Hazel Flagg of Warsaw, Vermont receives the news that her terminal case of radium poisoning from a workplace incident was a complete misdiagnosis with mixed emotions. She is happy not to be... See full summary »
William A. Wellman
Lonely in his English country estate, Sir Basil decides to gather his grown (albeit illegitimate) children around him in his declining years. He uses a ledger which keeps track of the ... See full summary »
Robert Z. Leonard
C. Aubrey Smith
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 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 »
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.
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After the opening credits, the film opens with the following statement.
"To the memory of those who made us laugh: the motley mountebanks, the clowns, the buffoons, in all times and in all nations whose efforts have lightened our burden a little, this picture is affectionately dedicated."
With this film, Preston Sturges made one of the smartest and most insightful comedies ever to come out of Hollywood, in which he especially held up the mirror to Tinseltown itself. A Hollywood variation on Gulliver's Travels, it's the tale of Hollywood director John Sullivan (Joel McCrea), tired of making Hollywood Fluff, who wants to branch out with a socially conscious epic, called "O Brother, Where Art Thou", and sets out to research the meaning of poverty. His studio bosses (very funny roles by Robert Warwick and Porter Hall) try to tell him it's a ridiculous idea but Sullivan insists, puts on some hobo clothes and sets out to see what it's like to experience poverty and suffering. The studio soon sees it as potential publicity stunt and sent an entire crew to follow him around during his trip.
Some very enjoyable references to socially conscious movie-making, to Ernst Lubitch in particular, make this particularly fun with some knowledge of the period and the films mentioned, albeit not necessary. And almost worth seeing alone for Veronica Lake's memorable performance as a failed starlet.
According to Sturges, the film did contain a little "message":
"SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS is the result of an urge, an urge to tell some of my fellow filmwrights that they were getting a little too deep-dish and to leave the preaching to the preachers."
By any means, he made a uniquely self-reflective comedy about Hollywood with wonderful characterizations and superlative performances. A brilliant satire with a "message" just as poignant as ever.
Camera Obscura --- 9/10
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