Preston Sturges

American film director and screenwriter / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Preston Sturges (/ˈstɜːrɪs/;[1] born Edmund Preston Biden; August 29, 1898 – August 6, 1959) was an American playwright, screenwriter, and film director.

Quick facts: Preston Sturges, Born, Died, Occupations, Yea...
Preston Sturges
Preston_Sturges.gif
Born
Edmund Preston Biden

(1898-08-29)August 29, 1898
DiedAugust 6, 1959(1959-08-06) (aged 60)
Occupations
  • Playwright
  • screenwriter
  • film director
Years active1928–1956
Spouses
Estelle de Wolf Mudge
(m. 1923; div. 1928)
(m. 1930; ann. 1932)
Louise Sargent Tevis
(m. 1938; div. 1947)
Anne Margaret "Sandy" Nagle
(m. 1951; died 1959)
Children3, including Tom Sturges
RelativesShannon Sturges (granddaughter)
Close

He is credited as being the first screenwriter to find success as a director. Prior to Sturges, other Hollywood directors (such as Charlie Chaplin, D. W. Griffith and Frank Capra) had directed films from their own scripts; however, Sturges is often regarded as the first Hollywood figure to establish success as a screenwriter and then move into directing his own scripts. He sold the story for The Great McGinty to Paramount Pictures for $10 in exchange for directing it. Anthony Lane writes that "To us, that seems old hat, one of the paths by which the ambitious get to run their own show, but back in 1940, when The Great McGinty came out, it was very new hat indeed; the opening credits proclaimed 'Written and directed by Preston Sturges,' and it was the first time in the history of talkies that the two passive verbs had appeared together onscreen. From that conjunction sprang a whole tradition of filmmaking: literate, spiky, defensive, markedly personal, and almost always funny."[2] For that film, Sturges won the first Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.[2]

Sturges went on to receive Oscar nominations for The Miracle of Morgan's Creek (1944) and Hail the Conquering Hero (1944). He also wrote and directed The Lady Eve, Sullivan's Travels (both 1941) and The Palm Beach Story (1942), each considered classic comedies, appearing on the American Film Institute's 100 Years...100 Laughs.[3]

Per the documentary Preston Sturges: The Rise and Fall of an American Dreamer,

he opened the gates for generations of future filmmakers by becoming the first screenwriter to establish himself as a film director. In the process, he made himself one of the most celebrated figures of the 1940s. But his star, which had burned so brightly, fell almost as quickly as it had risen. To this day, this man who introduced irony to American screen comedy remains an enigmatic and contradictory personality: a lowbrow aristocrat and a melancholy wiseguy, he reaped the rewards and paid the price for being a brilliant American dreamer.[4]

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