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Sullivan's Travels
IMDB Rating: 8.1/10 from 16,700 votes
Release: December 1941 (USA) /

Sullivan's Travels

Genre: Adventure, Comedy, Drama
Director: Preston Sturges,
Stars: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Synopsis: 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>

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Critic Reviews


When it comes right down to it, what you `think' you want isn't necessarily what you `really' want, nor is it likely to be anything you need. But finding the answer is up to the individual, a prospect that's explored in the satirical `Sullivan's Travels,' directed by Preston Sturges. Movie director John L. Sullivan (Joel McCrea) has made a career of churning out one successful comedy after another, yet he remains unfulfilled. He longs to do a `serious' film, one with meaning, a drama that will leave his mark on the industry and the world. And he has a property that he thinks is perfect, a screenplay entitled `O Brother, Where Art Thou?' The studio he works for, however, balks at the idea; Sullivan's comedies are not only good, they're a cash cow for the studio, so why fool with success?

Sullivan is adamant, though, and determined to make his film he strikes a bargain with the studio and gets the green light. But once he's given the go-ahead, he wants to do it right-- and he realizes that to make a truly meaningful film, he must first experience himself the hardships of life he will be examining in `O Brother.' So with only a dime in his pockets, he sets out on the road to find out what `life' is really all about. And before it's over, he will get all he's looking for and more, in an odyssey that will be unforgettable for Sullivan, and for the audience, as well.

Filled with pathos and poignancy, Sturges' film is an insightful sojourn across the territory of the human condition. It'll make you laugh and it'll make you cry, as along with Sullivan you come face to face with some hard truths about reality. And Sullivan's eventual epiphany regarding his personal wants and needs may be your own, as well, because this is a film with a definite message that is honest and undeniable. A lesson in life delivered subtly and sensitively by Sturges, who makes it entertaining and thought provoking at the same time. It's refreshing, in fact, t discover a film that delivers such an impact without having to resort to any kind of sensationalism, relying instead on the inherent humanity of the story, which Sturges conveys masterfully. With exceptions, of course, it's a sensibility few of today's directors seem to possess. Some notable exceptions would be Ang Lee with `The Ice Storm,' Kenneth Lonergan's `You Can Count On Me' and Tom DiCillo's `Box of Moonlight.' All are films that, like `Sullivan,' are journeys of discovery, profound in sentiment without being overly sentimental. There are more, to be sure, but they seem too few and far between.

One of the elements that makes this film so engaging is its colorful cast of characters, and the actors it employs to bring it to life, beginning with it's star, McCrea, who hits his stride as Sullivan with facility. He credibly reflects Sullivan's ideals and principles with a look, as well as an attitude, that makes it work quite naturally. You can believe this is a man with, perhaps not a naive, but certainly a rather guarded perception of life in the real world. Which is not to say he lacks insight or wisdom; it's merely one of the basic truths this film points out-- that people live within parameters of their own design, established through personal experience and frame of reference. And that's the John Sullivan McCrea presents here, with a portrayal that is honest and incisive.

Veronica Lake was one of the hottest actresses around in 1942 when this film was made, and as the girl who becomes a part of Sullivan's journey, she lends considerable charm and a bit of mystique to the film. It's a fairly straightforward role that benefits from her sparkle and personality; a notable performance that adds a touch of humor and some class to the proceedings, without being particularly exceptional. But watching her, it's easy to understand the attention she received, especially after draping her long blond hair across her eye, peek-a-boo style-- which started a craze that swept the country, while creating an indelible image that ultimately defined her career.

The supporting cast includes 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) and Eric Blore (Sullivan's Valet). Call it a lesson in life, or a lesson about human nature; however you see it, `Sullivan's Travels' is an experience you're going to remember. Entertaining, enjoyable and enlightening, it's an uplifting appreciation of the way things are, and not necessarily the way you `think' they should be. It's a film that celebrates the comfort to be found in finding your own niche and realizing the importance of whatever it is that you contribute to your world and those around you. It leaves you with a sense of purpose and the understanding that the grass is not always greener on the other side. And it makes your own grass look pretty good in the bargain. It's the magic of the movies. I rate this one 10/10.

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