Preston Sturges was an American filmmaker, screenwriter, and playwright, best known for his witty and sophisticated comedies of the 1940s.

Sturges wrote and directed a string of classic films during this period, including “The Lady Eve” (1941), “Sullivan’s Travels” (1941), “The Palm Beach Story” (1942), “The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek” (1944), and “Hail the Conquering Hero” (1944).

Sturges was known for his fast-paced dialogue, clever plot twists, and sophisticated humor. His films often featured a colorful cast of characters, and he was known for his ability to blend comedy with drama in a way that was both entertaining and thought-provoking.

Many of Sturges’ films were groundbreaking in their time, and they continue to be celebrated by audiences and critics today. If you’re new to Sturges’ work and looking for a place to start, some of his most beloved and acclaimed films include:

“The Lady Eve” (1941) – a romantic comedy about a con artist (Barbara Stanwyck) who falls in love with her mark (Henry Fonda)

“Sullivan’s Travels” (1941) – a satirical comedy about a Hollywood director (Joel McCrea) who sets out to make a serious film about poverty, only to experience it firsthand

“The Palm Beach Story” (1942) – a screwball comedy about a young couple (Claudette Colbert and Joel McCrea) who divorce so the wife can marry a wealthy man and fund her husband’s career

“The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek” (1944) – a farce about a young woman (Betty Hutton) who becomes pregnant after a wild night out and must find a husband to avoid scandal

“Hail the Conquering Hero” (1944) – a political satire about a young man (Eddie Bracken) who is mistaken for a war hero and becomes the center of a small town’s adoration.

Best Preston Sturges Films Introduction

These films showcase Sturges’ signature blend of humor, satire, and heart, and they remain some of the most beloved comedies of the 1940s.

1. Sullivan’s Travels (1941)

“Sullivan’s Travels” is a 1941 American comedy film written and directed by Preston Sturges.

The film follows the story of a successful Hollywood director named John L. Sullivan, who decides to abandon his lucrative career and embark on a journey to experience the real world, in the hopes of making a socially relevant film that speaks to the suffering of the common people during the Great Depression.

The film is a witty and clever satire on Hollywood and its self-importance, as well as a commentary on the role of the artist in society.

It is also a touching and entertaining adventure, with charming performances from its leads Joel McCrea and Veronica Lake.

   

The film’s message is both humorous and poignant, highlighting the importance of art and entertainment in people’s lives, and the role they can play in bringing people together and helping them face the difficulties of the world.

“Sullivan’s Travels” is widely regarded as a classic of American cinema and a must-see for film buffs. It was ranked among the greatest films of all time by the American Film Institute and has been celebrated for its sharp wit, brilliant dialogue, and warmhearted spirit.

The film’s commentary on the role of the artist in society is still relevant today, making it a timeless and enduring masterpiece.

Sullivan's Travels [Blu-ray] [1941]
  • The disk has English audio.
  • English (Subtitle)

2. The Lady Eve (1941)

“The Lady Eve” is a classic romantic comedy film from 1941, directed by Preston Sturges and starring Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda.

The film tells the story of a beautiful and cunning card shark named Jean Harrington (played by Stanwyck) who sets her sights on the wealthy but naive Charles Pike (played by Fonda).

Jean and her father, “Colonel” Harrington (played by Charles Coburn), plan to con Charles out of his money, but things get complicated when Jean falls in love with him.

The film is known for its witty dialogue, charming performances, and clever plot twists. It is a timeless classic that has stood the test of time and remains a beloved example of the romantic comedy genre.

In addition to its entertaining story and memorable characters, “The Lady Eve” also features impressive technical elements, such as its use of lighting and camera angles to enhance the comedic and dramatic moments of the film.

   

Overall, “The Lady Eve” is a must-see for fans of classic Hollywood cinema, and it remains a beloved example of the romantic comedy genre for its witty writing, charming performances, and clever plot twists.

The Lady Eve (The Criterion Collection)
  • Barbara Stanwyck, Henry Fonda, Charles Coburn (Actors)
  • Preston Sturges (Director)
  • English (Subtitle)
  • Spanish (Publication Language)
  • Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)

3. Hail the Conquering Hero (1944)

“Hail the Conquering Hero” is a comedy film directed by Preston Sturges and released in 1944. The film follows the story of Woodrow Truesmith, a young man who is discharged from the Marines during World War II due to chronic hay fever.

