The comedies of Preston Sturges w/ Anthony Esolen
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Poet, translator and cultural commentator Anthony Esolen joins James and Thomas to discuss one of his favorite filmmakers in the genre of “screwball comedy”, Preston Sturges.
Sturges wrote and directed eight films between 1940 and 1945, seven of which are regarded as classics. This episode focuses on two of those films: Sullivan’s Travels (1941) and The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek (1944).
Sullivan’s Travels is about a director of cheap comedies who decides to go on the road as a hobo so he can make a film of true social significance, making a fool of himself in the process. It displays Sturges’s ability to write and direct dialogue that is fast, sharp and snappy, but never flippant or glib.
Sturges is virtuosic in navigating dark material with a light touch, and able to switch seamlessly between pathos and humor, ending up in a place of warmth and graciousness without sappy sentimentality.
This is also true of The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek. In an age in which even married pregnancy could not be depicted on film, Morgan’s Creek pushed boundaries by depicting unwed pregnancy. It ends up being a very pro-life film as well as something of a time capsule, showing how a social stigma against unwed motherhood was not incompatible with compassion and support for such mothers and their babies. Like Sullivan’s Travels, it has an outrageous, hilarious and utterly unpredictable ending.
These films prompt a reflection from Esolen on how “The moral law makes mirth possible,” and how the sexual revolution killed romance—two reasons great screwball comedies cannot not be made today.
Other movies reccomended by Anthony Esolen: Penny Serenade, People Will Talk, and also The Lady Eve, Arsenic and Old Lace, Bringing Up Baby, Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House, The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer, You Can’t Take It With You, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet (TV series), “Walking Distance” (Twilight Zone episode)
Other movies mentioned by Thomas Mirus: Hail the Conquering Hero, Unfaithfully Yours, The Awful Truth, It Happened One Night
Joel McCrea discusses his faith https://www.guideposts.org/better-living/entertainment/movies-and-tv/guideposts-classics-joel-mccrea-on-gods-guidance
Podcast about Betty Hutton’s conversion to Catholicism https://americancatholichistory.org/betty-hutton/
Magdalen College of the Liberal Arts https://magdalen.edu/
Music is The Duskwhales, “Take It Back”, used with permission. https://theduskwhales.bandcamp.com
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