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Madcap, the Life of Preston Sturges.

MADCAP, THE LIFE OF PRESTON STURGES by Donald Spoto (Little, Brown, 301 p.) is that rare kind of biography that not only details the life of a person, but also gets under their skin, and somehow makes clear what released the talent and shaped the personality.

Preston Sturges, whose wit and humor lit up so many of Hollywood's best and most popular films, was something of an eccentric, and came by it honestly. In fact, the opening chapter, dealing with Preston's mother, Mary, a strange lady who spent much of her time in Europe and was a close friend of Isadora Duncan, (it was, in fact, a gift from Mary, a long, silk scarf, that killed the dancer in a freak car accident) would make a perfect scenario for a movie.

Without question, Mary dragging her son through Europe shaped and generated Sturges' somewhat unstable emotionalism. At the same time, it also provided him with a unique background which shows in all of his work - from his plays to his scripts and the films he directed. (He was the first to make the transition from the typewriter to the camera).

Madcap brings Sturges alive and explains his success - and his failures. He worked in the Thirties and the Forties when he turned out such marvellously funny and meaningful pictures as If I Were King, The Great McGinty, The Lady Eve, The Miracle of Morgan's Creek, The Sin of Harold Diddlebock (with Harold Lloyd) and Unfaithfully Yours.

Spoto skillfully intertwines the period and the man, drawing on Sturges' own (unpublished) memoirs and quite liberally on the memory of those closely associated with him, including the stars with whom he worked. Madcap is fun and it explains a lot about one of Hollywood's most able directors, who functioned on a level of his own, a cut above the average comedy/dramas and social screen commentaries of his period.
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Copyright 1991, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:A Guide for Bookworms
Publication:Video Age International
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Apr 1, 1991
Previous Article:The Power and the Glitter.
Next Article:Budget cuts, the password for MIPTV '91 - studios cutting back market presence.

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