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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>
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 »
"Sullivan's Travels" is one of the best films that came out of Hollywood in 1941. Preston Sturges showed he was an original with this story about self-discovery for a man that has a different view of the world. In a way, this is a satire about the movie industry.
Hollywood in the early years, wouldn't touch any project that it deemed non commercial. Which is why when John Sullivan, a successful director of film comedies decides to do a movie based on a serious book, the studio thinks he must be going crazy. Why would this director want to make the movie going public think? It was a preposterous notion then, as well as today, when basically all movies making any points are independently produced. After all, the industry wants everyone to have a great time, be entertained, and not make them think about at all.
John Sullivan gets much more than what he bargained for when he decides to take to the back roads of the country, dressed as a hobo and with only ten cents in his pocket. The first check on reality comes when he meets the kind girl at the road side diner. He is hungry, but what can one get for a dime? This girl, who has had it trying to make a name in the movies, orders ham and eggs for him, no strings attached. If there is a more kindred soul than this young woman who wants nothing in return, we haven't met her yet.
Sully and the girl go back on the road where they witness the reality of America's indigents traveling back and forth in empty cattle cars all over the country in search of jobs, or perhaps a better living. Sullivan ultimately wants to give money anonymously to the poor people he has met, but he meets with disaster and ends up in jail, the victim of circumstantial evidence and he is sent to jail. One night Sully discovers the great mystery about the allure of the pictures: It's the laughter stupid! Sullivan realizes how far off the mark he has been in trying to bring drama to the masses.
Joel McCrea makes a fantastic Sullivan. This under estimated man was a great comedian, as well as an actor that is always believable. The whole reason for watching this movie is Mr. McCrea's performance. His chemistry with the ravishingly beautiful and young Veronica Lake is one of the best things in the film. Both these actors, under Mr. Sturges' direction do their best work on screen. Sturges makes fun at his own expense when the girl asks Sully if he can introduce her to the great Hollywood director, Ernst Lubitsch. Mr. McCrea and Ms. Lake seem to be having a fun time together.
Mr. Sturges always surrounded himself with a group of actors that one sees in his movies. Robert Greig, Eric Blore, William Demarest, and the rest of the cast contribute to make this a winning comedy. The best scene that involves most of these actors happen at the beginning of the film when they are chasing Sullivan in the R.V. and things inside the trailer begin falling all over the place. That was priceless movie making.
Preston Sturges combines a social commentary with comedy in this brilliant film that is a tribute to his genius.
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