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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.
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on April 5, 2016
The problem in writing a life of Preston Sturges is that after about 1943 it's one long, sad anticlimax. Sturges had four miraculous years, 1940-43, during which he produced masterpieces: "The Lady Eve," "Palm Beach Story," "The Miracle of Morgan Creek," and others. In order to do this, he accomplished something that no other Hollwood writer had done, except for Chaplin -- he directed his own scripts, he permitted no rewrites or (while he could prevent it) re-edits, and what came out as a Preston Sturges movie was exactly that, without dilution. But the suits got even with him, and when he walked away from his contract, he made one disastrous deal after another. He stretched himself too thin -- inventing things, running a machine shop, sinking his energies into a restaurant, and after two or three flop movies, taken away from him in postproduction and either ruined or not, depending on whom you believe, he was unemployable. James Curtis can't overcome this disastrous structural problem and he can't quite get us (or me, anyway) close enough to Sturges to see where all that genius came from. A good book but there's probably a better one waiting to be written.
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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.
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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.
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on July 14, 2013
Excellent and informative bio of the mercurial Sturges. Gives an objective account of his fast rise at the age of 30 and just as quick undoing -- caused by the usual suspects: hubris, stubborness, and an inability to take criticism and alcohol.
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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".
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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.
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on January 28, 2014
Preston Sturges made some fine movies before and during WWII. If you like his films, the story of his life is more interesting than even his best film. This biography is a very good read,indeed.
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on November 29, 2014
A really superior biography. Curtis accesses Sturges' unfinished autobiog, and it makes all the difference.
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on March 22, 2015
Most interesting person in the film industry in the 20th century.
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