Posts Tagged ‘Eddie Bracken’

My Classic Movie Pick: The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek

My classic film pick is one of the wackiest, funniest, romance-comedies ever made.  The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek was  First movie poster for TMOMCwritten 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.

Norval asking Trudy to go to the movies.

Norval asking Trudy to go to the movies.

Lip-synching for the soldiers.

Lip-synching for the soldiers.

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!

Trudy enjoying herself at the soldiers' party!

Trudy enjoying herself at the soldiers’ party!

Officer Kockenlocker trying to get at Norval!

Officer Kockenlocker trying to get at Norval!

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!

A publicity shot for The Miracle of Morgan's Creek.

A publicity shot for The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek.

2nd movie poster for TMOMC

Trudy and Norval at the Justice of the Peace's home.

Trudy and Norval at the Justice of the Peace’s home.

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.


My Classic Movie Pick: Hail the Conquering Hero

Hail the Conquering Hero

Hail the Conquering Hero (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Over the Christmas holiday, I decided I had better watch some of the movies I had tivoed from the Turner Classic Movies cable channel.  During the month of December, the channel had decided to air several of director Preston Sturges‘s comedies.  Sullivan’s Travels aired, as did The Palm Beach Story and The Lady Eve.   My favorite of the batch that they showed was 1944’s  Hail the Conquering Hero.  The movie’s cast is headed by Eddie Bracken, with wonderful supporting cast members : William Demarest(Uncle Charlie from the My Three Sons tv show), Ella Raines, Raymond Walburn, Franklin Pangborn, Elizabeth Patterson, Georgia Caine, and Al Bridge.  Sturges’s films are predominately screwball comedies with a bit of drama thrown in and he often liked to hire the same actors and actresses to be in his films, many of the screenplays he wrote himself as well as doing the directing.  In fact, he was nominated for an Academy Award in 1945 for this movie’s screenplay.    Paramount, the studio where this movie was made, didn’t like that Sturges consistently hired the same actors and actresses for his movies and wanted to replace Ella Raines with a more well-known actress to play the girlfriend.  Sturges wouldn’t agree to that and got his way, hiring the cast he wanted.

The plot is as follows: Eddie Bracken is Woodrow Truesmith, and he loves the United States Marine Corps.  He knows their military history, and even recites all of their famous battles up to that point in history in a funny barroom scene.  His father was a decorated, yet fallen Marine, dying  in the  Battle of Amiens, in France during WWI.  His mother has a shrine to her late husband in the family home.   Despite Woodrow being an only child, with his mother’s blessing, as soon as he can, he enlists in the Marines.  Off to boot camp he goes, only to be discharged for chronic hayfever!  Woodrow is from a small California town, and after his discharge, he is too ashamed to face his mother so he finds employment at a factory in another California town and has been writing his mom letters as if he is really on a ship or on an island in the South Pacific.   One evening at a local bar, as Woodrow is having a beer and feeling sorry for himself, a group of Marines enters the place.  Woodrow buys them a round of beers and as they begin talking, he discovers that the sergeant of the group, Sgt. Heppelfinger, played by William Demarest, knew his father in WWI.  Woodrow’s dad was Heppelfinger’s commanding officer.  This coincidence  forms a bond between Woodrow, Heppelfinger, and the other Marines in the bar.   Woodrow explains his discharge to  the Marines and he also tells them about his  false letters to his mother.   The false letters  don’t sit well with this band of warriors, especially one Marine who was an orphan: it’s a pretty funny gag throughout the rest of the movie, the orphaned Marine always getting on Woodrow’s case about how he’s treated his mother!  Sgt. Heppelfinger, unbeknownst to Woodrow, goes to the bar’s payphone and finds out Woodrow’s home phone number, calls Mrs. Truesmith, and informs her that Woodrow was wounded, but is fine and will be coming home just for a few days in order to see her.  The sergeant’s plan is to get Woodrow home to see his mother, and  then get him back to his factory job, with mother none the wiser about his really being discharged for chronic hayfever.  Woodrow is horrified by the sneaky plan and  balks at wearing a Marine uniform as he is no longer active duty.  He  worries he’ll be found out as a faker and thrown into jail.   But the lively group of Marines, led by Sgt. Hepplefinger, resolve to protect Woodrow, to help him see his mother, and then  help get Woodrow back to his factory job.  What the sergeant and his band of Marines don’t know  is that Woodrow’s mother has  told her friends, who have told the entire town, and the mayor and the city council, and a huge “Welcome Home Woodrow” event has been planned, and the entire town is coming to greet him and his  new Marine buddies at the train station!

Sturges’s screenplay pokes fun at politics and politicians, at hero worship, and small towns.  The pokes are gentle, though, and the humor shines through in the dialogue and the acting.  As WWII was still being fought when this movie was being filmed, there are nods to patriotism throughout the film too.   Being a mom of an active duty Marine myself, all the bits in the movie about the Corps made the film even more fun for me to watch.  Eddie Bracken is great, as the increasingly frazzled Woodrow, who wants to stop this snowball of a “Welcome Home Woodrow You’re Our Hero!” movement, but he knows that the truth will hurt his mother the most.  He also has a former girlfriend, Libby, played by Ella Raines, to deal with as she is engaged to the mayor’s son, but isn’t really sure if she loves her fiance or still loves Woodrow.  Raymond Walburn and Al Bridge are great as the pompous Mayor and his political henchman, trying to get re-elected, and when the city council members who don’t like the current mayor want Woodrow to run for mayor, the situaton for poor Woodrow gets even crazier!

If you want to see a movie with wit, charm, and great humor, then this is an excellent movie to see!