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Sullivan's Travels (1941)

Not Rated | | Adventure, Comedy, Drama | 4 December 1941 (USA)
A director of escapist films goes on the road as a hobo to learn about life, which gives him a rude awakening.




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Cast overview, first billed only:
Mr. Jones
Mr. Casalsis
Mr. Valdelle
Robert Greig ...
Sullivan's Butler
Sullivan's Valet
Torben Meyer ...
The Doctor
Victor Potel ...
Radio Man
Charles R. Moore ...
Colored Chef (as Charles Moore)
Almira Sessions ...


Sullivan is a successful, spoiled, and naive director of fluff films, with a heart-o-gold, who decides he wants to make a film about the troubles of the downtrodden poor. Much to the chagrin of his producers, he sets off in tramp's clothing with a single dime in his pocket to experience poverty first-hand, and gets some reality shock. Written by Bob Doolittle <Bob.Doolittle@east.sun.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Veronica Lake's on the take. See more »


Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

4 December 1941 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Sullivans Reisen  »

Box Office


$689,665 (estimated)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


| (TV premiere)

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The U.S. government's World War II Office of Censorship in New York formally disapproved exporting this film during wartime because of the "long sequence showing life in a prison chain gang which is most objectionable because of the brutality and inhumanity with which the prisoners are treated." This disapproval conformed with the department's policy of not exporting any film that could be turned into enemy propaganda. The department suggested deletions which would have made the picture acceptable under their guidelines; however, the producers declined this opportunity. See more »


In the scene where Sullivan is in bed with a cold the girl sits next to him on the bed, she shifts between being at higher level with him and then same level as him from shot to shot. (This happens more than once in same scene.) See more »


Burrows: You see, sir, rich people and theorists - who are usually rich people - think of poverty in the negative, as the lack of riches - as disease might be called the lack of health. But it isn't, sir. Poverty is not the lack of anything, but a positive plague, virulent in itself, contagious as cholera, with filth, criminality, vice and despair as only a few of its symptoms. It is to be stayed away from, even for purposes of study. It is to be shunned.
See more »

Crazy Credits

In the opening credits, the Paramount logo is depicted as a seal on a package wrapped in brown paper. The package is opened, revealing a book with the title of the movie. The pages are turned to show the credits. See more »


Referenced in Preston Sturges and 'The Miracle of Morgan's Creek' (2005) See more »


Let My People Go
Traditional spiritual
Played on the harmonium by Madame Sul-Te-Wan and sung
by Jess Lee Brooks and the churchgoers
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

The Perfect Film?
4 December 2004 | by (Studio City, CA) – See all my reviews

As a TV Producer of "entertainment" shows, I make a point of watching this film at least once a year and giving DVDs of it to all who may disparage what I do.

Preston Sturges achieves the impossible in this movie: he has his cake and eats it too. He makes a perfect film - he manages to make a socially significant statement while wrapping it up in a comedy confection.

His hero, John L. Sullivan (Joel McCrea - a very underestimated actor) is a

succcessful director of frivolous musicals and comedies who, one day, decides he needs to make a Capra-esque "serious"film. His studio chiefs and immediate staff are against it and point out that he is rich and privileged, what does he know about the less fortunate? Sullivan retorts with an ingenious plan:

Sullivan: "You're perfectly right...but I'll tell you what I'm going to do first: I'm going to get some old clothes and some old shoes from wardrobe and start out with ten cents in my pocket...and I'm not coming back till I know what trouble it..I'm going out on the road to find out what it's like to be poor and needy and then I'm going to make a picture about it."

Burrows(his butler): If you'll permit me to say so, sir, the subject is not an interesting one. The poor know all about poverty and only the morbid rich would find the topic glamorous.

Nevertheless, Sullivan does it and unwittingly (and hilariously) discovers the true value comedy has in the lives of those with little else to laugh about...

It's genius. Exquisitely written, directed and acted (Sturges uses his usual ensemble plus the ever watchable Veronica Lake, even here in her most improbable disguises [I met her, professionally, in England in the 70s, she was still a class act and her "rider" demanded her drink of choice - vodka and cranberry juice).

Sullivan's Travels is a true gem of American Cinema. Ten out of ten.

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