A wealthy cosmopolitan who supposedly invented a kiss-proof lipstick before penning a string of Hollywood hits, Preston Sturges added The First Writer/Director Of The Sound Era to his CV with 1940's The Great McGinty. It was promptly, improbably followed by six comedies in four years - quirky, literate and fiendishly endearing pictures that combine terrific banter, precision slapstick and surprising heart. Pick of the crop are 1941's The Lady Eve and Sullivan's Travels.
Eve pitches Barbara Stanwyck's card-sharp against Henry Fonda's snake enthusiast (!). He's playing for her heart, she's after his fortune. Travels sees Joel McCrea's pampered helmer dismiss his signature piffle-pics to embark on magnum opus O Brother, Where Art Thou? (yes, the Coens nicked it). But first he must take to the road to experience poverty.
Both masterpieces that breeze through the test of time, Eve wrote the prattle-of-the-sexes textbook while Travels mercilessly but mirthfully mocks artistic pretensions and Hollywood conventions. "There's always a girl in the picture," quips Sully after a suit has begged him to spice up O Brother with "a little sex". Cue Sturges introducing Veronica Lake's travel companion... and asking her to strip down for a communal shower before the credits roll.