AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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The Miracle of Morgan's Creek
Director: Preston Sturges (Dir)
Release Date:   Jan 1944
Premiere Information:   New York premiere: 19 Jan 1944
Production Date:   21 Oct--23 Dec 1942; addl scenes: 25 Feb 1943
Duration (in mins):   101
Duration (in reels):   10
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Cast:   Eddie Bracken (Norval Jones)  
    Betty Hutton (Trudy Kockenlocker)  
    Diana Lynn (Emmy Kockenlocker)  
    William Demarest (Officer Kockenlocker)  
    Porter Hall (Justice of the peace)  
    Emory Parnell (Mr. Tuerck)  
    Alan Bridge (E. L. Johnson)  
    Julius Tannen (Mr. Rafferty)  
    Victor Potel (Newspaper editor)  
  and Brian Donlevy ("McGinty")  
  and Akim Tamiroff ("The Boss")  
    Almira Sessions (Wife of Justice of the peace)  
    Esther Howard (Sally)  
    J. Farrell MacDonald (Sheriff)  
    Frank Moran (Military police)  
    Bud Fine (Military police)  
    Connie Tompkins (Cecilia)  
    Georgia Caine (Mrs. Johnson)  
    Torben Meyer (Doctor)  
    George Melford (U.S. marshal)  
    Jimmy Conlin (The mayor)  
    Harry Rosenthal (Mr. Schwartz)  
    Chester Conklin (Pete)  
    Hal Craig (State police)  
    Roger Creed (State police)  
    Max Wagner (Soldier)  
    Keith Richards (Secret Service man)  
    Kenneth Gibson (Secret Service man)  
    Byron Foulger ("McGinty's" secretary)  
    Arthur Hoyt ("McGinty's" secretary)  
    Nora Cecil (Head nurse)  
    Jan Buckingham (Nurse)  
    Jack Norton (Man opening champagne)  
    Joe Devlin (Mussolini)  
    Bobby Watson (Hitler)  
    Alice Mortimer (Trombone player)  
    Conrad Weidell (Dancing soldier)  
    Bob Ireland (Heavy soldier)  
    Eddie Markwell (Tall soldier)  
    Billy Cartledge (Short soldier)  
    Len Hendry (Soldier who wants everyone to marry)  
    Jack Arkin (Jitterbugging soldier)  
    Tom McGuire (Churchgoer)  
    Dot Farley (Churchgoer's wife)  
    Specs McDonald (Churchgoer's son)  
    Philo McCullough (Jeweler)  
    Freddie Steele    
    Robert Dudley    
    Sheldon Jett    

Summary: Just before Christmas, the editor of the Morgan's Creek newspaper anxiously calls Governor McGinty to announce some astonishing news. Although McGinty is impatient, the editor begins to relate a long-winded story: After reading an editorial in the Morgan's Creek newspaper on sudden war marriages, grumpy town policeman Officer Kockenlocker forbids his nearly adult daughter Trudy from attending a farewell dance for soldiers. Trudy, convinced that dating soldiers fulfills her patriotic duty, rebels and pretends that her childhood friend, homely, stuttering Norval Jones, whose enlistment has been rejected because of his high blood pressure, is taking her out to the movies. While Trudy attends the dance, Norval reluctantly sits through three features at the movie theater. Trudy, meanwhile, drinks champagne and dances with soldier after soldier. While dancing the jitterbug at one point, Trudy is knocked on the head by a chandelier. When she finally picks Norval up at eight in the morning, she does not remember where she has been, and Norval takes the brunt of her father's anger. Later, while talking with her fourteen-year-old sister Emmy, Trudy vaguely recalls using an assumed name and marrying someone the night before. Her suspicions are confirmed by the wedding band she now wears. Some time later, Trudy's worst fears are realized when she learns that she is pregnant. Still completely unaware of the identity of her husband, Trudy consults with lawyer E. L. Johnson, who says that her marriage is legal, even though she used an assumed name and has no idea who the groom was. Although she previously spurned Norval's awkward romantic advances, Trudy now encourages him, and Norval, who has been devoted to Trudy since childhood, is stunned by her sudden change of heart. However, Trudy's conscience will not allow her to deceive earnest Norval, and she confesses her predicament to him. Trudy then sincerely falls in love with Norval, but refuses to marry him as it would constitute bigamy. Kockenlocker, however, is unaware of his daughter's situation and intimidates Norval into the marriage, as the town is already gossiping about Trudy. Hoping she can obtain a new marriage license with the name of her first husband on it in order to get a divorce and then marry Norval, Trudy sneaks away with Norval. At the Honeymoon Hotel, twenty-five miles from Morgan's Creek, Trudy registers under her real name, and Norval, wearing a World War I cavalry uniform, uses the name Ratzkiwatzki, which Trudy believes is her first husband's name. After the hasty ceremony is performed by the proprietor, however, Norval signs his real name to the license, and Woodson accuses him of having abducted Trudy, who is a minor, and impersonating an officer. Norval and Trudy are brought home by a bevy of police, who have brought nineteen charges against Norval, and refuse to listen to Trudy's explanation. Kockenlocker is forced to imprison Norval, and as a gesture of kindness, Woodson tears up the marriage certificate. Kockenlocker realizes that this was a mistake, however, when Trudy admits that she is pregnant. Kockenlocker then encourages Norval to escape, but he is too honest and refuses until Kockenlocker forcibly removes him from jail. Norval then slips into the bank where he works and takes $900 from his account, intending to search for Ratzkiwatzki. Norval escapes in Kockenlocker's car after he sets off the alarm, and Emmy and Trudy tie up their father and knock him out to mitigate his involvement in the break-in. Having brought McGinty up to date, the editor finally reveals that Norval, who is still considered an escaped prisoner and bank robber, has returned from his unsuccessful trek searching for Trudy's husband, and was picked up by police after discovering that Kockenlocker was fired and moved out of town six months earlier. Trudy learns of Norval's return and insists on returning to Morgan's Creek to publicly state the truth, but her speech is preempted when she goes into labor and gives birth to sextuplets, thereby making national headlines. McGinty drops all charges against Norval, arranges for Trudy's first marriage to be annulled, and insists that she has been married to Norval all along. The effects of the birth of sextuplets are felt around the world, and Norval himself becomes hysterical when he learns how many children will bear his name. 

