Preston Sturges , Mensch

Written by Joe D on March 5th, 2010

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This post is still part of our Tribute to Robert Siodmak, Director of the Month here at Film Forno. But I wanted to shine the light of gratitude on Siodmak’s Hollywood benefactor, the late, great Preston Sturges. When Mr. Siodmak arrived in Hollwood, U.S.A. he had very little cash, forced to flee the Nazis he and his wife sailed here with barely anything. Now he had been a very successful director in Europe but unless you were brought over here by a Studio you were treated like any schmuck pounding the pavement in Tinsel Town. Nobody gave you the time of day for what you had already accomplished. This is just part of the immigration song from time immemorial. People who were big deals in their home countries have to start all over when they get to America. Your experience overseas counts for nothing. Often they find themselves working for people they would barely have spoken to back in the old country. Anyway Siodmak was here with his wife starving, he couldn’t get a job, nobody would cut him a break. Then one fortuitous day he wangled his way onto the Paramount lot and somehow bumped into Preston Sturges.
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Sturges (crouched under camera) directs a scene from Hail The Conquering Hero

Sturges was at the peak of his fame, power, and clout at that time. He took the time to listen to Siodmak’s plea. Siodmak had been a great comic actor in Germany, often bringing down the house with his antics, I’m sure he put his all into his performance for Sturges. He described films he’d made in Europe and piqued Sturges’s interest so much that Mr. Sturges immediately got on the phone and spoke to the head of production saying he had a terrific European director that all the other studios were fighting over and they should sign him right away, which they did. Siodmak directed 3 films there that he later referred to as “Paramount Shit”. But I have seen Fly By Night in a theater and let me tell you it is as entertaining as all get out! The audience loved it! So did I, it’s great! There is a fantastic stunt involving a car driving off a car carrier in motion that has to be seen to be believed, and it is paced to perfection. If you get a chance to see it, go! It was the second half of a double bill and it fit into that slot perfectly, I’m sure Siodmak designed it that way expressly. But back to Preston, Good deeds in Hollywood are as rare as hen’s teeth and one that allowed a great artist to create great works to be cherished by generations of film lovers even rarer. So I salute you Mr. Preston Sturges, not only for your incredible writing, directing, inventing but for your true generosity of Spirit in recognizing a fellow artist in need ( when no one else did) and giving him a helping hand. You sir are a mensch!

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