He returns home to his small town, but is reluctant to tell his mother and girlfriend the truth about his discharge, fearing that he will be seen as a coward.

One day, a group of Marines come to town and mistake Truesmith for a hero who has been awarded the Medal of Honor.

The townspeople, eager for a hero, quickly believe the story and plan a parade in his honor. Truesmith is reluctant to accept the attention, but is pressured into going along with the charade by his mother and girlfriend.

The film is a satire on hero worship and the cult of celebrity, as well as a commentary on the pressure that society places on individuals to conform to certain expectations. It is also a celebration of the ordinary man and the virtues of honesty, integrity, and compassion.

The film was well-received upon its release and is considered to be one of Preston Sturges’ best works. It is noted for its witty dialogue, sharp social commentary, and memorable performances by its ensemble cast.

It remains a classic example of the Hollywood screwball comedy genre, and a testament to the enduring appeal of classic Hollywood cinema.

Hail the Conquering Hero
  • Eddie Bracken, Ella Raines, William Demarest (Actors)
  • Preston Sturges (Director) - Preston Sturges (Writer) - Preston Sturges (Producer)
  • Spanish, English, French (Subtitles)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)

4. The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek (1944)

“The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek” is a screwball comedy film released in 1944 and directed by Preston Sturges. The film stars Eddie Bracken and Betty Hutton in the lead roles.

The plot revolves around a young woman named Trudy Kockenlocker (played by Hutton), who becomes pregnant after a wild night out with a group of soldiers before they are shipped off to war.

The problem is that Trudy cannot remember who the father of her child is, and she is afraid of the repercussions of her actions.

Trudy turns to her longtime admirer, Norval Jones (played by Bracken), for help. Norval, who is hopelessly in love with Trudy, agrees to marry her and take responsibility for the baby, even though he is not the father.

   

The rest of the film follows the absurd and hilarious attempts of Trudy and Norval to cover up their tracks and avoid getting caught by Trudy’s strict father, the local authorities, and the army.

“The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek” is considered one of the greatest comedies of the 1940s, and is often praised for its witty and irreverent humor, as well as its commentary on the social and political issues of the time, including the war effort and the changing role of women in American society.

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The Miracle of Morgan's Creek [DVD]
  • Eddie Bracken, Betty Hutton, Diana Lynn (Actors)
  • Preston Sturges (Director) - Preston Sturges (Writer)
  • English (Subtitle)
  • Audience Rating: Unrated (Not Rated)

5. Unfaithfully Yours (1948)

Unfaithfully Yours is a 1948 American screwball comedy film directed by Preston Sturges. It stars Rex Harrison, Linda Darnell, and Barbara Lawrence.

The plot centers on a jealous symphony conductor who begins to have murderous thoughts about his beautiful young wife after he suspects she may be having an affair.

The film is known for its unique structure, in which the three potential scenarios of the conductor’s revenge fantasies are shown in their entirety, each with its own distinct musical score. The film also features Sturges’ trademark fast-paced dialogue and witty humor.

While Unfaithfully Yours was not a commercial success at the time of its release, it has since gained a reputation as a cult classic and is considered one of Sturges’ best films.

It has been praised for its innovative storytelling, memorable performances, and clever use of music.

6. The Palm Beach Story (1942)

“The Palm Beach Story” is a 1942 screwball comedy directed by Preston Sturges. The film stars Claudette Colbert, Joel McCrea, Mary Astor, and Rudy Vallee.

The plot revolves around a married couple, Gerry (Colbert) and Tom (McCrea), who are struggling financially. Gerry decides to leave Tom and travel to Palm Beach, Florida, in hopes of finding a rich man to marry and help them out of their financial difficulties.

Meanwhile, Tom meets the wealthy and glamorous The Princess Centimillia (Astor), who takes a liking to him and offers to help him financially.

As the film progresses, misunderstandings, mistaken identities, and hijinks ensue as Gerry and Tom navigate their separate paths. The film culminates in a hilarious sequence involving a hunting trip, a train, and a series of comedic mishaps.

“The Palm Beach Story” is a classic example of Sturges’ signature blend of sophisticated humor, clever plot twists, and an ensemble cast of colorful characters.

The film is known for its rapid-fire dialogue and witty one-liners, as well as its satirical take on marriage, wealth, and social status. Overall, it remains a beloved and entertaining comedy that showcases Sturges’ mastery of the genre.

