The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek (1943)

This riotous, irreverent comedy by Preston Sturges has always been one of my favorites from his extensive oeuvre. Like all of his films, it balances sophisticated satire with physical comedy and a poignantly romantic story. This one was particularly edgy for its time, as it focuses on the pregnancy of an all but unmarried woman (Betty Hutton) after a one-night stand with a soldier.


Trudy Kockenlocker (Betty Hutton) sneaks out to a wild party with soldiers heading off to war and wakes up the next morning with a vague memory of having gotten married and then learns she’s pregnant. Her whimpy friend Norval Jones (Eddie Bracken), who has been in love with Trudy since childhood, tries to help her and they hatch a plan to get married. Confusions, mistaken identities, and general chaos ensue, followed by the stigma of her unmarried pregnancy. It all ends happily with a “miracle” birth on Christmas Eve in Morgan’s Creek hospital.


There isn’t one. Like many of Sturges’ mid-1940s films, this one takes place in a mythical Midwestern town.


The movie concludes on Christmas Eve, with a lovely family scene with Trudy, her father, and her sister around a Christmas tree, before Trudy is rushed to the hospital for her miracle.


Sturges uses his traditional company of top-notch character actors, including William Demarest, Porter Hall (who appears in two other films on our Christmas watch list, Miracle on 34th Street and The Thin Man), and Jimmy Conlin (the owner of the dancing squirrel in The Great Rupert). Among my favorites is the sassy younger sister played by Diana Lynn, who played a similar character in The Major and the Minor. Lynn started her career as a child prodigy pianist, but she then moved into acting. After her film career diminished, she had many roles on TV, including as Joan of Arc in 1953 in a TV series called You Are There, which re-created historical events in short narratives. I recall loving this series as a child in the 1950s. Lynn also starred in a 1959 TV version of The Philadelphia Story, playing Tracy Lord (the Katharine Hepburn character) opposite Gig Young (as C.K. Dexter Haven), Christopher Plummer (as Mike Connnor), and Don DeFore (as George Kitteridge). DeFore appears in It Happened on Fifth Avenue, one of our favorite Christmas movie classics.


Two character actors in Morgan’s Creek had Astaire connections from his time in Manhattan. Georgia Caine, who plays Eddie Bracken’s mother, appeared on Broadway in Smiles with Fred and Adele Astaire. She was also a student of Claude Alviene, the dance instructor with whom the Astaires first studied when they came to New York in 1905. Caine was a regular member of Sturges’ stock company, dating back to the time she play Barbara Stanwyck’s nasty mother in Remember the Night, one of the films on our Christmas watchlist. Another actor with Astaire connections is Julius Tannen (Mr. Rafferty) was a member of the Lamb’s Club with Fred and appeared in four different benefit concerts with him in the early 1930s. Tannen played a member of the jury in Remember the Night, but he is probably best remembered from his small role in Singin’ in the Rain as the narrator demonstrating talking pictures at the beginning of that classic musical.


Great script, fine acting, blend of wit and slapstick. And two cameo appearances by McGinty and the Boss from Sturges’ first directorial hit, The Great McGinty.