HGA

The Miracle of Morgan's Creek (1944)


Eddie Bracken and Betty Hutton
Eddie Bracken and Betty Hutton

'The Miracle of Morgan's Creek' is a top class screwball comedy movie made in 1944, directed by Preston Sturges and starring Betty Hutton, William Demarest and Eddie Bracken.

The movie was well received by the critics and was nominated for the Best Screenplay Academy Award. It was also a success at the box-office and became Paramount's largest-grossing film of the year. In 2001 it was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.

Plot

The plot is satisfactorily far-fetched and concerns a small town girl, Trudy Kockenlocker, played by Betty Hutton, who gets pregnant after attending a farewell dance for soldiers and getting married, although she doesn't remember who her husband is.

Many comic complications develop as she tries to keep the knowledge first of her marriage, then of her pregnancy, from her irascible father, town policeman Officer Kockenlocker, played by William Demarest, by using the attentions of her devoted admirer, the bumbling Norval Jones, played by Eddie Bracken.

As with most screwball comedies, the plot is used as a vehicle for many richly comic scenes, and a happy ending is finally somehow reached when Trudy, now married to Norval, gives birth to sextuplets.

Production

Screenplay
Preston Sturges began work on the script in 1942, basing it on a real-life incident from his youth when Sturges had been used as a "decoy" date, just as Norval was in the movie.

Hw wrote the part of Trudy with Betty Hutton specifically in mind. She had previously starred in three films with Eddie Bracken and was beginning to embody the man-crazy comic character which Sturges wanted in Trudy.

Cinematography
Shooting started on 21 October, 1942. For his cinematographer, Sturges chose one of Hollywood's most respected artists, John Seitz, who had previously worked with Sturges on the opening to 'Sullivan's Travels' in 1941. Sturges knew Seitz would provide the long continuous dialogue scenes and unbroken tracking shots which he needed. To get these shots Seitz placed cameras on tracks and had them pulled backwards whilst the soundcrew also walked backwards with handheld microphones.
Censorship
Shooting finished in late December, 1942. There was a delay before release whilst changes were made to satisfy the Catholic Legion of Decency.

There were many problems, prior to release, in getting some aspects of the movie past the Legion and past the PCA (Production Code Administration) which zealously protected the morals of America. Principally, the amoral nature of Trudy's pregnancy and the implications of improper conduct by US soldiers were to be played down.

In fact when filming began Sturges had only 10 finished pages of script to work with. He filmed for eight hours every day, then stayed up most of the night writing and rewriting.

When the film was released the PCA did receive many letters of protest due to its subject matter. It is extraordinary that at a time of such strict movie censorship, Sturges was able to get away with a parody of the Christmas nativity story (including shots of livestock in the room with the pregnant heroine).


Main Cast

Betty Hutton had made her acting debut opposite Eddie Bracken in 'The Fleet's In' in 1942 and after 'The Miracle of Morgan's Creek' she went on to become one of Paramount's most popular stars earning a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy for her performance in 'Annie Get Your Gun' in 1950.

Sturges had a group of character actors who formed a stock company for him. William Demarest, who plays Officer Kockenlocker was a prominent member of this group and he appeared in all eight of the movies Sturges directed for Paramount. He later achieved television fame as Uncle Charlie in 'My Three Sons'. Other members of the Sturges unofficial stock company appearing in the movie are Al Bridge, Julius Tannen, Emory Parnell and Porter Hall.

Eddie Bracken ... Norval Jones
Betty Hutton ... Trudy Kockenlocker
Diana Lynn ... Emmy Kockenlocker
William Demarest ... Constable Kockenlocker
Porter Hall ... Justice of the Peace
Emory Parnell ... Mr. Tuerck
Al Bridge ... Mr. Johnson
Julius Tannen ... Mr. Rafferty
Victor Potel ... Newspaper editor
Brian Donlevy ... Gov. McGinty
Akim Tamiroff ... The Boss

Credits

Director … Preston Sturges
Producer … Preston Sturges
Screenplay … Preston Sturges
Cinematography … John Seitz
Music … Leo Shuken, Charles Bradshaw
Production Company … Paramount Pictures
Format … B&W
Running Time … 99 mins

Academy Awards

No Wins:
One Unsuccessful Nomination:
Best Original Screenplay ... Preston Sturges