In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Preston Sturges

  • Introduction
  • Anthologies
  • Monographs
  • Reference Works
  • Screenplays
  • Autobiography
  • Biographies and Biographical Criticism
  • Auteur Criticism: Assessments of Status, Place, and Legacy
  • Screenwriting and Dialogue
  • Influences and Impacts
  • Censorship and PCA
  • Screwball and Romantic Comedy
  • Common Themes and Preoccupations

Cinema and Media Studies Preston Sturges
Jeff Jaeckle
  • LAST REVIEWED: 19 April 2023
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 February 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791286-0237


Preston Sturges has long been a study in contrasts, inspiring highly divergent characterizations such as genius and fluke, artist and entertainer, auteur and sellout. These extremes seem warranted when one is considering his startlingly eclectic life. A groundbreaking writer-director, Sturges was also a songwriter, inventor, restaurateur, and engineer. He created some of the most witty, acerbic, and hilarious comedies of the 1940s, yet his forays into dramatic genres resulted in several dull and saccharine on-screen moments. He was considered the most “American” of Hollywood filmmakers, yet he lived in Europe from ages eight to fifteen, and spent the final years of his life in France. He was devoted to his globetrotting socialite mother, Mary Desti, yet he had an abiding love and respect for his pragmatic, stockbroker stepfather, Solomon Sturges. He was one of the highest-paid people in the United States in the mid-1940s, yet he was consumed by debt and failure upon his death in 1959. Scholarship on Preston Sturges has also seen its fair share of ups and downs. After a relative lull following his demise, various works since the early 1980s have done much to enlarge and deepen our understanding of his films, career, and personal life. The publication of three biographies, several critical studies, fourteen screenplays, and Sturges’s own memoirs have afforded numerous insights. Much of this work has been made possible through access to the Preston Sturges Papers, an archive of production materials, interoffice memos, letters, and miscellany at the UCLA Charles E. Young Research Library. This article gathers the most relevant, representative, and engaging of these sources, so that scholars and enthusiasts might enlighten themselves about Sturges’s legacy or build upon existing research to verify, correct, or complicate what we already know.


The only anthology on Preston Sturges, Jaeckle and Kozloff 2015 charts the filmmaker’s contributions to Hollywood cinema, revealing his pivotal status as an early writer-director, exploring his inimitable style, and making a bold case for his ongoing influence today.

  • Jaeckle, Jeff, and Sarah Kozloff, eds. Refocus: The Films of Preston Sturges. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2015.

    This collection includes original scholarship on the filmmaker’s relationships with studio executives, other filmmakers, and critics, including his films’ reception and influences both then and now. The contributors assess his treatments of cultural identities, including race, social class, gender, and aging; they also consider Sturges’s techniques and habits as a writer-director in terms of script design, scoring, and work with actors.

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