(director/writer: Preston Sturges; cinematographer: John F. Seitz; editor: Stuart Gilmore; music: Leo Shuken/Charles Bradshaw; cast: Betty Hutton (Trudy Kockenlocker), Eddie Bracken (Norval Jones), William Demarest (Constable Kockenlocker), Diana Lynn (Emmy Kockenlocker), Brian Donlevy (Governor McGinty), Porter Hall (Justice of the Peace), Al Bridge (Mr. Johnson), Emory Parnell (Mr. Tuerck); Runtime: 99; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Preston Sturges; Paramount; 1943)

“The real miracle might be in how the amoral sexual content got by the Hays Office.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Preston Sturges’ (“Sullivan’s Travels”/”The Great McGinty”) irreverent screwball comedy is about the ultimate nerdy stuttering “nervous Nelly,” who is being used as a chump by a girl in a jam he’s helping out–someone he has always been sweet on. It’s filled with Sturges’ usual schtick of hilarious frenetic activity, satire and slapstick. The filmmaker takes potshots at parenting, the law enforcers, morality, and religion in this ‘comedy of errors’ that has the balls to quote from Shakespeare: “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, some have greatness thrust upon ’em.” Timid bank teller Norval Jones (Eddie Bracken) is the clumsy hayseed who has greatness thrust upon him, as Sturges offers his delightfully ‘bad taste’ nonsensical interpretation of the miraculous nature of Nativity. Though the real miracle might be in how the amoral sexual content got by the Hays Office.

Trudy Kockenlocker (Betty Hutton) is a flirtatious blonde disappointed that her single parent father, the gruff town constable, Ed Kockenlocker (William Demarest), won’t let her go to an army dance. To outwit him, she gets the nerdy Norval to take her to the movies and she then borrows his car to attend the dance while he catches a triple-feature. The soldiers spike the lemonade and after Trudy dances with a number of GIs, she drunkenly leaves with them and returns at 8 a.m. to discover that she blanked out and can’t remember a thing of what happened after the dance. She thinks she may have married, but is not certain which one. She also realizes she used a different name, which she can’t remember, and hazily recalls the soldier she might have married had a name something like Ratzkywatzky. Things become even more serious for the smalltown gal when she learns she’s pregnant, and the soldiers all shipped out to different military posts so she can’t trace them. With the help of her conniving younger sister, the 14-year-old Emmy (Diana Lynn), she plans to get Norval to marry her. Not telling her bully father what happened, dad upon hearing rumors assumes Norval was up to no good and forces him to marry his daughter–something Norval is quite willing to do without force. Norval is 4-F because of his extremely nervous condition, but he desires only two things in life: Trudy and to be in the army. When Norval hears of Trudy’s plight he’s willing to do anything to help her, but whatever Trudy asks him to do only makes things worse.

Marrying Trudy under the name of Ratzkywatzky leads to big trouble for Norval, whose lie is discovered when he signs his real name on the marriage certificate. Things become so chaotic that Norval is faced with the following charges: impersonating a soldier, forgery, impairing the morals of a minor, kidnapping and bank robbery. Things get cleared up on Christmas morning when Trudy gives birth to sextuplets and the governor when informed of the blessed event, sees this as an honor to his state and clears up through political maneuvering all obstacles to the marriage. The guv not only gets all the charges dropped against Norval but makes him a heroic figure and bestows on him an honorary rank of colonel in the National Guard, allowing him to appear in public with a dressy uniform.

It’s a funny and subversive film that probably slipped by the censors because they thought it was too ridiculous for anyone to take it seriously.