A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that morning-after nightmares about sex and unplanned pregnancy are at the center of this comedy, even though the scandalous material is presented within the boundaries of good taste (and old Hollywood's strict censorship code, though it's pretty amazing how much they got away with). Technically, at least, there's no pre-marital sex -- it's just that heroine Trudy can't remember whom it was that she drunkenly married and took to bed.
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What's the story?
THE MIRACLE OF MORGAN'S CREEK takes place during WWII. Vivacious small-town girl Trudy Kockenlocker (Betty Hutton) wants to go out and join the frantic dancing and drinking with young servicemen on their way to the war, but is kept a virtual prisoner at home by her protective, widowed father (William Demerest), the local cop. Norval Jones (Eddie Bracken), a wimpy bank clerk who disqualified from the military, agrees to pretend to take Trudy to the movies so that Trudy can go to a party. When she wakes up back at home after the party, she has a makeshift wedding ring and a vague memory of spending a passionate night with a man whose name she thinks goes something like "Ratsky-Watsky." When Trudy realizes she's pregnant, she and Norval, who will do anything to help her, scheme to elope and get married. But because Trudy is technically married already, Norval has to impersonate "Ratsky-Watsky," which is what brings down the law on him, for impersonating a military officer, bigamy, corrupting public morals, and host of other charges. It takes the "miracle" of the title to suddenly turn Norval into a national hero -- maybe even turn the tide of the war.
Is it any good?
Long before Knocked Up, there was this classic, rapid-fire comedy about unintended pregnancy and the consequences of casual sexual intercourse. It was made in a Hollywood so strictly ruled by iron-fisted censorship that even using terms like "pregnancy" and "casual sexual intercourse" were forbidden. Director Preston Sturges was a master of rollicking comedies that heavily utilized suggestion, character reaction, and innuendo, and he made this farce surrounding some of the most taboo subjects without holding back. A few of the supporting characters, whose role in the action is rather puzzling, are holdovers from a previous Sturges comedy, the more politically oriented The Great McGinty.
Bracken is hilarious in his nonstop comical meltdown as a jittery but pure-hearted suitor -- so incredibly naïve and innocent he has to be walked, step-by-step, through a jailbreak, not comprehending what's going on. Hutton was a blonde, wholesomely gorgeous singer-actress who has an early scene here lip-syncing to a record that could stand by itself as one of Hollywood's funniest moments. Ever. Even with the laugh-out-loud stuff, the basic pathos of these folks, trying so hard to make backpedal from the consequences of one reckless night, is touching as it convulsive.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the WWII historical backdrop to this film -- when young male soldiers were departing regularly for battle, and there was a certain expectation that they were entitled to get married, or even fool around, before marching off to fight and likely die. Premarital sex and single mothers no longer carry the stigma they did when this film was made. Do you think that's a good thing? Do you think this film could have been in today's R-rated climate and remained as funny? It might need explaining that a few of the supporting characters, whose role in the action is rather puzzling, are holdovers from a previous Preston Sturges comedy, The Great McGinty.
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