Preston Sturges (cropped)
Stories & Ideas

Fri 18 Feb 2022

"This Cockeyed Caravan": the Comic Universe of Preston Sturges

Film Melbourne Cinémathèque Retrospective
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Melbourne Cinémathèque

Australia's longest-running film society

Notes for the 2–16 Mar 2022 Melbourne Cinémathèque program.

Preston Sturges (1898–1959) was the great shooting star of 1940s Hollywood cinema. Brought up by an itinerant mother who travelled to Europe to follow the likes of Isadora Duncan and Aleister Crowley, Sturges came to prominence in a burst of creativity and success on Broadway in the late 1920s before a ten-year stint as a jobbing and well-paid screenwriter for various studios including Paramount. Writing for such prominent directors as John M. Stahl, William K. Howard, Rouben Mamoulian and, most significantly, Mitchell Leisen (Easy Living and Remember the Night), Sturges tired of the way his screenplays were being adapted and blazed a path for writer-directors like Orson Welles and Billy Wilder who emerged in his wake. From The Great McGinty until Hail the Conquering Hero (the last filmed of his eight Paramount productions in a little over four years), Sturges created one of the most extraordinary and breathless bodies of work in American cinema.

As Manny Farber has described him, Sturges is “an inventive American who believes that good picture-making consists in grinding out ten thousand feet of undiluted, chaos-producing energy”. Sturges’ restless, speed-fuelled, eccentric and often-manic work pinballs between slapstick comedy and dramatic pathos, success and failure, pratfalls and pointed satire. A rollercoaster ride across and through genres, tones and styles, Sturges’ brief moment as a wildly successful writer-director is one of the most remarkable episodes in Hollywood history. After leaving Paramount in 1944, Sturges struggled to produce further films that matched his work of the early 1940s with the crucial exception of the movie that some consider his masterpiece, 1948’s Unfaithfully Yours.

This program brings together many of Sturges’ most extraordinary films including such peaks of film comedy and beyond as Sullivan’s Travels and The Palm Beach Story.

– Melbourne Cinémathèque


"This Cockeyed Caravan": the Comic Universe of Preston Sturges

Sullivan's Travels (1941) – Wed 2 Mar, 7pm
The Great McGinty (1940) – Wed 2 Mar, 8.45pm
Christmas In July (1940) – Tues 8 Mar, 7pm
Hail the Conquering Hero (1944) – Tues 8 Mar, 8.20pm
The Palm Beach Story (1942) – Wed 16 Mar, 7pm
Unfaithfully Yours (1948) – Wed 16 Mar, 8.40pm

Person laying on sand, with their face reflected in a puddle

Melbourne Cinémathèque

Australia's longest-running film society, Melbourne Cinémathèque screens significant works of international cinema in the medium they were created, the way they would have originally screened.

Melbourne Cinémathèque is self-administered, volunteer-run, not-for-profit and membership-driven. 

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