It’s unfortunate that Preston Sturges – one of Hollywood’s first great writer\directors – is essentially forgotten by today’s audience. There’s plenty of information to be found about him on the web, so I’ll just say that his unique voice spanned a checkered career that burned out way too early. Nonetheless, he enjoyed a period of great success and his best films are still worthy of attention. If you’re not familiar with such titles as The Great McGinty (1940; William C. Mellor, ASC), The Lady Eve (1941; Victor Milner, ASC), Sullivan’s Travels (1941; John Seitz, ASC), The Palm Beach Story (1942; Victor Milner, ASC), The Miracle At Morgan’s Creek (1943; John Seitz, ASC) or Hail the Conquering Hero (1944; John Seitz, ASC), take the time to review them. They’re not just wry and amusing, they showcase the studio production line at its best; Sturges’ amazing cinematographers gave his films a gorgeous sheen. His gift for quick, witty dialogue and oddball, amusing plots are unlike anything you’ve seen – and I mean that in the best way possible.
That cleverness extended to many of his observations about his work, Hollywood and life in general. He also liked to have a good time, as is evidenced by his ownership of The Players, a nightclub located at 8225 Sunset Boulevard (today’s site of The Pink Taco). He never made a dime from it but it didn’t matter. It was a place to relax and rave it up with his friends. Maybe it was there during some booze-sodden night that he came up with his 11 Rules For Boxoffice Appeal. As you read it keep in mind that biting sarcasm was another one of his trademarks.
Even so, I wonder what a studio executive would think about them today…
1. A pretty girl is better than an ugly one.
2. A leg is better than an arm.
3. A bedroom is better than a living room.
4. An arrival is better than a departure.
5. A birth is better than a death.
6. A chase is better than a chat.
7. A dog is better than a landscape.
8. A kitten is better than a dog.
9. A baby is better than a kitten.
10. A kiss is better than a baby.
11. A pratfall is better than anything.