|The Miracle of Morgan's Creek|
Theatrical release 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 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, 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. She also bumped her head and doesn't have the marriage license - it appears her new husband took it with him after their honeymoon.
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. He and Trudy come up with a plan: he'll wear a uniform and they'll get married under false names, which will give her a marriage certificate with the fake name of Ratzkywatzky. Later, Trudy will get a divorce, and she and Norval will get married.
Unfortunately, at the wedding ceremony Norval signs his real name, and the minister charges him with contributing to the delinquency of a minor as Trudy is under twenty-one. Norval is put into the town jail, but Trudy's father (the town Constable) helps Norval escape. The idea is that Norvall will disappear and look for the Trudy's "real" husband.
Needing money, Norval starts by breaking into the bank where he works, and taking the exact sum that's in his account. In the meantime, Trudy's father loses his job - for allowing Norval to escape - and the family leaves town. After months in hiding, Norval tracks down Trudy's family, but before he can talk to them he is arrested on 19 different charges, including impersonating an officer and bank robbery.
Finally, near the end of her pregnancy (her belly is never shown), Trudy she asks to address the city council to tell them the real story and exonerate Norval. Before she can do so, however, she goes into labor and is rushed to the hospital.
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.
News of Trudy's boys flashes around the world, Hitler is shown getting the news of an "entire squad" being born in America and Germany demanding a recount. Mussolini resigns declaring "enough is sufficient" - his catchphrase - and another newspaper states that Canada is "highly dubious" - a clear reference to the Dionne Quintuplets.
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:
Besides the music score by Charles Bradshaw and Leo Shuken, two songs appear in the film:
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.)
The film was released on DVD and VHS on 6 September 2005.
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.
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: