The Miracle of Morgan's Creek
The Miracle of Morgan's Creek is a 1944 screwball comedy film written and directed by Preston Sturges, starring Eddie Bracken and Betty Hutton, and featuring Diana Lynn, William Demarest and Porter Hall. Brian Donlevy and Akim Tamiroff reprise their roles from Sturges' 1940 film The Great McGinty.
|The Miracle of Morgan's Creek|
1944 Theatrical Poster
|Directed by||Preston Sturges|
|Produced by||Preston Sturges|
|Written by||Preston Sturges|
Gil Grau (uncredited)
|Cinematography||John F. Seitz|
|Edited by||Stuart Gilmore|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|January 5, 1944 (New York City)|
January 19, 1944 (U.S.)
|Box office||$9 million (US)|
The Miracle of Morgan's Creek, which was filmed in 1942 and early 1943, but not released until 1944, was nominated for a 1945 Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, and, in 2001, it was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". The film ranks #54 on the American Film Institute's 100 Years... 100 Laughs list of the top 100 funniest films in movie history.
The 1958 film Rock-A-Bye Baby, starring Jerry Lewis, was loosely based on The Miracle of Morgan's Creek. Preston Sturges received a credit for that film, but did not actually participate in the project.
Trudy Kockenlocker (Betty Hutton) is a small-town girl with a soft spot for soldiers. She wakes up one morning after a wild farewell party for a group of them to find that while drunk the night before, she married a soldier whose name she can't remember, except that "it had a z in it. Like Ratzkywatzky [...] or was it Zitzkywitzky?" She believes they both used fake names and she doesn't know how to get in touch with him or even what he looks like.
The matter is complicated when she learns that she became pregnant that night as well. Norval Jones (Eddie Bracken), a local 4-F boy who has been in love with Trudy for years, steps in to help out, but Trudy's over-protective father (William Demarest), a policeman, gets involved and complicates matters. Before long, Norval is arrested on 19 different charges, and then he finds himself on the run as an escaped prisoner.
All seems lost until Trudy gives birth to sextuplets. At that point Governor McGinty (Brian Donlevy) and The Boss (Akim Tamiroff) step in and provide a phone call which results in a happy ending for everyone.
When Norval discovers that Trudy has borne not just one son but six, he faints, and the movie ends with this epilogue on a title card:
But Norval recovered and
became increasingly happy
for, as Shakespeare said:
"Some are born great, some
achieve greatness, and some
have greatness thrust upon
- Eddie Bracken as Norval Jones
- Betty Hutton as Trudy Kockenlocker
- Diana Lynn as Emmy Kockenlocker
- William Demarest as Constable Kockenlocker
- Porter Hall as Justice of the Peace
- Emory Parnell as Mr. Tuerck
- Al Bridge as Mr. Johnson
- Julius Tannen as Mr. Rafferty
- Victor Potel as Newspaper editor
- Brian Donlevy as Gov. McGinty
- Akim Tamiroff as The Boss
- Bobby Watson as Adolf Hitler (uncredited)
- Both Brian Donlevy and Akim Tamiroff reprised their roles from Sturges' 1940 comedy The Great McGinty.
- This was the first time Preston Sturges and Eddie Bracken worked together on a feature film, although Bracken had appeared in Safeguarding Military Information, a 1942 propaganda short that Sturges wrote. Bracken would go on to appear in Sturges' next film, Hail the Conquering Hero.
- Many members of Sturges' unofficial "stock company" of character actors appear in The Miracle of Morgan's Creek, among them Al Bridge, Georgia Caine, Chester Conklin, Jimmy Conlin, William Demarest, Robert Dudley, Byron Foulger, Esther Howard, Arthur Hoyt, J. Farrell MacDonald, George Melford, Torben Meyer, Frank Moran, Jack Norton, Emory Parnell, Victor Potel, Harry Rosenthal, Julius Tannen and Max Wagner. Paramount wanted Sturges to stop using the same actors over and over again, but he felt that "these little players who had contributed so much to my first hits had a moral right to work in my subsequent pictures."
- Porter Hall had appeared in Sturges' Sullivan's Travels and had filmed The Great Moment earlier in the year, although it would not be released until after Miracle. He would also appear in The Beautiful Blonde from Bashful Bend, Sturges' last American film.
- This was the eighth of ten films written by Preston Sturges that William Demarest appeared in. Demarest also acted in Diamond Jim (1935), Easy Living (1937), The Great McGinty (1940), Christmas in July (1940), The Lady Eve (1941), Sullivan's Travels (1941), The Palm Beach Story (1942), The Miracle of Morgan's Creek (1944), Hail the Conquering Hero (1944) and The Great Moment (1944)
Besides the music score by Charles Bradshaw and Leo Shuken, two songs appear in the film:
- "The Bell in the Bay" – music and lyrics by Preston Sturges
- "Sleepy Summer Days" – music by Ted Snyder, lyrics by Preston Sturges.
