Friday, June 27, 2014

Preston Sturges’s “11 rules for box-office appeal”

Joel McCrea and Claudette Colbert in The Palm Beach Story. "Sturges's 1942 classic is like drinking a chilled glass of champagne, down in one. ....The zip and zap and zing are things of wonder."—The Guardian
Preston Sturges, the brilliant Hollywood writer/director (now we call them "auteurs") unleashed a string of hilarious films from 1939 to 1943. We have two of his screwball masterpieces at present: Hail the Conquering Hero (a hoot) and The Palm Beach Story (a corker). Here are his “11 rules for box-office appeal”:
A pretty girl is better than an ugly one.

A leg is better than an arm.

A bedroom is better than a living room.

An arrival is better than a departure.

A birth is better than a death.

A chase is better than a chat.

A dog is better than a landscape.

A kitten is better than a dog.

A baby is better than a kitten.

A kiss is better than a baby.

A pratfall is better than anything.
 Here's a writeup on Sturges from the PBS series American Masters.


  1. I would much rather see a dog in a movie than a baby or a kitten, unless the dog dies...

  2. A pratfall is absolutely wonderful. Love those pratfalls, I admit. A pratfall is outstanding for everything... except the coccyx.

  3. Multiplicity of pulchritude
    Is bound to please a multitude,
    But too many couples in profusion
    Only create much confusion.
    One dim but handsome swain,
    One beauty with a brain,
    In attraction can outdo
    Any random box of puppies
    With a kitty thrown in, too!

    1. someone is well versed in the comic arts ;)

  4. A kitten is better than a dog? I disagree with Mr. Sturges on this.

  5. Truly a comic master. It shows his sensibility that he left guns and/or gangsters off the list.

    p.s. The last two movies of his brilliant run, Hail the Conquering Hero and The Miracle of Morgan's Creek, were released in 1944, not 1943. My favorite of the seven is Sullivan's Travels, probably because my 'what makes a good movie' list would include that it be a road picture.

    1. Sullivan's Travels is really & truly one of a kind. thanks for touting it!