Production Company: Paramount Pictures, Inc.  
Distribution Company: Paramount Pictures, Inc.  
Director: Preston Sturges (Dir)
  Edmund Bernoudy (Asst dir)
  Barton Adams (2d asst dir)
  P. Martin (2d asst dir)
Producer: B. G. DeSylva (Exec prod)
Writer: Preston Sturges (Wrt)
Photography: John F. Seitz (Dir of photog)
Art Direction: Hans Dreier (Art dir)
  Ernst Fegté (Art dir)
Film Editor: Stuart Gilmore (Ed)
Set Decoration: Stephen Seymour (Set dec)
  Sam Comer (Supv set dec)
  Oscar Lau (Props)
Costumes: Edith Head (Cost)
Music: Sigmund Krumgold (Mus dir)
  Leo Shuken (Mus score)
  Charles Bradshaw (Mus score)
Sound: Hugo Grenzbach (Sd rec)
  Walter Oberst (Sd rec)
Make Up: Wally Westmore (Makeup artist)
  Leonora Sabine (Hair supv)
Production Misc: Richard A. Blaydon (Asst prod mgr)
  Claire Behnke (Scr clerk)
  N. Lacey (Loc mgr)
Stand In: Kenneth Gibson (Stand-in)
  Bud Fine (Stand-in)
Country: United States

Songs: "The Bell in the Bay," music and lyrics by Preston Sturges; "Sleepy Summer Days," music by Ted Snyder, lyrics by Preston Sturges.
Composer: Ted Snyder
  Preston Sturges

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number Passed By NBR:
Paramount Pictures, Inc. 5/1/1944 dd/mm/yyyy LP12498 Yes

PCA NO: 8940
Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording

 
Genre: Comedy
  Comedy
  Comedy
Sub-Genre: with songs
  Homefront
  Domestic
 
Subjects (Major): Fathers and daughters
  Marriage
  Parentage
  Pregnancy
  Romance
  Small town life
 
Subjects (Minor): Aliases
  Amnesia
  Bank clerks
  Bank robberies
  Christmas
  Dances
  Editors
  Governors
  Impersonation and imposture
  Jailbreaks
  Jitterbug (Dance)
  Justices of the peace
  Lawyers
  Marriage--Annulment
  Patriotism
  Sisters
  Soldiers
  World War II

Note: 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 Oct 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 Dec 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 Dec 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 26 Feb 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'...in your review of the picture, as advance knowledge of it undoubtedly will detract from the enjoyment of those subsequently seeing the picture."
       Although a 12 Feb 1943 HR 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 (see above). 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 HR news item, Paramount released a special "preview" of the film, which was broadcast on television on 21 Mar 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 NYT 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. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   15 Jan 1944.   
Daily Variety   5 Jan 44   p. 3, 8
Film Daily   5 Jan 44   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   23 Oct 42   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   12 Feb 43   p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter   5 Jan 44   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   20 Jan 44   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   25 Jan 44   p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter   21 Mar 1944.   
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   8 Jan 44   p. 1705.
New York Times   20 Jan 44   p. 15.
New York Times   30 Jan 44   p. 3.
Variety   5 Jan 44   p. 16.

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