Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Miracle of Preston Sturges

My second article for Slate is about the great Preston Sturges, who made eight movies in four years-- seven of which are terrific.
The Lady Eve was Sturges' biggest hit yet, and the reviews were so good they "scared the bejesus out of" him. "I feel like making a good safe tragedy," he wrote to one critic. Instead, he turned his satirical eye on himself with Sullivan's Travels, about a successful director of Hollywood comedies who wants to make a tragedy—specifically, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, based on the novel by Sinclair Beckstein.... Sullivan, played with perfect self-deprecation by Joel McCrea, wants to make "a picture of dignity ... a true canvas of the suffering of humanity." "But with a little sex in it," says one of the studio execs. "But with a little sex in it," he concedes.
Responses from Atlantic Monthly editor Ross Douthat, family-film critic Nell Minnow, and devoted cinephile Andy Horbal.