Sunday, August 18, 2013

Sullivan's Travels

I watched Sullivan’s Travels, a 1941 film that was recommended to me by a learned friend who calls this film one of his favorites. Sullivan's Travels is directed by the highly regarded Preston Sturges who I basically didn't know anything about, but do now!

Sometimes when you watch an old film you have to try not to look at with contemporary eyes; try not to get thrown by the overly dramatic music or the sometimes old fashioned acting. So I was trying to appreciate Sullivan’s Travels
, but I was having some trouble. I found it a bit strange as a matter of fact. This earnest man, Sullivan played by Joel McCrae, is a big Hollywood director who decides to try to see what is like to live as a hobo and then make a film about it. He does this very poorly and ends back at his mansion pretty quickly but gives it a go again and this time with a beautiful ingénue played by Veronica Lake. They dress like bums and ride the rails (this part is all done as a musical montage by the way). Then, as fate would have it, Sullivan ends up indeed suffering and living as a prisoner in a chain gang and, of course, learns some lessons about his experiences. One of those lessons is that the poor need to laugh, so in the end he decides to make a comedy.

The tone of the movie jumps from comic and romantic, to serious, (again is that modern me talking?) not sure. But I’m glad I saw it. It is like no other movie I have seen and seems to want to make a great statement about life for the poor in America. The scene in the black church is particularly moving, more so than the rest of the film I felt, where the preacher shares a theme of the film about the equality of man. So thanks, Bob, for introducing me to this movie. I also watched one of the extras on the DVD about Sturges that is pretty fascinating.

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