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Laramie Movie Scope:
The Miracle of Morgan's Creek

A forties-funny film, even funnier once you know the secret

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by Patrick Ivers, Film Critic
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(1944, b/w) A forties-funny film, having received an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, from director/writer Preston Sturges, but even funnier once you know the secret. The Bugle editor in Morgan Creek calls the governor, exclaiming, "It's a matter of life and death!" - though not a flood or an oil strike. When he hears what it is, the governor heartily agrees, this is an issue of "state pride, national pride" - the biggest thing since the state was stolen from the Indians.

The back story begins about nine months earlier with town constable Ed Kockenlocker (William Demarest) refusing to allow his daughter Trudy (Betty Hutton) permission to attend the farewell dance for the departing servicemen on their way to war because he's just read a newspaper article about young girls becoming war brides on the spur of the moment. Trudy then uses her lovelorn pal, Norval Jones (Eddie Bracken), who has been in her thrall since childhood, as a "false front" to get out of the house, saying they're going to the movie theater.

Trudy's papa trusts Norval, a homely-looking bank teller and an orphan who has repeatedly failed the army physical because of extreme nervousness (seeing black spots) and high blood pressure. With a fit of tears Trudy melts Norval's resolve to take her to the picture show as he'd told her father he would and instead lets her take his car to the dance while he sits through three features until after one in the morning.

At the church she dances and drinks "victory lemonade" before driving with a car-full of soldiers to the country club (where someone pays for champagne for everyone) followed by a third venue ("I've got a wonderful idea," a soldier shouts: "Let's all get married!") where one of her many dance partners throws her upward, striking Trudy's head on a reflecting ball hanging from the ceiling.

The next thing she knows she's driving back to pick up Norval in front of the theater at eight in the morning. Suspicious of her behavior, he asks if she's been drinking, to which she retorts: "I've never had a drink in my life!" Back home Trudy begins to realize (she has a wedding band on her finger) what must have happened during the night, confiding in her 14-year-old sister Emmy (Diana Lynn) that she's married to someone whose name she can't remember.

Vaguely she recalls not having given her real name to the justice of the peace either; she has no marriage certificate, no other proof of the event or where it took place. Following a visit to the physician, she discovers something even worse has resulted. Sardonic Emmy quips: "I was just wondering if I'd be an aunt or an uncle." Lawyer Johnson informs his client that it is a woman's responsibility to obtain a marriage license and witnesses since such legal protections are primarily for her benefit.

Emmy then suggests a scheme for Trudy to lure Norval into marrying her: "He fits like a skin on a weenie." But after getting Norval to propose, Trudy's conscience intervenes: "I can't do it to you," and then she explains her delicate situation. When she utters suicidal thoughts, Norval asks: "What's the matter with bigamy?"

Disappointed with her older sister's high-minded scruples, Emmy questions: "Where are you going to find another clunk like that one?" When the only options seem to come down to either getting married to Norval or revealing the truth, Norval is struck with a brilliant solution: he will pretend to be the soldier (dressed in a World War I uniform), calling himself Ignatz Ratzwizkiwz, who wed Trudy, with whom she will get a marriage certificate from the justice of the peace at the Honeymoon Motel, 25 miles outside of town, giving her the cover of propriety for giving birth to a baby.

Unfortunately, the couple's plans go awry, resulting in Norval's being arrested and charged with, among other violations, abduction of a minor, impairing the morals of a minor, perjury, resisting arrest, impersonating a soldier. After incarcerating Norval in his jailhouse, Mr Kockenlocker does everything but knock himself out to let Norval escape. Demonstrating his command of kinetic comedy, Demarest bellows and double-takes at Emmy's double entendres while taking multiple pratfalls.

Ridiculing the institution and rites of matrimony, portraying an underage virginal female inebriated, spoofing law enforcement, embedding sexual innuendos in the dialogue, Sturges's playing cat-and-mouse with the Hay's Office (censorship) production code was the real miracle (and unspoken purpose) of this movie's being produced for audiences to enjoy.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in video and/or DVD format, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2008 Patrick Ivers. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Patrick Ivers can be reached via e-mail at nora's email address at juno. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)