The Mystery of Morgan’s Creek

Here’s a strange one, A mystery introduced, investigated and solved in a single day (yesterday), but leaving a bigger mystery.

First, Dan Sallitt, filmmaker and friend, got in touch with a curious question. He was making up some film lists, and wanted to check the accuracy of THE MIRACLE OF MORGAN’S CREEK’S release date. The film was shot at the end of 1942, but release was held up a bit.

Dan wasn’t asking me as a Sturges scholar, but as a Scot: the IMDb gives the film’s first release date as December 1943, (Glasgow) (premiere). This seemed odd. Films don’t typically get even their UK premieres in Glasgow. Plus, the copyright date for the film in the US is January 1944. You wouldn’t expect Paramount to be screening the film before they copyrighted it.

Dan couldn’t learn much more without paying for the privilege, but he could see that the film was screening in Glasgow in December *1944*, a whole year later than the IMDb’s date, so maybe it was a simple typo that had gotten worked up into a whole alternative history?

I didn’t know the answer but thought I knew someone who could get it, ace researcher Diarmid Mogg. I fired him an email.

I got this back:

If you can tear your attention away from the discourse on the humourlessness of Scotsmen, you can see on the right mention of Betty Hutton premiering her new film in Glasgow. And the date is December 1943.

So it really happened. But why was Glasgow chosen? And why wasn’t the film’s copyright registered until a month after it began screening in the UK?

Diarmid was able to answer the odd point about the film still showing in 1944. It was still showing in *1951*, too, having proved so popular it simply didn’t stop running, here and there, all over the country.

So, for once, the Inaccurate Movie Database hasn’t lived down to its name, but we’re still left with a puzzle. Perhaps one of you has the answer?

11 Responses to “The Mystery of Morgan’s Creek”

  1. An extremely good mystery! I think Paramount were governmentally decreed to cut back on production from 1940 onwards by around two thirds. They were also pre-selling films that hadn’t been made yet, maybe this could be a factor in the temporal mix-up?

  2. Plus one must factor in any wobblers the Hays Office might have thrown.

  3. Jeff Gee Says:

    Looks like the IMDB has removed Froggy MacIntyre’s review of the “seldom seen 1943 so-called ‘Glasgow cut’ with 10 additional minutes of Akim Tamiroff”…

  4. David Ehrenstein Says:

    As everyone knows, Glasgow is the birthplace of Ignatz Ratskiwatski.

  5. Mark E Fuller Says:

    Diverting from other research, I went through The Daily Record, cover to cover, for the following week; apart from a printing-block advert for the film “Coming Shortly To Leading Scottish Cinemas” on the Monday, there was no further mention of the film, or the occasion, even in Jack Gourlay’s film review column the following Saturday, which majored on Journey Into Fear. So not so much a Premiere, just a first screening.?? First Nights of the local pantos got more of a splash…… DON’T want to see the photograph for Robinson Crusoe…..

  6. I tried to find any mention in the contemporary trade papers, but I don’t have online access to e.g. Variety from that time period. Given the subject matter, Sturges’ own earlier service, and the wartime date, I wonder if it was something like a USO event that somehow was also presented as a premiere? I’ve no idea how significant the US military presence in/around Glasgow was. I did quite a bit of research on film distribution in West Africa, and while US releases were generally several years old, that’s less true in the wartime period, in part because the US military audience was also being facilitated, with some apparent knock-on effects for local distribution.

  7. There would have been a lot of yanks in Glasgow, I bet.

    The Breen Office said the film was so funny they couldn’t really take offence, which was unusually broad-minded of them.

    Robinson Crusoe is an odd choice for a panto, but I remember seeing it done in the 70s. There were a lot more characters than in DeFoe.

  8. Preston Johnson Says:

    “More sudued”?? Either the photo caption writer hasn’t seen the film yet, or has a very esoteric sense of irony

  9. Yeah, it’s like all he was told was “she doesn’t have any numbers in this one.”

  10. David Ehrenstein Says:

    It was I believe James Agee who said the Breen office “was raped in its sleep.” What Sturges does here is take a page from the grifters he created (and/or Mary Desti) “keep things moving furiously and no one will notice.”

    As for Betty Hutton she was a favorite movie star of Ludwig Wittgenstein’s (along with Carmen Miranda) as her frenetic performances helped him relax after a long day of metaphysical speculation.

    Betty herself treasured her work with Sturges as unlike most powerful Hollywoodians he treated her with enormous respect and made the whole experience as much fun as possible.

  11. Since Betty was Buddy DaSylva’s discovery and he was now running Paramount, that happy collaboration SHOULD have helped Sturges stay in the good graces of the front office, but it was not to be. Either he was getting impossible (there is evidence to suggest this) or no amount of obeisance would have satisfied them (also seems possible). He was a triple threat and he couldn’t be allowed to go on.

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