Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Preston Sturges Retrospective 5 - THE GREAT MOMENT

After the success of THE LADY EVE, SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS and THE PALM BEACH STORY, Preston Sturges took a break from self-penned screwball comedies to direct a historic biopic about a Boston dentist called William Morton who discovered the use of ether as an anaesthetic. Apparently these sorts of medical biopics were rather popular at the time, and one can only assume that Sturges was personally interested in the subject matter. After all, he was already so much better paid than any of his contemporaries, this can't have been a shameless cash-in, can it? The movie opens strongly with a segment that excoriates political process and venality as much as anything in THE GREAT McGINTY: our hero is manipulated into filing a lawsuit to protect his patent that makes him seem like a profiteer and disenfranchises him. The rest of the movie, told in flashback, is only sporadically interesting. Joel McCrea does his best to pull of the drama, but for the first time, Sturges can't quite balance the emotional content with the broad comedy. Admittedly, the main fault for the film's failure is studio meddling to create a contrived happy ending. But one can't help but feel that Sturges either misjudged the material.

THE GREAT MOMENT was released in 1944.

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