One-upping the Dionnes

A teenaged girl, with the improbable name of Kockenloker, who has a thing for soldiers goes out on the town determined to give the boys shipping out a send-off to remember. She gets loaded, and then gets in trouble (remembering nothing of the fateful night) and spends the rest of the movie trying to get a patsy to marry her.

Not the kind of story that comes to mind when you think of WWII, Hays-era American comedies. And yet Preston Sturges pulled it all off in Miracle at Morgan’s Creek. He did by twisting and tweaking the story with details that are barely believable, in fact, probably not meant to be believed. The girl’s actually been drinking lemonade all night, so she’s not drunk. No, she really just klunked her head on a mirror ball at a club, so her euphoric wheeziness and subsequent blackout are the result of a concussion. And actually, she got married before getting into trouble. The only problem is, she can’t remember whom she married; the last name goes something like Trotsky-rotsky and the first name is a complete blank. And there’s no marriage certificate, and she gave a false name, and she can’t really remember if it even happened anyway.

After a lot of screwball wackiness ensues, the movie caps off with a brilliant jab at familial morality. As the event draws near, the Kockenlockers are determined to keep every quiet. But lo! Trudy gives birth to sextuplets and now, with a genuine revenue-producing phenomenon on their hands, everyone up to the governor get involved to re-write the story, falsify the legal documents and trumpet the tale round the world.

Have artists been subverting repressive codes like Hays forever? Perhaps, and it makes sense because artists are, after all the people trained in the art of layering messages and injecting hidden meaning with enough ambiguity to create plausible deniability. Maybe they would make the best lawyers after all. Like most Sturges pictures, this one comes complete with cringe-inducing racism, this time in the form of William Demarest uttering, “That’s mighty white of you.” Twice. Oh, uncle Charlie!

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