Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The sin.

Preston Sturges Picture

The great Preston Sturges had a string of great films like no one else in the history of American cinema. In four years, from 1940 to 1944, he wrote, directed and produced seven of the funniest movies ever made, a couple of them, Sullivan's Travels, Palm Beach Story and The Lady Eve, earning spots on the AFI's top films and top comedies.

Such is the nature of genius and inspiration that Sturges' career was all but over in 1944. He made a pretty good picture with Rex Harrison and Linda Darnell in 1948 called Unfaithfully Yours, but the bloom was fully off his rose.

In 1947, he left his longtime studio, Paramount, and went into a movie venture with millionaire (when that epithet meant something) Howard Hughes. He created a movie called "The Sin of Harold Diddlebock."

It gave new dimension to the word failure. In fact, Hughes had the gall to take the picture from Sturges, re-edit and re-title it "Mad Wednesday."

For years, The Sin or Mad Wednesday was impossible to find. But finally I found it playing at three in the morning on TCM and, back when we had VCRs, I taped it. And when I put it in the VCR to watch it, I was like an art-collector about about to see a previously-unknown Caravaggio.

For thirty minutes, I watched perhaps the greatest American movie ever made. Yes, equal to Welles' "Citizen Kane," or Coppola's "Godfather," or Huston's "Moby Dick."

Then, unfortunately things in the movie fell apart. Sturges got afraid of what he was making and switched to mere slapstick.

But still.

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