Preston Sturges

Born Aug. 29, 1898, in Chicago, writer and director Preston Sturges enjoyed a cosmopolitan upbringing that's reflected in the wit and sophistication of his 1940s comedies -- works widely hailed as masterpieces of American cinema for their effortless blend of silliness, sentiment and cynicism.

Sturges served in the Air Corps during World War I and worked as an inventor before turning to playwriting in the late '20s. This ultimately led him to Hollywood, where he worked as a screenwriter during the '30s before directing his own screenplay, the political satire The Great McGinty, in 1940.

That movie was a huge success, earning Sturges an Oscar for writing and initiating a five-year burst of activity that would result in his best work, including The Lady Eve (with Barbara Stanwyck), Sullivan's Travels (which pokes fun at Hollywood), The Palm Beach Story and The Miracle of Morgan's Creek.