157 user 107 critic

Sullivan's Travels (1941)

Not Rated | | Adventure, Comedy, Drama | 6 February 1942 (USA)
1:51 | Trailer
A Hollywood director, John L Sullivan, sets out to experience life as a poor, homeless person in order to gain relevant life experience for his next movie.


Preston Sturges


Preston Sturges
2 wins. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Joel McCrea ... John L. Sullivan
Veronica Lake ... The Girl
Robert Warwick ... Mr. LeBrand
William Demarest ... Mr. Jones
Franklin Pangborn ... Mr. Casalsis
Porter Hall ... Mr. Hadrian
Byron Foulger ... Mr. Valdelle
Margaret Hayes ... Secretary
Robert Greig ... Sullivan's Butler
Eric Blore ... Sullivan's Valet
Torben Meyer ... The Doctor
Victor Potel ... Cameraman
Richard Webb ... Radio Man
Charles R. Moore ... Colored Chef (as Charles Moore)
Almira Sessions ... Ursula


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


The Creator of "Lady Eve" brings you his latest and most lilting laugh-fest! See more »


Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?


In the airplane scene, the author of the book "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?" is shown to be "Sinclair Beckstein", an amalgamation of the names of authors Upton Sinclair, Sinclair Lewis, and John Steinbeck. See more »


When the supposedly unconscious Sullivan is being pulled by the bum who hit him into an empty boxcar, you can see Joel McCrea push himself along with his foot, apparently because the other man is not strong enough to drag him. See more »


John L. Sullivan: I want this picture to be a commentary on modern conditions. Stark realism. The problems that confront the average man!
LeBrand: But with a little sex in it.
John L. Sullivan: A little, but I don't want to stress it. I want this picture to be a document. I want to hold a mirror up to life. I want this to be a picture of dignity! A true canvas of the suffering of humanity!
LeBrand: But with a little sex in it.
John L. Sullivan: [reluctantly] With a little sex in it.
Hadrian: How 'bout a nice musical?
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 30 Rock: Christmas Attack Zone (2010) See more »


Ride of the Valkyries
Common name of opening music of the third act of "Die Walküre" (Second of four operas that comprise Der Ring des Nibelungen)
Written by Richard Wagner
Used during the Whippet Tanker scene early in the film.
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User Reviews

Classic Hollywood era; a unique combination of comedy and satirical social realism of the Great Depression
19 June 2004 | by DilipSee all my reviews

Preston Sturges (1898-1959) wrote over 40 film screenplays spanning the years 1930-1958 and directed over a dozen films 1940-1955. His first attempt at directing was a success with a string of two popularly and critically acclaimed films in each of the years 1940 and 1941, "The Great McGinty", "Christmas in July"; "The Lady Eve" (starring Henry Fonda and Barbara Stanwyck), and this film, "Sullivan's Travels".

The beauty of "Sullivan's Travels" is the combination in genre of comedy as well as social satire and realism of the tough times of the Great Depression that the country had just weathered for a decade. Throw a romance in to the mix and a level of redirection of a "film on film" to make this an interesting film.

John Sullivan (Joel McCrea) is a famous director who is at odds with his production company. They want him to direct a comic film, while he wants to apply his talent to creating an analytic looking glass onto the sobering times called, "O Brother, Where Art Thou?". Wealthy and successful, he is mocked for not at all knowing misfortune - how would he make such a film? John takes this as a challenge, dresses as a hobo, and leaves the studio with a dime in his pocket to explore what life is like for the down and out.

However he tries to flee, he ends up getting somehow quickly being returned to Hollywood. Early on, he meets "the girl" (Veronica Lake; I don't recall her ever being given a name in the film) who sees that he is too innocent to survive on his own, and insists on bringing her broader knowledge of society to the journey and joining him to get him through this learning adventure.

The first part of the film is comic, but just as it seems to be coming to an unfulfilled ending, something unexpected happens. This event alters the course of everything and exposes John to some of the true injustices of the time - and shows him (and poignantly reminded me) that comedy is particularly important when some people have nothing else to cheer them up.

This is a film of classic Hollywood vintage, with good, snappy performances by both of the lead actors. The romance isn't at all developed but just seems to happen in a matter-of-fact way (perhaps we can take it on faith that there is instant chemistry), but what is lacking in psychology of the relationship is made up for in the chilling glimpse we get of the psyche of the underdog in Depression America.

--Dilip Barman June 19, 2004

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Frequently Asked Questions

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Release Date:

6 February 1942 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Sullivan's Travels See more »


Box Office


$689,665 (estimated)

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Paramount Pictures See more »
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Technical Specs


| (TV premiere)

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

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