Retro: The Unquiet American


Preston Sturges
USA 1940
67 min

Preston Sturges’s second feature as writer-director (1940, 67 min.) is in many ways his most underrated movie, a riotous satire of capitalism that bites so deep it hurts. An ambitious office clerk (Dick Powell), determined to strike it rich in an advertising contest with his stupid slogan (“If you can’t sleep, it isn’t the coffee, it’s the bunk”), is tricked by a few of his coworkers into believing that he’s actually won, promptly gets promoted, and goes on a shopping spree for his neighbors and relatives. Like all of Sturges’s finest work, this captures the mood of the Depression more succinctly than most pictures (in fact, this is based on an earlier play that Sturges wrote when the Depression was still in progress), and the brilliantly polyphonic script repeats the hero’s ­­dim-witted slogan so many times that eventually it becomes a kind of crazed tribal incantation. As usual, the supporting cast (including Ellen Drew, William Demarest, and Raymond Walburn) is luminous, and Sturges uses them like instruments in a madcap ­concerto.
<![CDATA[<i>]]>(Chicago Reader)<![CDATA[</i>]]>

  • William Demarest
  • Harry Hayden
  • Franklin Pangborn - Mr. Forsythe
  • Raymond Walburn
  • Dick Powell
  • Ellen Drew
  • Alexander Carr
  • Ernest Truex
  • Rod Cameron
  • Georgia Caine
Paul Jones
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