Although shot in 1942 and early 1943, The Miracle of Morgan's Creek was withheld from distribution until early 1944, because Paramount had too much product on hand, including Preston Sturges' The Great Moment. In September 1942, Paramount sold a number of films, such as I Married a Witch, to United Artists, which needed to keep its distribution pipeline filled, but Sturges was their star filmmaker in this time period, so Miracle... was held back until Paramount had a slot in its schedule to release it.
There were problems with the censors at the Hays Office over the film's subject matter. In October 1942, after a story conference, the office sent Paramount a seven-page letter outlining their concerns, including remarks made by the character Emmy, who is 14 years old; the potential of the film's portraying Trudy as being drunk; and reducing anything to do with Trudy's pregnancy. In short, they wanted the filmmakers to be "extremely careful in handling a subject of this kind because of the delicate nature of the high point of the story", and back off from reiterating the basic facts of the story once they were presented. In December 1942, they also warned about making any comparisons between Trudy's situation and the virgin birth of Jesus. There were so many objections from the censors that Sturges began production with only ten approved script pages.
The War Department also had concerns: they wanted to make sure that the film's portrayal of the departing soldiers "should result in giving the audience the feeling that these boys are normal, thoroughly fit American soldiers who have had an evening of clean fun."
Sturges' intent was to "show what happens to young girls who disregard their parents' advice and who confuse patriotism with promiscuity", and had included in his script a sermon for the pastor to give, expressing Sturges' opinions, but the scene was cut by the studio because the pastor was depicted in too comic a manner.
The Miracle of Morgan's Creek was in production from 21 October to 23 December 1942, with additional scenes shot on 25 February 1943. Outdoor scenes were shot at the Paramount Ranch in Agoura, California.
The film had its New York City premiere 5 January 1944 and went into general release on 19 January. To promote the film, Paramount showed a 20-minute preview on the some 400 television sets then in use in New York City, on 21 March 1944, with stills from the film, narration by Eddie Bracken, and an interview with Diana Lynn. Paramount was concerned enough about the ending of the film being given away that their press kits included a request to reviewers not to reveal the ending. (Sturges had apparently also withheld the ending from the Hays Office.)
For a more audacious picture—a more delightfully irreverent one—than this new lot of nonsense at the Paramount has never come slithering madly down the path. Mr. Sturges...has hauled off this time and tossed a satire which is more cheeky than all the rest....It's hard to imagine how he ever...persuaded the Hays boys that he wasn't trying to undermine all morals.
Critic James Agee noted that "the Hays office has either been hypnotized into a liberality for which it should be thanked, or has been raped in its sleep" to allow the film to be released. In a second review, Agee described the film as "a little like taking a nun on a roller coaster."
Although the Hays Office received many letters of protest because of the film's subject matter, it was Paramount's highest-grossing film of 1944, taking in nine million dollars in box office receipts while playing to standing-room-only audiences in some theatres.
Awards and honors
Preston Sturges was nominated for a 1945 Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for The Miracle of Morgan's Creek, the same year that he was also nominated for the same award for Hail the Conquering Hero. In addition, the National Board of Review nominated the film for Best Picture of 1944, and awarded Betty Hutton the award for Best Acting for her performance in the film. The New York Times named it as one of the 10 Best Films of 1942-1944.
In 2001, The Miracle of Morgan's Creek was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". The film also holds position #54 on the American Film Institute's 100 Years... 100 Laughs list of the top 100 funniest films in movie history, and in 2006 was voted by Premiere one of "The 50 Greatest Comedies Of All Time".
The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:
- 1998: AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies – Nominated
- 2000: AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs – #54
- 2007: AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) – Nominated
- The Dionne quintuplets – headline "Canada Protests" (finale)
- James Curtis, Between Flops: A Biography of Preston Sturges, Limelight, 1984 p240
- James Curtis, Between Flops: A Biography of Preston Sturges, Limelight, 1984 p190
- Glenn Erickson (August 30, 2005). "DVD Savant Review: The Miracle of Morgan's Creek". DVD Talk.
- Meek, James Plot summary (IMDb)
- Erickson, Hal Plot synopsis (Allmovie)
- TCM Full synopsis
- The quote is said by the character Malvolio in Twelfth Night, Act II, Scene IV
- Frankel, Mark "Hail the Conquering Hero" (TCM article)
- TCM Music
- TCM "I Married a Witch" Notes
- TCM Notes
- Nixon, Rob & Tatara, Paul "The Miracle of Morgan's Creek" (TCM article)
- TCM Overview
- IMDb Filming locations
- IMDb Release dates
- TCM Misc. notes
- Allmovie Awards
- "AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-06.
- "AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs" (PDF). American Film Institute. Retrieved 2016-08-06.
- "AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies Nominees (10th Anniversary Edition)" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-06.