Image from filmforum.org
The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek is a 1944 screwball comedy written and directed by Preston Sturges, of The Lady Eve and Sullivan’s Travels fame. It was nominated for best original screenplay, and it is one of the worst movies I have ever watched.
The plot of the movie is this: a single father living with his two teenage daughters fears that his older child, Trudy, will marry one of the soldiers going off to war. This “marriage boom” has been all over the newspapers, and he forbids Trudy from going to an army dance. She tricks a childhood friend into driving her there anyway, and promptly hits her head dancing. However, during her blackout state, she marries one of the soldiers. The next day she finds out she is pregnant and can’t remember her supposed husband’s name.
This is a movie that, when not attempting to rely on broad slapstick comedy and playing the male protagonist’s stutter as if it’s funny, offers for laughs a scene in which Trudy proposes a double suicide to her childhood friend. The scene is supposed to elicit chuckles from the audience, but only succeeds in being extremely uncomfortable.
In addition, the blatant sexism from some of the characters isn’t charmingly 1944, it’s offensive and disturbing. Some choice dialogue includes the response from Trudy’s doctor after she tells him she can’t remember her name of her husband:
“The responsibility for recording a marriage has always been up to woman. If it wasn’t for her, marriage would have disappeared long since. No man is going to jeopardize his present or poison his future with a lot of little brats hollering around the house unless he’s forced to. It’s up to the woman to knock him down, hogtie him, and drag him in front of two witnesses immediately if not sooner.”
Wow, that’s really progressive. That’s really funny. That’s worthy of an Oscar nomination, right there.
In case you thought that misogyny was satire, according to Turner Classic Movies, Preston Sturges said in his autobiography that in making this film he wanted to “show what happens to young girls who disregard their parents’ advice and who confuse patriotism with promiscuity.” And don’t get me started on the ridiculous finale (although I did laugh at the bewildering cameos of people portraying political enemies of the time).
It’s a shame that the ultra-talented Betty Hutton was given the thankless task of this role (without even the charm of her trademark song-and-dance numbers). Another highlight is the smartly snarky Diana Lynn as Trudy’s younger sister. However, you can see them in other movies.
In many ways, this is a “you have to see it to believe it” film. Very of its time, the finale reaches for such unbelievable heights and strange gags that I simply laughed with incredulity. I’m glad that I saw it, so that I can know never to watch it again.