring Joel McCrea, Veronica Lake, Robert Warwick, William Demarest, Franklin Pangborn, Porter Hall, Byron Foulger, Margaret Hayes, Robert Greig, Eric Blore, Torben, Victor Potel, Richard Webb, Charles Moore and Almira Sessions

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