In 1973, I did an Esquire column about screenwriters, focusing largely on the first writer-director of the talking era, the mercurial Mr. Preston Sturges, who got so fed up with seeing his scripts mangled by inferior directors that he made an unprecedented deal with Paramount: he would direct his own screenplay for one dollar. The superb result was the brilliantly satirical political comedy, The Great McGinty, which won him an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. This was followed by seven more comedies over the next four years, each one of similar vintage quality (except for The Great Moment, which was somewhat wrecked by studio interference in the cutting), an amazing outburst of creativity that remains unchallenged to this day; six further masterpieces that have stood the test of time and changing tastes: Christmas in July, The Lady Eve, The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek, Hail the Conquering Hero, The Palm Beach Story, and Sullivan’s Travels. If you haven’t seen every one of them, you are missing seven treasures of delight, wit and hilarity---human and wildly funny---among the finest of American comedy.
The article I wrote was later reprinted in my collection, Pieces of Time, titled “Screenwriters and Preston Sturges,” and this has been uploaded on author-critic Clive James’ website, to which we hereby supply the link. All these fabulous films are available on DVD (or through Netflix) so if you haven’t seen them, there’s no excuse for not catching each and every one as soon as you possibly can!
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