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PRESTON STURGES: THE RISE AND FALL OF AN AMERICAN DREAMER

USA, 1990 (MIFF 1990, Documentaries)

Director: Kenneth Bowser

To many film lovers, it is both a source of mystery and disgust that Preston Sturges is not currently recognised by the general public as 'the' great Hollywood comedy director.

During a four-year period at Paramount in the 1940s, Preston Sturges wrote and directed a handful of landmark films. His best-known comedies of the period, such as Sullivan's Travels, The Great McGinty, The Palm Beach Story and The Miracle of Morgan's Creek are blistering satires on American politics, society and moral conventions, as well as, arguably, the most witty and sophisticated comedies ever made.

Apart from his remarkable ability to circumvent the strict moral codes of the time - big-city politics, fertility, marital infidelity and capitalism were chief among his targets - Sturges was to have a significant effect on how films would be made in Hollywood, being the first to direct his own screenplays.

This lively and exhaustively researched documentary, by self confessed Sturges nut Ken Bowser, written by renowned author Todd McCarthy, provides an illuminating and intriguing journey through the remarkable, though short-lived, career of Sturges - writer, director, inventor, husband, father, restauranteur. In many respects, Sturges' life was as packed with irony as the stories that evolve in his films.

Sprinkled with well-chosen clips from various films and interviews, as well as some rare and revealing footage and recordings of Sturges himself, the documentary creates a vivid portrait of this larger-than-life figure, his meteoric rise to fame and later obscurity.
(PKa/TB)

As part of this year's Retrospective, the festival is screening one of Sturges' rarest films, Remember The Night, directed by Michael Leisen from Sturges' script in 1940.

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