The Palm Beach Story
  • Factory sealed DVD
  • Claudette Colbert, Joel McCrea, Mary Astor (Actors)
  • Preston Sturges (Director)
  • French, Spanish (Subtitles)
  • English (Publication Language)

7. Christmas in July (1940)

“Christmas in July” is a 1940 American comedy film directed by Preston Sturges. The film follows the story of an office clerk named Jimmy McDonald, who is convinced he has won a slogan contest and will receive a $25,000 prize.

He spends the entire day imagining what he will do with the money, even though he has not actually won yet. His friends and family try to convince him that he is being foolish, but he remains optimistic and hopeful, until he discovers the truth about the contest.

The film is a delightful and entertaining comedy, with clever writing, witty dialogue, and a memorable cast of characters.

It offers a sharp critique of consumer culture and the ways in which it can influence and distort people’s perceptions of reality. At the same time, it is a warm and human story about the power of hope and the importance of staying positive in the face of adversity.

“Christmas in July” is widely regarded as one of Preston Sturges’ best films, and it has been celebrated for its playful and inventive storytelling, its sharp satire, and its delightful performances.

The film is a classic of American cinema, and it remains a joy to watch more than 80 years after its release. If you enjoy smart and charming comedies that offer a witty commentary on the human condition, “Christmas in July” is definitely worth watching.

Christmas in July [DVD]
  • Factory sealed DVD
  • Dick Powell, Ellen Drew (Actors)
  • Preston Sturges (Director)
  • French, Spanish (Subtitles)
  • English (Publication Language)

8. The Great McGinty (1940)

“The Great McGinty” is a political satire film from 1940, directed by Preston Sturges and starring Brian Donlevy, Muriel Angelus, and Akim Tamiroff.

The film tells the story of Dan McGinty (played by Donlevy), a down-on-his-luck drifter who becomes involved in local politics and rises through the ranks to become the governor of a state.

The film is known for its clever writing, witty dialogue, and biting social commentary. It satirizes the corrupt nature of politics and the ease with which someone can rise to power with little to no qualifications or experience.

The film also explores the darker side of ambition and the lengths people will go to in order to achieve their goals.

In addition to its satirical elements, “The Great McGinty” features impressive technical elements, such as its use of flashbacks and nonlinear storytelling to enhance the narrative and add depth to the characters.

Overall, “The Great McGinty” is a must-see for fans of political satire and classic Hollywood cinema. Its clever writing, sharp wit, and biting social commentary make it a timeless classic that remains relevant today.

The Great McGinty
  • Brian Donlevy, Muriel Angelus, Akim Tamiroff (Actor)
  • Preston Sturges (Director) - Preston Sturges (Writer)

9. The Sin of Harold Diddlebock (1947)

“The Sin of Harold Diddlebock” is a comedy film directed by Preston Sturges and released in 1947. The film stars Harold Lloyd as Harold Diddlebock, a former successful businessman who is now down on his luck and working as a clerk in a local pet shop.

One day, Diddlebock is fired from his job and, feeling lost and directionless, he decides to get drunk.

While on his drunken spree, Diddlebock meets a wealthy businessman who offers him a job as the president of a failing company. Diddlebock, now sober and with a renewed sense of purpose, takes on the challenge and sets out to turn the company around.

The film is a satire on American capitalism and the American dream. It challenges the idea that success is defined solely by financial wealth and power, and instead celebrates the value of personal growth and self-discovery.

The film also contains some slapstick comedy and physical gags that were characteristic of Harold Lloyd’s earlier films.

“The Sin of Harold Diddlebock” was not well-received upon its initial release and was considered a commercial failure.

However, it has since gained a cult following and is appreciated for its satirical wit, Harold Lloyd’s performance, and Preston Sturges’ unique directorial style. It is a testament to the enduring appeal of classic Hollywood comedy and the power of satire to challenge societal norms and expectations.

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The Sin of Harold Diddlebock
  • Frances Ramsden, Harold Lloyd (Actors)
  • Preston Sturges (Director)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • Audience Rating: Unrated (Not Rated)

10. Vendetta (1950)

“Vendetta” is a film-noir crime drama released in 1950, directed by Mel Ferrer and starring Faith Domergue and George Dolenz.

The film follows a woman named Maria (played by Domergue), who is the daughter of a wealthy Italian vineyard owner.

When her father is murdered by a group of bandits, Maria sets out on a quest for revenge, determined to find and kill the men responsible.

Along the way, Maria meets a handsome stranger named Cane (played by Dolenz), who offers to help her in her mission. The two soon fall in love, but Maria’s obsession with revenge threatens to tear them apart.

