Sullivan's Travels (1941) - Plot Summary Poster


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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.

  • After years of kowtowing to studio executives by making light, fluffy fare, successful and talented movie director John L. Sullivan wants to make a "message" movie, specifically about the plight of the downtrodden in society. Beyond wanting him to continue making money-making escapist movies, the studio executives counter that his privileged background does not make him qualified to make a movie about the downtrodden. So Sullivan decides to hit the road with only 10¢ in his pocket to experience truly what it's like to be poor. The studio executives will only allow him to do so if they can follow him and document his experience. Not wanting it to be a publicity stunt, Sullivan makes a deal with his tailing party: leave him alone for a few weeks, with them all to meet up at a determined location after that time. After a few mis-starts where he can't seem to shed his privileged past, Sullivan does manage to hit the road, this time with an aspiring but struggling actress who believes she can better help him navigate road life. He met her when she did a Good Samaritan deed for him. But when Sullivan tries to do his own Good Samaritan deed in return, he finds that shedding his downtrodden life may be even harder than it was to shed his privileged life if he is able to do it at all.

  • In Hollywood, the spoiled director of humdrum movies, John Lloyd Sullivan, was born in silver spoon but is very successful with his superficial comedies. Out of the blue, he tells to his producer Mr. LeBrand that he wants to make serious dramas, like "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" and he will live like a tramp on the streets to learn the sorrows of great part of the population. He wears cheap clothes and tries to blend with poor people but he always returns to Hollywood protected by the safety team hired by the studio. One day, he goes to a dinner with a coin and a blonde girl offers bacon and eggs to him. Soon he learns that the girl is a failed actress that had never a chance in Hollywood and is returning home hitchhiking without any money. Sullivan decides to retribute her kindness giving a ride to her in his car but they are arrested by the police. When they are released, the girl decides to join Sullivan in his quest to learn about poverty. When Sullivan is satisfied, he is robbed and dumped unconscious in a train. He awakes in the countryside where there is an incident and he is arrested and sentenced to a labor camp, where he leans the importance of comedy in the miserable lives of destitute people.

  • Hollywood movie director John Sullivan is tired of making lightweight comedies and musicals and decides to go on the road, posing as a hobo in order to learn how the poor live. Those around him think he's mad but he sets off with only 10 cents in his pocket. He has several false starts - always ending up in back in Hollywood. After he meets an out of work actress they managed to live a few days with tramps and hobos. It's only the beginning of Sullivan's adventures - including a stint in prison - and in that time learns the importance of those lightweight comedies he had so come to hate.

  • Director John L. Sullivan wants to make a social-problems film called 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' When his producers point out that he knows nothing about trouble or poverty, he goes on the road as a hobo. Joined by a down-on-her-luck aspiring actress, the results are hardly the kind of trouble he had in mind. But when the 'experiment' seems to be over, Sullivan falls into more trouble than he ever dreamed of...

  • 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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