Preston Sturges (Book)

The Last Years of Hollywood's First Writer-Director

Few directors of the 1930s and ‘40s were as distinctive and popular as Preston Sturges, whose whipsmart comedies have entertained audiences for decades. Beginning with a foreword by Peter Bogdanovich, this book offers a new critical appreciation of Sturges’ whole oeuvre, incorporating a detailed study of the last ten years of his life from new primary sources. Preston Sturges details the many unfinished projects of Sturges’ last decade, including films, plays, TV series and his autobiography. Drawing on diaries, sketchbooks, correspondence, unpublished screenplays and more, Nick Smedley and Tom Sturges present the writer-director’s final years in more detail than we’ve ever seen, showing a master still at work—even if very little of that work ultimately made it to the screen or stage.

Category: Film Studies


A survey of Preston Sturges’ film canon, with a new critical appreciation followed by a detailed study, using new primary sources, of his career (and private life) from 1949 until his death in 1959, highlighting the many unfinished projects of this decade, including films, plays, TV series and his autobiography. The book looks in detail at his life and works, using newly available (exclusive to this author) archival material from the private family archive including diaries, an ‘Ideas Book’, sketches, extensive correspondence, unpublished screenplays and the unpublished full text of his autobiography. This material is supplemented by archival material from the archive at UCLA.

Nick Smedley is the author of A Divided World: Hollywood Cinema and Emigre Directors in the Era of Roosevelt and Hitler and The Roots of Modern Hollywood. He taught an MA module in recent Hollywood history at Birkbeck College, London, in 2008. Since then, he has been a freelance lecturer at film societies and cinemas in Chichester, the New Forest, Wimbledon and Central London.

Tom Sturges is the son of Preston Sturges and the author of three books: Parking Lot Rules, Grow The Tree You Got and Every Idea Is a Good Idea, all published with Penguin Random House. He teaches music business at UCLA and is both an artist manager and consultant. He has been widely recognized for mentoring at-risk, inner-city children and is the father of three sons.

‘A fascinating account of Preston Sturges, who wrote and directed some of the great treasures of cinema and has remained as mysterious as his God-given talent.’

Francis Ford Coppola, film director

‘The unknown final chapter in the life of American comic genius Preston Sturges after his meteoric rise and fall, revealed in great detail by Nick Smedley and Tom Sturges.’

Ron Shelton, film writer and director

‘Every past, present and future screenwriter owes Preston Sturges big time. He was the first Hollywood screenwriter to control his own work by becoming film's first writer-director. I owe him my hyphen as well as my pure awe of his talent. And now, finally, in this book, the whole story of his life and times and his forever-golden work.’

James L. Brooks, film director
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