As Maria gets closer to her targets, she discovers that the truth behind her father’s murder is more complicated than she originally thought. She must confront her own feelings of guilt and the possibility that her revenge may be misplaced.

   

“Vendetta” is notable for its moody atmosphere, lush Italian locations, and Domergue’s strong performance as the vengeful Maria. The film also features a memorable score by Miklós Rózsa and was well-received upon its release.

Vendetta (1950) Original Movie Poster
  • 41X81 inches
  • Authentic, vintage theatrical-release movie poster.
  • MovieArt Austin will sell NO reproductions.

3 Characteristics of Preston Sturges Films

Preston Sturges was an American film director, screenwriter, and producer who was active in the 1930s and 1940s.

He is known for his fast-paced, dialogue-driven comedies, which often tackled social issues and featured complex characters. Here are three characteristics of Sturges’ films:

Witty Dialogue: Sturges’ films are renowned for their sharp, fast-paced dialogue, which often features clever wordplay and puns. Sturges himself was a master of witty banter, and he imbued his films with this trademark style of dialogue.

Complex Characters: Sturges’ films are populated by complex, multi-dimensional characters who often have both strengths and flaws.

Sturges was interested in exploring the human condition and delving into the motivations and psychology of his characters. His films often featured strong, independent women and unconventional heroes, which was a departure from the typical Hollywood archetypes of the time.

Social Commentary: Many of Sturges’ films were social commentaries that addressed important issues of the day, such as class, race, and gender. Sturges used humor and satire to critique societal norms and challenge audience expectations.

His films were often subversive and unconventional, but they also had a universal appeal that allowed them to connect with audiences of all backgrounds.

3 Reasons Why You Should Watch Preston Sturges Films

Here are three reasons why you should watch films by Preston Sturges:

Sharp Social Satire: Preston Sturges was known for his sharp wit and biting social commentary. His films often took aim at the foibles and hypocrisies of American society, including the excesses of the rich, the pretensions of the middle class, and the struggles of the working class.

Sturges used his clever scripts and zany humor to expose the flaws and inconsistencies of American culture and to offer a critique of the status quo.

Unique Style and Creative Techniques: Sturges was a highly innovative filmmaker who experimented with a range of creative techniques and cinematic styles.

He was known for his use of rapid-fire dialogue, complex visual gags, and intricate plot structures. Sturges was also a pioneer of the “screwball comedy” genre, which was marked by its fast-paced action, zany characters, and witty repartee.

His films are notable for their energy, creativity, and boundary-pushing approach to filmmaking.

Timeless Entertainment Value: Despite the fact that Sturges’ films were made over 70 years ago, they still hold up as highly entertaining and engaging works of art. His themes and messages are still relevant today, and his humor and wit remain fresh and engaging.

Watching a Preston Sturges film is not only an opportunity to appreciate classic Hollywood filmmaking, but also a chance to be entertained by a true master of the art form.

Overall, Preston Sturges’ films are highly recommended for anyone who enjoys clever writing, sharp social commentary, and creative filmmaking. They are an important part of the history of American cinema, and a testament to the enduring power of satire and comedy to both entertain and challenge audiences.

Best Preston Sturges Films – Wrapping Up

Preston Sturges was a talented writer and director who left an indelible mark on Hollywood with his unique blend of sharp wit, fast-paced dialogue, and offbeat humor. Here are some of his best films:

“The Lady Eve” (1941) – A screwball comedy starring Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda about a con artist who falls for her mark.

“Sullivan’s Travels” (1941) – A satirical comedy-drama about a successful Hollywood director who goes on a journey of self-discovery to experience the struggles of the common man.

“The Palm Beach Story” (1942) – A zany comedy about a woman who divorces her struggling inventor husband to marry a wealthy man, only to discover that her ex-husband’s fortunes have turned around.

“Hail the Conquering Hero” (1944) – A political satire about a discharged soldier who is mistaken for a war hero and swept up in a political campaign.

“The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek” (1944) – A screwball comedy about a young woman who becomes pregnant after a wild night out with soldiers and the man who agrees to marry her to save her reputation.

“Unfaithfully Yours” (1948) – A dark comedy about a jealous orchestra conductor who plans revenge on his unfaithful wife.

Sturges’ films were known for their fast pace, snappy dialogue, and unique blend of humor and social commentary. They remain beloved classics of American cinema and continue to influence filmmakers to this day.