Saturday, February 14, 2009

2/14/09: The Miracle of Morgan's Creek (1944)

Monochrome Week comes to a close with this wartime comedy, written and directed by Preston Sturges. It was touted as one of the 50 greatest comedies by Premiere Magazine, nominated for an Oscar, and such a monster hit when it was released that many showings were standing room only. But my main interest in seeing the film had nothing to do with all that—I happened to see lovely Diana Lynn in a scene while flipping on Turner Classic Movies a few weeks! Luckily, TCM aired it again last week, so I managed to TiVo it and indulge in some Lynn-sanity.

Betty Hutton stars as a small-town girl who attends a going-away party for local soldiers and wakes up the next day to find herself married and pregnant. Problem is, she has no idea who the daddy is. Will she marry her drip of a boyfriend (Eddie Bracken) and risk committing bigamy, or bring shame to her loving sister (Diana Lynn) and bellowing father (William Demarest, who played Uncle Charley on TV's My Three Sons)? Some of the themes were fairly racy for 1944, but it's all done as kind of a slapsticky screwball comedy—there's no pratfall too ludicrous and no comic invention too overblown. The result is still funny today, although terribly over the top at times, at least for my taste. The best moments belong to smart-alecky Lynn, who makes a superb foil for blustery papa Demarest. (In the movie's single greatest line, he admonishes her: "Someday they're just gonna find your hair ribbon and an axe someplace. Nothing else! The Mystery of Morgan's Creek!") Lynn, who was 18 at the time but playing a 14-year-old, was the high point; on the debit side, I was not particularly charmed by Hutton, whom I find somewhat unattractive in a Lucille Ball kind of way, nor by Bracken, whose stuttering shtick grows tiresome in a hurry.

Note: The picture involves the birth of sextuplets, which is treated like a big deal, which it would have been in the mid-1940s. But definitely not today, with the birth of the famous California octuplets only a couple of weeks ago. Rating: 3/5.

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