I have officially had it with Christmas-themed political correctness. I kept my mouth shut when everyone started yakking about the supposedly sinister subtext of the song “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” But nobody is going to mouth off to me about Preston Sturges and get away with it.
Sturges’ The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek (1944) manages to make comedy hay out of, of all things, the pregnancy of an (for all intents and purposes) unwed mother. If you’re not familiar with the movie, I have previously summarized and raved about it here on this blog. If you don’t agree with me that Miracle is hysterically funny, that’s your loss. But a blog named Ellen and Jim Have a Blog, Two has tried to argue that the movie is about a case of rape. (You can read their take on the movie here.) This will not stand.
Ellen and Jim — who, for the purpose of brevity, I will hereafter refer to as “the blog” — state that they read the shooting script for the movie as well as watching the film itself. Yet in order to make their point, they leave out miles of crucial plot points and manage to twist many of the remaining plot points into Christmas licorice.
The movie’s pivotal plot twist comes when the heroine Trudy (Betty Hutton), having deserted her long-adoring 4-F male friend Norval (Eddie Bracken) to attend a party for soldiers going off to war, gets accidentally knocked on the head and later finds that she is pregnant from her night of frivolity. The blog labels this incident as a “rape” and uses the R-word repeatedly before it ever deigns to (vaguely) mention another major plot point.
At one point before Trudy gets bumped on the head, one of the partying soldiers declares, “Hey, I got a crazy idea — let’s all get married!” Everyone laughs derisively at the idea, but the movie implies that the deed took place. When Trudy returns Norval’s car to him in a damaged state and drunkenly tries to recall the evening’s events, the camera focuses on a relic that Trudy unknowingly left in the road — a sign that had been placed on the back of the car that read, “Just married.”
Now, Sturges might have inserted this plot point simply to appease the censorious Hays Office. Yet the blog goes so far as to say, “It passes because in the words of the script [and the movie, I might add] she has not been raped; she was married and therefore cannot have been raped. Tease this out and we could imagine a scene of marital rape.”
Well, I suppose we could, and we could also extrapolate any number of biased theories from the movie’s plot points, if that’s all we wanted to do. What I find especially bothersome about the blog is its implication that the movie is laughing derisively at a woman who finds herself pregnant and, though she is supposedly married, has no father to speak of for her baby. (In a reply to a query from one of the blog’s readers, the blog answers, “I feel for [Trudy’s] distress — if the movie would allow it, but it does not, and that is why it’s made up of laughter betrayed.”)
But I don’t see it that way at all. The movie takes quite seriously Trudy and her young sister Emmy’s (Diana Lynn) reactions to the news of Trudy’s pregnancy, and their dread of how apoplectically their stern father Edmund (William Demarest) will react to the news.
The blog also opines that Sturges “has [female] characters say they cover up for and prefer men who hurt them.” Where’d they get that one?? Norval, who has pined over Trudy ever since they were in grade school, wants nothing more than the best for Trudy. Widowed father Edmund is shown to be far more bark than bite, softening up quite a bit as the movie progresses.
There are plenty of laughs to be had in The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek, but none of them occur by cheapening the characters or making fun of Trudy’s very real plight. And along with the laughs comes plenty of pathos, of the kind that Chaplin surely would have applauded. It appears that, when it comes to Preston Sturges, Ellen and Jim have a chip on their shoulders, two.