WHEN CRITICS TRASHED THAT "AFI TOP 100 FILMS LIST," one of the first missing filmmakers they noted was Preston Sturges. Who? His hot streak kicked off in 1940 and didn’t even last to 1950, but for a few years no one on Earth made comedies with zippier dialogue or crazier characters—not to mention an erotic edge even 1940s censors couldn’t curb. Here are four guaranteed to get you cooking with gas:

The Palm Beach Story—Claudette Colbert and Joel McCrea as a poor couple who get mixed up with crazy rich folk. More zany bit characters than any movie in history—like the immortal Wienie King.

The Lady Eve—The wiles conwoman Barbara Stanwyck uses on rich herpetologist Henry Fonda would straighten a boa constrictor.

Sullivan’s Travels—Ahead-of-its-time satire of Hollywood pretensions, with Joel McCrea as a director who drops out to find the real America.

The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek—Betty Hutton went drinking with soldiers, thinks she married one, can’t remember his name—and she’s pregnant. The miracle is how Sturges got away with that plot in 1944....


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