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Preston Sturges (29 August 1898 – 6 August 1959), originally Edmund Preston Biden, was a celebrated playwright, screenwriter and film director born in Chicago, Illinois. In 1941 he won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for the film The Great McGinty.
Sturges took the screwball comedy format of the 1930s to another level, writing dialogue that, heard today, is often surprisingly naturalistic, mature, and ahead of its time, despite the farcical situations.
In recent years, film scholars such as Alessandro Pirolini have also argued that Sturges' cinema anticipated more experimental narratives by contemporary directors such as Joel and Ethan Coen, Robert Zemeckis, and Woody Allen, along with prolific The Simpsons writer John Swartzwelder: "Many of [Sturges'] movies and screenplays reveal a restless and impatient attempt to escape codified rules and narrative schemata, and to push the mechanisms and conventions of their genre to the extent of unveiling them to the spectator. [See for example] the disruption of standardized timelines in films such as The Power and the Glory and The Great McGinty [or the way] an apparently classical comedy such as Unfaithfully Yours (1948) shifts into the realm of multiple and hypothetical narratives.
Prior to Sturges, other figures in Hollywood (such as Charlie Chaplin, D.W. Griffith, and Frank Capra) had directed films from their own scripts. However, Sturges is often regarded as the first Hollywood figure to be initially mainly successfully established as a screenwriter and then to subsequently move into directing his own scripts, at a time when those roles were mostly entrenched and separate. Famously, Sturges sold the story for The Great McGinty to Paramount Pictures for $1, in return for being allowed to direct the film; the sum was quietly raised to $10 by the studio for legal reasons.
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