Preston Sturges may not be a big name nowadays compared to his directing contemporaries such as Alfred Hitchcock, John Ford or Frank Capra, but he was an important director in his time and even nowadays, for those who know him, he was a great director. Preston Sturges - The Filmmaker Collection - collects seven of his biggest movies.
First in the set is The Great McGinty, which stars Brian Donleavy as a man who goes from being a bum to a governor, only to have it all crash down on him. This is a decent enough comedy about the world of politics. It's advertising that's parodied in Christmas in July, with Dick Powell as a man who thinks he's won a contest to come up with an advertising slogan. It's all the result of a practical joke that gets way out of control before its exposed.
Things really pick up with the next three movies. The Lady Eve has Henry Fonda as a wealthy yet clumsy young man targeted by con artist Barbara Stanwyck. Unfortunately for her, she actually falls for him, but when he finds out her true profession, she must engage in an even bigger con to win him back.
Sullivan's Travels, considered by many to be Sturges's best picture, as Joel McCrea (in the first of three roles in Sturges movies) as the title character, a big-time movie director who makes great comedies but wants to make a message picture. He decides to live the life of a hobo to see how the poor live; at first, this is rather comic but at a certain point things turn much more serious, teaching Sullivan a lesson he wasn't expecting.
Things lighten up in The Palm Beach Story, with the antics even occurring in the opening credits, As McCrea and Claudette Colbert get married. Five years later, things are on the rocks as they are broke. Colbert decides to leave McCrea, figuring that if they divorce, he'll finally be able to be a success. She runs off to Florida, with her husband in pursuit, where they both wind up entangled with an eccentric billionaire and his man-hungry sister.
Next in the set - and the weakest in the septet - is The Great Moment, a drama loosely based on the true story of a dentist (played by McCrea) who discovered the use of ether as an anesthetic. With little in the way of comedy and recutting done by the studio after Sturges had finished it, this muddled film has its moments, but no great ones.
The last movie, Hail the Conquering Hero, gets things back on stride with Sturges sly tribute to the Marines. Eddie Bracken plays a shipyard worker who was medically discharged from the Marines for chronic hay fever. He befriends some Marines, who set up a ruse to make him seem like a hero to his unaware mother. Unfortunately, the ploy gets out of control as his hometown honors him and puts him up for mayor.
This movie set comes in a nice package but offers nothing in the way of extras outside of movie trailers. With four great movies (Sullivan's Travels, The Palm Beach Story, The Lady Eve and Hail the Conquering Hero), two good ones (The Great McGinty and Christmas in July) and one so-so one (The Great Moment), I am giving this set five stars. For a chance to see some classic comedies, this is worth picking up.