CROOKED, BUT NEVER COMMON, The Films of Preston Sturges (2023), By Stuart Klawans

In a burst of creativity unmatched in Hollywood history, Preston Sturges directed a string of all-time classic comedies from 1939 through 1948—The Great McGinty, The Lady Eve, Sullivan’s Travels, The Palm Beach Story, and The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek among them—all from screenplays he alone had written. Cynical and sophisticated, romantic and sexually frank, crazily breakneck and endlessly witty, his movies continue to influence filmmakers and remain popular to this day. Yet despite this acclaim, Sturges’s achievements remain underappreciated: he is too often categorized as a dialogue writer and plot engineer more than a director, or belittled as an irresponsible spinner of laughs.

In Crooked, but Never Common, Stuart Klawans combines a critic’s insight and a fan’s enthusiasm to offer deeper ways to think about and enjoy Sturges’s work. He provides an in-depth appreciation of all ten of the writer-director’s major movies, presenting Sturges as a filmmaker whose work balanced slapstick and social critique, American and European traditions, and cynicism and affection for his characters. Tugging at loose threads—discontinuities, puzzles, and allusions that have dangled in plain sight—and putting the films into a broader cultural context, Klawans reveals structures, motives, and meanings underlying the uproarious pleasures of Sturges’s movies. In this new light, Sturges emerges at last as one of the truly great filmmakers—and funnier than ever.

About the Author

Stuart Klawans was the longtime film critic for the Nation, for which he received a National Magazine Award. He is the author of Film Follies: The Cinema Out of Order (1999) and has contributed to the New York Times, the Times Literary Supplement, Film Comment, and Parnassus: Poetry in Review.