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The Miracle of Morgan's Creek

The Miracle of Morgan's Creek(1944)


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Preston Sturges' onscreen credit reads: "Written and directed by Preston Sturges." Brian Donlevy and Akim Tamiroff reprised their roles as "McGinty" and "The Boss," respectively, from Preston Sturges' 1940 Paramount film The Great McGinty (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40; F3.1720). Although the actors' names were not credited onscreen, their character names were credited in the opening cast list following Victor Potel as "and 'McGinty' and 'The Boss'." The film ends with the following written epilogue: "But Norval recovered and became increasingly happy for, as Shakespeare said [in Twelfth Night, Act II, Scene IV]: 'Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.'"
       Information in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library reveals the following information about the production: After an October 1942 story conference between the PCA and the film's producers, the PCA sent a seven-page letter asserting their concerns about the story. The PCA urged that the filmmakers be "extremely careful in handling a subject of this kind because of the delicate nature of the high point of the story," and suggested that once the basic facts of the situation were established, the filmmakers "then get away from them." The PCA expressed "apprehension concerning certain of the lines which are spoken by Emmy...[which are] likely to be offensive because they come from a fourteen-year-old girl." The PCA also stipulated that "Trudy will, at no time, be shown to be drunk....It is acceptable to indicate that she, along with the others, did drink some champagne, but she should not be shown drunk." The PCA "respectfully suggest[ed] that all the material...having to do with the pregnancy of the girl, be drastically cut down and the matter entirely rewritten." Furthermore, in December 1942, the PCA wrote that "we feel that any attempt to make a parallel between the birth in this picture and the birth of the Savior will be highly offensive and irreverent." Other letters in December 1942 reveal that Sturges withheld the final scene from the PCA, "in order to preserve the element of surprise when the picture is finally shown." Information in NARS reveals that the War Dept. screened the film and objected to "the story's implication of the soldiers' lack of proper conduct." In their February 26, 1943 letter, the War Dept. urged that the scene which shows the departing soldiers "should result in giving the audience the feeling that these boys are normal, thoroughly fit American soldiers who have had an evening of clean fun."
       Paramount press kits included the following note: "Paramount earnestly requests that you do not reveal 'the miracle' your review of the picture, as advance knowledge of it undoubtedly will detract from the enjoyment of those subsequently seeing the picture."
       Although a February 12, 1943 Hollywood Reporter news item noted that Paramount had decided to "rush" The Miracle of Morgan's Creek into release due to its "contemporary theme," the picture did not open until eleven months later. Modern sources suggest that Paramount withheld the release due to a large backlog of pictures at the time, including Sturges' own picture The Great Moment. While other modern sources indicate that the film's release was delayed due to censor objections, no specific contemporary information has been found to confirm this. Sturges left Paramount shortly after the film was released. For further information on the circumstances surrounding his departure, please see the note for the above entry, Hail the Conquering Hero.
       Although Sturges noted in his autobiography that it was his intent to "show what happens to young girls who disregard their parents' advice and who confuse patriotism with promiscuity," the PCA received many letters of protest due to the subject matter of The Miracle of Morgan's Creek. Sturges further stated in his autobiography that he expressed his opinions in a sermon which was to be spoken by a pastor in the film, but the studio excised the scene due to the unacceptably comedic depiction of the pastor.
       According to a Hollywood Reporter news item, Paramount released a special "preview" of the film, which was broadcast on television on March 21, 1944. The 20 min. preview used stills from the film, and featured narration by Eddie Bracken and a brief interview with Diana Lynn. The Miracle of Morgan's Creek opened to critical praise. Bosley Crowther of the New York Times noted the following: "For a more audacious picture-a more delightfully irreverent one-than this new lot of nonsense at the Paramount has never come slithering madly down the path. Mr. Sturges...has hauled off this time and tossed a satire which is more cheeky than all the rest....It's hard to imagine how he ever...persuaded the Hays boys that he wasn't trying to undermine all morals." According to modern sources, this became Paramount's largest-grossing film of the year. Sturges was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for this film. In 1958, Paramount released Rockabye Baby, which was loosely based on The Miracle of Morgan's Creek. Rockabye Baby was written and directed by Frank Tashlin, and starred Jerry Lewis.