R.D. Finch of The Movie Projector is hosting a wonderful blogathon in honor of American auteur William Wyler and I have been so busy finishing up my piece on The Letter (1940) that I’ve paid little attention to anything else. Meanwhile, Turner Classic Movies is about to pay tribute to one of Wyler’s great friends, writer/director Preston Sturges.
Wyler and Sturges had collaborated on The Good Fairy (1935). Wyler directed the film for which Sturges had written a script with the starring role tailored for actress Margaret Sullavan. Wyler and Sullavan clashed on the set constantly – and then eloped just a month before the film wrapped. The Wyler/Sullvan marriage didn’t last, but the Wyler/Sturges friendship did.
Wyler had very fond memories of Preston Sturges: “He was a genius. He was also a tremendous egomaniac. I mean this in the most friendly sense because I loved Preston. We always spoke French together, funny enough. He wrote everything, directed everything, played everything out for actors. He later had a table at luncheon at Paramount where he held forth. As long as you didn’t open your mouth but let him do the talking, everything was fine. He was a marvelous friend and a great companion.”*
In 1959, after completing principal photography on Ben-Hurin Rome, Wyler and his wife Talli attended the opening of his most recent film, The Big Country, in London and passed through New York on their way to California. It was while in New York they learned of the death of Preston Sturges at the Algonquin Hotel. Wyler had last seen his friend in 1956 in Paris where Sturges was living at the time.
In his late years, when his career as a filmmaker was essentially over, Preston Sturges was involved in a variety of projects. In 1958 he took a supporting role as a French playwright in a Bob Hope vehicle, Paris Holiday. Here is a clip of Preston Sturges, the actor…scroll down for the schedule of films to be featured during TCM’s tribute, Directed by Preston Sturges.
TCM presents Directed by Preston Sturges beginning at 8pm Eastern/5pm Pacific on June 30:
89m/5pm Sullivan’s Travels (1941) starring Joel McCrea and Veronica Lake
9:45pm/6:45pm Christmas in July (1940) starring Dick Powell and Ellen Drew
11pm/8pm The Great McGinty (1940) starring Brian Donlevy and Akim Tamiroff
12:30am/9:30pm The Lady Eve (1941) starring Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda
2:15am/11:15pm Hail the Conquering Hero starring Eddie Bracken and Ella Raines
4am/1am The Palm Beach Story (1942) starring Claudette Colbert and Joel McCrea
*from William Wyler – The Authorized Biography by Axel Madsen, Thomas Y. Crowell Co. (1973)