Preston Sturges was a master film auteur and inspired many admirers and copycats, including the Coen Brothers who were unabashed fans and took the title O' Brother Where Art Thou from Sturges' best known film (see below). Sturges, like the Coens, was a writer/director, reused the same actors, and found a way to strike a perfect balance between the humor and horror of life. Many of his films were "dark comedies"--though not in the modern sense.
- Sullivan's Travels (1941)--The great director John Lloyd 'Sully' Sullivan hopes to buck the mold of his past comedies, with a "substantial" movie called O' Brother Where Art Thou. Being that he's a rich bastard who knows little about real life, he decides to set out disguised as a tramp to see what America is really like. In the end, as you might expect, he discovers something he never expected. Sound cheesy? Think again.
- The Lady Eve (1941)--Henry Fonda plays half-wit Charles 'Hopsie' Pike, heir to a beer fortune who has little interest in the family business, and lots of interest in snakes. Returning from a scientific trip to the Amazon, he meets Jean, a con woman, played by Barbara Stanwyck. He tries to love her, she tries to con him, and in the end they find out more about each other--and therefore life--than they had anticipated. Again, not as cheesy as it sounds.
- The Miracle Of Morgan's Creek (1944)--A surprisingly raunchy film for the period. Trudy Kockenlocker attends a dance celebrating soldiers going off to war, gets wasted, and marries one of them. Problem is, this marriage is consummated, and though she's with child, she has no idea what the child's last name should be. To complicate the matter, her father is the town constable--played by the excellent William Demerest--who excels at shooting things. In the end, she finds out what true love... oh, just watch the movie. But it's not cheesy! M. WILLIAM HELFRICH