Sullivan's Travels (1941)

Not Rated  |   |  Adventure, Comedy, Drama  |  December 1941 (USA)
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Ratings: 8.1/10 from 17,008 users  
Reviews: 128 user | 108 critic

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:
Robert Warwick ...
Mr. Jones
Mr. Casalsis
Porter Hall ...
Mr. Hadrian
Byron Foulger ...
Mr. Valdelle
Margaret Hayes ...
Robert Greig ...
Sullivan's Butler
Eric Blore ...
Sullivan's Valet
Torben Meyer ...
The Doctor
Victor Potel ...
Richard Webb ...
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 <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Veronica Lake's on the take. See more »


Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

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?


Preston Sturges originally wanted Barbara Stanwyck to play The Girl. See more »


When Sullivan is outside the boxcar door, encouraging the girl to jump out to him, the background scenery is unsynchronized. From the live-action shot taken outside, he is trotting along safely at about five miles per hour, but seen from inside, the scenery is moving behind him at breakneck speed, giving the illusion that Sullivan is being dragged on roller skates. See more »


The Girl: I liked you better as a bum.
John L. Sullivan: I can't help what kind of people you like.
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 »


Let My People Go
Traditional spiritual
Played on the harmonium by Madame Sul-Te-Wan and sung
by Jess Lee Brooks and the churchgoers
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Laughter, A Precious Commodity In This Cockeyed Caravan
11 May 2007 | by (Buffalo, New York) – See all my reviews

Sullivan's Travels is a twofer for me, it's my favorite Preston Sturges film and my favorite Joel McCrea one. It's an anti-message film, loaded with humor, with a most sublime message indeed.

Joel McCrea plays director John Sullivan who's tired of making silly comedies and musicals for his studio. He wants to make films of social significance with a message about the troubles in today's world.

Problem is that he doesn't know anything about poverty and unemployment, he's a rich kid who's been to boarding school. So off he sets, several times it turns out, to discover how the other half lives.

That last time he sets out is a bit unplanned and through a combination of circumstances he winds up on a prison chain gang in some southern state. He learns some really profound lessons from that experience.

But that's the serious side of Sullivan's Travels. Before that the film has some really gut splitting funny moments like McCrea learning about the speed of a whippet tank, being accused of stealing his own car. But my favorite is when he falls in the clutches of spinsters Elmira Sessions and Esther Howard. McCrea sets out to learn about poverty and deprivation and the two sisters see him as the answer to some poverty and deprivation they've been suffering for some time. Maybe the chain gang didn't look so bad.

Veronica Lake in her memoirs said that one of the films she enjoyed most was Sullivan's Travels where she plays an disillusioned Hollywood hopeful who befriends the tramp McCrea without knowing who he really is. The following year Lake would be paired with Alan Ladd who was closer to her height. She said McCrea was a kind and decent man and wonderful to work with. The disparity of their height was the source of some amusement and some problems for Preston Sturges. Lake was a tiny thing, it was why she was teamed with Alan Ladd, and McCrea was well over six feet tall. Check the shots of them together, very rarely will you see them standing side by side.

Sturges used a lot of his regular company of players. My two favorites in the supporting cast are Robert Grieg and Edward Blore who are McCrea's butler and valet. Both turn out to be wise men in their warnings to their boss about this folly he is undertaking.

It's been said that Sullivan's Travels is supposed to be the anti-Frank Capra film about messages. I'm not sure Capra saw it that way. If you look at the portion of the film when Sullivan falls into this unfamiliar universe of the chain gang, it's very similar to what George Bailey was experiencing in that parallel universe he was sent to in It's A Wonderful Life. I think Sturges and Capra would find a lot of common ground in the messages of It's A Wonderful Life and Sullivan's Travels.

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