Sunday, December 21, 2008

Yes . . . But Where Is It Tomorrow?*

Yes . . . But Where Is It Tomorrow?*

Preston Sturgis was a man tormented by his own genius. Like a shaman he could stand outside society and so detached observe it's workings. Unfortunately, unlike a shaman, he could not heal his community. Perhaps that inability was because he saw the whole of humanity as his community, and that is too much a burden for anyone.

Sturgis continually broke new ground, sought new thrills and engaged new ideas. Sometimes he was wildly successful, sometimes he was pitifully deficient. During his life he succeeded and failed in many professions: inventor, businessman, playwright, stage director, screenwriter, screen director, collector, songwriter (words and music), caricaturist, restaurateur, yachtsman, husband (4 times) and raconteur. His life ended in failure, a nearly forgotten man, his last gasp a half-finished autobiography entitled "The Events Leading Up To My Death."

His movie credits include 40 films as a screenwriter, 13 films as a director, 7 films as a producer and 4 films as an actor. The films run the gamut from classics to flops to forgotten, but all dealt with the human condition; the trials and tribulations of lives navigating through a treacherous society. As such, even his worst films are an attempt to deliver a message of healing to his audience. His message -- He knows, he cares, he is telling the world. Sturgis had no answers himself, but he did know how to couch his message in comedy much as a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down. Alas, Sturgis did not have the magick of Mary Poppins, and if he were alive today he would no doubt think all the effort of his films were for naught.

In many ways his films were a pale image of his life. The rich characters he was known for in his films are but shadows compared to the people he knew in life. His mother, Mary Desti, was a woman possessed and lived a life too fantastic for fiction. Some of the other people that were close to him at one time or another included Isadora Duncan, Aleister Crowley, Marjorie Merriweather Post, Irving Thalberg, Howard Hughes and Darryl Zanuck. He could and did travel in many circles, and the nameless nobodies he knew also appeared, larger than life, throughout his films.

The philosopher that resembles Sturgis most intimately is Aristophanes. They both brought all their characters, large and small, to life and pit them against the capricious whims of society. Both sought to bring their message to the masses through comedy, a comedy that is at once terribly tragic and poignantly comfortable. There is a truth that gallops through their writings that is undeniably real, yet at the same time is ignored in everyday life in favor of idle illusion.

Perhaps the best homage I can pay to Preston Sturgis is to say that I want to watch every one of his films.

*Excerpt from "The Lady Eve" - pastry chef's reply to accolades of wonderment on his confectionary creation

Writer Filmography

Director Filmography

Producer Filmography

Actor Filmography

Filomgraphy from the Official Preston Sturgis Site:

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