Today is Sunday, so it’s time for another 100 New Code Films article. This series is a semi-weekly one which is dedicated to the discovery of American Breen Era (194-1954) films which I have never seen before. When you look at a blog devoted to classic films, scroll through a collection of old movies for sale on DVD, browse the old Hollywood movies on VHS in an old book store, or scan Turner Classic Movie’s list of upcoming films, it is inevitable that you will find at least a couple of films which you haven’t seen before, no matter how dedicated a classic film fan you are. This series is my way of making sure that I see as many of these hitherto unseen films as possible. Every new Code film which I watch gives me a deeper knowledge and understanding of the Breen Era. I hope that I am sharing it with you through my reviews. So far in 2020, I have gained understanding of thirty-two new movies.
Today’s topic is The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek from 1944. I heard about this film a few weeks ago when it popped up as a related film on IMDb. It was suggested as similar to some other comedy I was researching. It sounded very funny, so I read about it. My interest was particularly peaked when I learned that this film was loosely remade as “Rock-A-Bye-Baby,” a Jerry Lewis comedy from 1958 which we have watched for years. I searched for this film on Roku and found that it was offered free on Kanopy, a streaming service offered for free to those with active library cards or student IDs. I watched this film on Sunday.
A lively girl from a small town loves to kiss the soldiers goodbye during World War II, much to the chagrin of her bashful 4-F beau. When her father forbids her to go to a farewell dance for some soldiers, she pretends to be going to the movies with her shy banker boyfriend, only to talk him into loaning her his car once they leave the house. While he sits through a triple-feature, she is the life of the party, laughing and dancing with the soldiers until a knock on the head leaves her a little confused. The next morning, she drives back to the movie theater, unable to remember many of the previous night’s incidents. Back home, she and her younger sister realize that she got married to a soldier the previous night, but she can’t remember his name. When she discovers she is expectant, she doesn’t know how to prove her marriage to her father and the whole town.
This movie stars Eddie Bracken, Betty Hutton, and Diana Lynn. Supporting actors include William Demarest, Porter Hall, Emory Parnell, Alan Bridge, and Julius Tannen.
This movie was directed and produced by Preston Sturges with executive producer Buddy G. DeSylva. The production company is Paramount Pictures. The story was written by Preston Sturges. It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for Preston Sturges. At the National Board of Review, it was nominated for the Top Ten Films and for Best Acting for Betty Hutton.
This is a good Code film. This movie was quite controversial at the time of its release. According to IMDb, the Legion of Decency required a few cuts to give it a B classification instead of a C, for Condemned. It wasn’t played on television for years. Apparently, the topic of an expectant mother, particularly one who can’t remember the name of her hastily-married bridegroom, was considered inappropriate by some in the 1940s. I have even read modern reviewers musing their doubts on how this film was released during this strict time. Quite frankly, I found nothing objectionable in this film. I know that, with changing times, people’s views of what is acceptable and what is embarrassing change. However, I like to believe that, through frequent watching and careful study of Code films, I have acquired that conservative a viewpoint. I think it an example of this that I now find use of the oft PCA-forbidden word pregnant embarrassing, preferring expectant. In this film, pregnant was never used. I thought all references to Trudy’s (Betty Hutton) marriage and future baby were perfectly acceptable. The PCA approved this film, and I think it fully deserved its Seal of Approval. There is nothing in this movie which is not appropriate for viewers of all ages and from all eras. Prejudice against this film at the time was perhaps a little unreasonable and not as open-minded and fair as the PCA’s judgement.
I recommend this movie. I found it very amusing. It is a little silly, especially at the finale, but I enjoyed it. I like Betty Hutton’s performance. This isn’t a musical role, but she is thoroughly entertaining with just her boisterous acting. Eddie Bracken is hilarious as her nervous, stuttering beau. A young Diana Lynn is charmingly dry as her sarcastic but supportive younger sister. William Demarest is more comical than stern as their overbearing father. The story is not really resolved, but the ending leaves a lot of interesting questions in one’s mind. It is not so open-ended as to really bother certain viewers. Even my sister, who dislikes unfinished endings, didn’t find this conclusion too incomplete. There are a lot of interesting facts about life during the war because of the homefront setting of this comedy. During the current challenge in America, we can almost relate to the rationing of the war years. Anyway, I enjoyed this film, and I think that my readers will, too! I won’t spoil the surprise for you. You have to watch this movie to find out what The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek is.
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