Thursday, June 09, 2005

Sturges Surges

The Preston Sturges DVD situation is improving, with Unfaithfully Yours due from Criterion on July 12 and The Miracle of Morgan's Creek from Paramount on September 6. (For some weird reason, Paramount retained the rights to this film even though they sold all their other pre-1948 films to Universal.) Now, if Universal would bother to release the rest of the Paramount-era Sturges films, which are The Great McGinty, Christmas in July, The Great Moment and, best of all, Hail the Conquering Hero, we'd have nothing to complain about.

Also, Ernst Lubitsch finally seems to have gotten his due lately with the release of To Be or Not to Be and Design For Living, next week's Criterion release of Heaven Can Wait, and Ninotchka in September. However, Universal is still sitting on most of the '30s Paramount movies, and Fox has never made Cluny Brown available in any home video format (though it is available on a French DVD), so it's still a bit of an uphill climb there.

Incidentally, while many critics have speculated that the Rex Harrison character in Unfaithfully Yours might have been a self-portrait of Sturges, surprisingly few have pointed out that he's actually based directly on another famous person: the British conductor Sir Thomas Beecham. Harrison spoofs Beecham's reputation as a superstar conductor with a quick wit and a hot temper, the character's family made its money in patent medicine like Beecham's, and the character's repertoire is based on Beecham's: the Edgar Kennedy character gushes that "no one can handle Handel like you handle Handel... and your Delius? Delirious!" -- Beecham was perhaps best known for his ludicrously overblown arrangements of Handel, and for championing Delius while ignoring all the good British composers of his generation. You can find out more about Beecham -- I'm not a fan, but many are -- here.

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