This Warner Archive release is a Manufacture-On-Demand (MOD) DVD. It is made to be played in “play only” DVD devices, and may not play in some DVD recorders or PC drives. This DVD, however, played with no problems in the Toshiba DVD recorder used for this review. This title is available directly from WBShop.com by clicking here.
In this classic 1944 screwball comedy, a young woman (Betty Hutton) goes to a party celebrating the deployment of soldiers overseas. She wakes up the next morning hung over, married, and unable to remember who her new husband is. Worse yet, she learns she is pregnant, a scandalous revelation should people find out. In desperation, she turns to her lifelong friend Norval (Eddie Bracken) in a scheme to cover up the deed.
Written and directed by Preston Sturges.
Preston Sturges may not be a household name to movie fans, but the Oscar-winning screenwriter-turned-director changed the way movies were made. He was one of the first screenwriters to take on directing duties as well, something studios rarely allowed. He earned the right with some impressive screenwriting, and his deft hand in directing the classic comedy The Great McGinty made him a favorite at Paramount Studios.
His 1944 effort, The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek, earned Sturges one of two Oscar nominations that year (he was also nominated for his screenplay of Hail the Conquering Hero) and still ranks as one of the all-time classic screwball comedies.
Considering how touchy sensors were at the time, it is amazing the film was even made. The movie follows Trudy (Betty Hutton), a girl who finds herself in a lot of trouble after she goes out partying with a bunch of soldiers about to be shipped off to war. She gets drunk during her night on the town, and wakes up the next morning to discover she got married, with no recollection of who her husband is. She only remembers lying about her name on the marriage license, so she has no way of figuring out what happened. To make things worse, she is also pregnant, which will not go over well with no husband to show for it.
Enter Norval (Eddie Bracken), Trudy’s awkward and long-suffering friend who has always carried a torch for her. Norval promises to help Trudy, but his attempts to cover up her “delicate” situation all backfire. Things get even more complicated as they try to figure out who she is married to and how to cover up her pregnancy, and it all leads to a finale involving the military, the governor, and a birth.
Sure, the way the situation is handled may be outdated, and things are often too silly for their own good. There’s no denying, however, that the film is very funny. At first appearance, Bracken’s character of Norval looks like he’ll annoy you for the next 90 minutes, but he is actually very endearing, and you end up rooting for his underdog character. Bracken, who died in 2002, is best known to today’s audiences for his roles of Roy Walley (owner of Walley World) in National Lampoon’s Vacation and E.F. Duncan (the owner of Duncan’s Toy Store) in Home Alone 2. Here, he underlies the buffoonery of Norval with real heart, a talent this underrated actor often brought to his roles. Betty Hutton (Trudy) did manage to annoy me for half of the picture, as her selfish treatment of Norval initially makes her character pretty unsympathetic. Trudy does come around, as she realizes just how much Norval loves her, allowing Hutton’s personable manner to win over the viewer.
Sturges populates this entire picture with outstanding character actors from beginning to end. Bracken and Hutton hold their own, and they are supported by Diana Lynn as Emmy, Trudy’s younger sister, and William Demarest as Trudy’s father, who are both fantastic. Even the bit characters, including Brian Donlevy (the Governor), Porter Hall (who played the Justice of the Peace), and Akim Tamiroff (Norval’s boss). Each brings their own sense of wacky, and it all works.
The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek may not be well-known to modern movie fans, but like other classic screwball comedies including Bringing Up Baby and The Philadelphia Story, it deserves to be rediscovered.
VIDEO AND AUDIO
Morgan’s Creek sports a pretty decent video transfer for a film of this age, but the image is soft overall, lacking in detail. It also appears to have video compression issues, and struggles even with the varied tones of the black and white image. The print used for the transfer, however, shows only minor debris, which helps the image overall. The audio, which uses the original mono soundtrack sent through the two central channels, has good clarity.
Two featurettes included in the original Paramount DVD release are included here as well. A featurette about Preston Sturges and his film is actually pretty informative, and even includes an older interview with the late Eddie Bracken. A second featurette, “Morgan’s Creek vs. the Production Code,” delves into exactly how Sturges made a comedy about drinking, sex, and pregnancy (all of which were highly censored at the time) are explored. It is an interesting little watch.
THE BOTTOM LINE: BUY IT OR REDBOX IT?
Ratings (1-10 scale)
Overall score: 6.5
The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek is an entertaining screwball comedy from Hollywood’s golden age. The mix of snappy, witty dialogue and broad physical comedy works, and though the premise is old-fashioned by today’s standards, its’ laughs are timeless. For fans of the genre, it is a must buy.
Release date: July 2, 2013
Rating: Not rated
Running time: 89 minutes
Aspect ratio: 1.37:1
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 (Mono Mix)
Special features: “Preston Sturges and the Miracle of Morgan’s Creek” featurette, “Censorship: Morgan’s Creek vs. the Production Code” featurette.
Label: Warner Archive