My classic film pick is one of the wackiest, funniest, romance-comedies ever made. The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek was written and directed by Preston Sturges, and released by Paramount Studios in January of 1944. This movie has a couple of surprising plot twists and when I first watched the film I was surprised that one of those twists had made it past the censors!
The excellent cast includes: Betty Hutton, Eddie Bracken, William Demarest, Diana Lynn, with guest cameos by Brian Donlevy and Akim Tamiroff, as well as a myriad of great character actors and actresses who were usually in Preston Sturges’s movies.
Betty portrays Trudy Kockenlocker, a high school graduated working girl. She works at Morgan Creek’s music store, helping shoppers listen to the latest records that have come in, and we meet her doing a funny lip-synch to a song sung by an artist with a very low, bass voice. A group of soldiers who have stopped by the store find Trudy’s lip-synching hilarious and they invite her to attend their farewell dance that night. She assures them that she’ll be there and that she’ll be ready for all the fun. As the soldiers leave the store, Norval Jones (Eddie Bracken)arrives. Norval is a nervous guy, very polite, and it’s obvious that he is in love with Trudy, but she just considers him a good friend. He asks Trudy to go to the movies with him that night, but she tells him that she can’t because she has already planned on going to the soldiers’ farewell dance. Trudy then remembers that her dad, Constable Kockenlocker(a great, grumpy performance by William Demarest), has forbidden her going to anymore of those soldiers’ parties. Trudy really wants to go to the dance, and as Norval loves her, even though it’s not reciprocated, he agrees to pick her up that night, so that Trudy can tell her dad that she’s on a date with him. Trudy’s plan is that she will drop Norval off at the movies and she’ll drive on to the dance. When the dance is over, she’ll drive back to the movie theatre and let Norval drive her home, arriving according to her dad’s curfew.
Trudy goes to the dance, and she jitterbugs the night away, but unwisely, she decides to drink a lot of champagne, and during one jitterbug number, she is lifted too high and hits her head on a light fixture! Time jumps ahead to 8:00 a.m. and poor Norval has waited patiently for Trudy to arrive at the movie theatre! Norval takes over the driving duties as he can tell Trudy is slightly hungover and confused as she can’t recall why she didn’t pick Norval up as planned. When they arrive at Trudy’s house they are greeted by a rampaging dad who races out the front door. Constable Kockenlocker wants to throttle Norval for keeping his daughter out all night. Trudy tries to calm her dad and tells him that they were at the movies, which doesn’t help as he knows the movie theater closes before midnight. As he tries to grab Norval and beat him to a pulp, Trudy and her kid sister Emmy(Diana Lynn) grab their dad, and force him to the ground and pin him by sitting on him so Norval can escape!
Later that day, Trudy starts to recall to Emmy bits and pieces about her fuzzy evening experiences. Trudy recalls a wedding ceremony in front of a Justice of the Peace, but that she didn’t use her real name and she can’t recall who the groom was, just that he was a soldier! There is also a wedding ring on the third finger of her left hand. A few more weeks go by and Trudy discovers that she is expecting a baby!! Norval comes to the rescue, not knowing that Trudy is expecting another man’s child, but as Trudy decides that she will need a husband, she encourages Norval’s love for her. Then, she actually does fall in love with Norval, but she doesn’t want him to marry her when her first marriage is still legally binding, so the two of them hatch a crazy plan. Trudy thinks the soldier she married had the last name of Ratzkiwatzki. Norval, who is 4F, agrees to wear a relative’s old World War I uniform and then he and Trudy will drive 25 miles away to the Honeymoon Hotel and have the Justice of the Peace marry them. After a week or two, Trudy can file for divorce from “Ratzkiwatzki”, and then she and Norval can have a proper wedding ceremony. Simple plan, right? Wrong! Norval messes up when signing the wedding license and writes his real name, not “Ratzkiwatzki” and the Justice of the Peace catches the mistake. Police are called, Trudy has to fess up to her father about the soldiers’ party, the marriage, the baby on the way, that she really loves Norval who wants to marry her. I won’t reveal the solutions to this crazy situation or even what the “miracle” is but if you do find this movie and watch it, I guarantee you’ll have an enjoyable time!
The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek cost Paramount Studios $775,000 to make and earned them a nice box office profit of $9 million. Audiences loved this nutty film and Sturges was nominated in 1945 for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. In 2001, the movie was selected to be preserved in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress and it was #54 on the American Film Institute’s List of Top 100 Comedic Films. It was put on dvd in 2001 so one can purchase it via Amazon or Turner Classic Movies Shop TCM which is on their online site, and it is available to view through Netflix. Turner Classic Movies also airs it so check their schedule, also on their online site. Lastly, a kind soul put up some clips from the movie on Youtube.