The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek ★★½

The movie that defied the Code by talking its way around it, about a woman who has an anonymous encounter with a soldier and is left knocked up; as with the later Unfaithfully Yours, the big gimmick seems to be to try to form a tragic or unfortunate situation into high comedy. All I seem to have written about this on first seeing it -- before I'd encountered any of Sturges' other work -- is "it probably seemed better on paper." That's still accurate, I think. Like all of Sturges' films, it possesses sharp, erudite dialogue with irresistibly eccentric rhythms; and like most of them, it has a persuasive and almost manic joy driving it. But the slapstick (which he never had any gift for) and shrillness that sometimes derail his other Paramount movies momentarily is much harder to overcome here, in part because he has centered two actors to whom his only direction was apparently "be as annoying as possible." Betty Hutton isn't unappealing as a front-and-center comedienne, and there's a certain cuddliness to Eddie Bracken's characterization of the hapless semi-boyfriend, and Sturges does get wonderful mileage out of their physical mismatch, especially in the genuinely amusing Justice of the Peace sequence; but both are pitched to maxed-out, impossibly loud zaniness that doesn't work well with Sturges' rhythms or pacing. It's like putting Katharine Hepburn's Bringing Up Baby performance into Holiday or something. It isn't enough that Hutton's emotional state is raw and obvious, it has to be constantly shouted; and the absurdity of Bracken's incessant nervousness is too exaggerated not to take a modern viewer out of the film. Additionally, I'm still a little disturbed by the storyline itself -- someone has sex with Trudy after she hits her head while extremely drunk, then abandons her and she's left with no coherent memory of the incident? The shadiness is most likely unintentional, but seen today the implications are a little hard to take, at least for me; and as to the "miracle" of the title, maybe this is my own cynicism shining through, but it still seems pretty tragic from my perspective.