Preston Sturges by Preston Sturges

It is a shame that Preston Sturges’ film career is treated only incidentally in this fragmentary autobiography, for insight on that subject is exactly what most readers of this book will come looking for. Sturges is best known for such classic film comedies as THE GREAT McGINTY, THE LADY EVE, and SULLIVAN’S TRAVELS, but although the last third of the book occasionally mentions these and other such films and presents some anecdotes about his years in Hollywood, Sturges focuses relentlessly on details of his life that are not directly related to his creative work.

Most of the book is filled with stories of wealth and wackiness-themes which do, after all, figure prominently in his great films, but the reader is left to make these connections without much help from the autobiographer. Sturges’ life seems to have been shaped by his remarkable mother, under whose tutelage he traveled back and forth between America and Europe, palled around with Isadora Duncan (her mother’s close friend) and her children, ran a perfume and cosmetics business, fell in and out of love with an assortment of astonishing women, and generally led an unconventional life that might have been strenuous if it was not so luxurious. His story is not of the ache but of the fulfillment of desires: eating every meal for a summer at Ciro’s, clubbing with the rich and famous (though now eminently forgettable), loving and being loved.

Finally one cannot quite say about Sturges what Oscar Wilde said about himself: that his talent went into his art but his genius went into his life. Nevertheless, PRESTON STURGES BY PRESTON STURGES is an interesting complement to Sturges’ own films, providing a captivating personal and social history of the fashioning of a well-heeled American wit.