6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on January 7, 2012
I am a big fan of Sturges' comedies, and I still watch several of his films on a yearly basis. I was curious to know what happened to Mr Sturges in the late 1940s that effectively saw one of the most commercially successful directors in Hollywood become unemployable within 5 years of his greatest hit.
I was familiar with the short bio of Sturges as the wunderkind who ran afoul of the powers that be, and suffered the consequences. However, the story is much more complex than that, and so we have a full-length biography providing a sympathetic, but balanced view of Sturges' career. The author gleans most of the information on Sturges childhood and early adult years from Sturges' own autobiography. But once we get into Sturges career years, Mr. Curtis exhibits his research skills, and provides a pretty extensive amount of corroborating material for most of the books facts and theses. Many of Sturges contemporaries were still alive at the time the book was being written which allowed the author to personally interview many of these people.
Sturges' career was an interesting mix of talent, bravado, egomania, eccentricity and luck; and despite the legend of the genius in theater and film, he had a pattern of brilliance interspersed with mediocrity( or worse) from his beginning as a self-made playwright. His move to Hollywood was motivated by failures in the theater. He had an early screenplay hit with the "Power and the Glory"(1933), but he was as much as a journeyman Hollywood writer ( albeit a well-paid one) as anything else through the 1930's. What he had in spades was an incredible confidence in his own material, and a desire to direct that material exactly as he had imagined it.
He got his chance in 1939 and made good on his promise to deliver a hit, under budget, on time and with a "B" cast(The Great McGinty). Over the next 4 years, he went on to turn out 5 more commercial and critical successes before his run-ins with studio head Buddy DeSylva made him leave Paramount. He would never direct a commercial hit again.
Mr. Sturges' subsequent fall from grace was as much a result of his own egomania and eccentricities as a studio system run by moguls and corporate half-talents mostly interested in preserving their fiefdoms. By the early 1950s, he alienated almost everybody who had been a friend, colleague, or collaborator in his life.
I enjoyed this book tremendously. While giving Sturges the benefit of his writing ad directing talent, the author lays out his failures and foibles for all to see. Of course, the difficulties of working in Hollywood also are highlighted, but clearly many other talented directors ( Wilder, Wyler, Hitchcock, et.al.) were able to navigate these difficulties for long periods of success, and Sturges was not. The film legacy remains to attest to the periods of brilliance. Great story, told well.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
James Curtis has again proven himself as an accomplished biographer in this study of Preston Sturges' life and art. Curtis examines Sturges' seemingly meteoric rise as a film director/screenwriter and his equally sudden fall from grace over a period of approximately 10 years. By 1950 Sturges was virtually unemployable in Hollywood.
Hard drinking and hard living may have been contributing factors in his reversal of fortune, but this book also looks at the madcap style of comedy which Sturges perfected and for which he is still known.
The beauty of this book is its lack of pretension and directness. Curtis manages to speak volumes without wordiness and/or empty paragraphs. This book is interesting, comprehensive, and involving. Amazingly, it resurrects a man who has been dead for over a half century and makes the subject seemingly new and fresh.
I enjoyed this book because I've always thought Preston Sturges was an interesting and talented fellow who has often been under rated and this book does much to restore his legend.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on November 21, 2002
An outstanding biography. Though concise, this is much better written than longer biographies of Preston Sturges. Curtis provides all the essentials, and does so in a well-structured and well-written style. Takes less time to read than the bios by Spoto and Jacobs, but the reader comes away with a much more vivid portrait of Sturges.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on February 16, 2014
If nothing else Preston Sturges had an incredibly interesting life. The fact that his films are some of my favorites, is what drew me to reading about him, and I was rewarded by this well written biography. Just the stories of his upbringing and relationship with his mother and her bohemian lifestyle were fascinating. The world was a much different place at the dawn of the 20th century than it is today. His meteoric rise and fall as a writer/director/mogul is equally as enraging, as are the stories surrounding the production of many of his films. Although very narcissistic he seemed like a pretty likable character, he was clearly a man ahead of his time in Hollywood. Sturges is definitely one of the more interesting characters from Hollywood's "Golden Age".
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on August 22, 2010
During the first half of the 1940's,
Preston Sturges had Hollywood agog
with his genius for creatic comic
masterpieces. He was the first of
the now-familiar breed of writer-
director, and built up a talented
ensemble company to give life to
his dynamic scripts. Yet, despite
his amazing rise, his swift downfall
was equally astounding, and by the
1950's, he was all but finished. This
excellent work depicts all aspects of
Sturges' fascinating life in great
detail and in excellent prose. It is
highly recommended for all those who
are spellbound by the triumphs and
tragedies of the creative life.