Friday, May 4, 2012
Sullivan's Travels: The (The Criterion Collection)
#61 on the 2007 AFI Top 100 American Movies List
Sullivan's Travels is a 1941 American comedy film written and directed by Preston Sturges. It is a satire about a movie director, played by Joel McCrea, who longs to make a socially relevant drama, but eventually learns that comedies are his more valuable contribution to society. The film features one of Veronica Lake's first leading roles. The title is a reference to Gulliver's Travels, the famous novel by satirist Jonathan Swift about another journey of self-discovery.
In 1990, Sullivan's Travels was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."
* Joel McCrea as John L. Sullivan
* Veronica Lake as The Girl
* Robert Warwick as Mr. Lebrand
* William Demarest as Mr. Jonas
* Franklin Pangborn as Mr. Casalsis
* Porter Hall as Mr. Hadrian
* Byron Foulger as Mr. Johnny Valdelle
* Margaret Hayes as Secretary
* Robert Greig as Burrows, Sullivan's butler
* Eric Blore as Sullivan's valet
* Torben Meyer as The doctor
* Georges Renavent as Old tramp
# This was the sixth of ten films written by Preston Sturges that William Demarest appeared in.
# Members of Sturges's unofficial "stock company" of character actors who appear in Sullivan's Travels include George Anderson, Al Bridge, Chester Conklin, Jimmy Conlin, William Demarest, Robert Dudley, Byron Foulger, Robert Greig, Harry Hayden, Esther Howard, Arthur Hoyt, J. Farrell MacDonald, Torben Meyer, Charles R. Moore, Frank Moran, Jack Norton, Franklin Pangborn, Emory Parnell, Victor Potel, Dewey Robinson, Harry Rosenthal, Julius Tannen and Robert Warwick. Eric Blore had appeared in The Lady Eve and Porter Hall would go on to appear in three other Sturges films: The Great Moment, The Miracle of Morgan's Creek and The Beautiful Blonde from Bashful Bend, Sturges's last American film.
# Preston Sturges has a cameo appearance as the film director in the scene set in a film studio where The Girl sees Sullivan's picture in the paper and recognizes him. The man she almost runs into on the street outside the studio is Ray Milland.
# Another member of the production staff appeared in the film as well: associate producer Paul Jones appeared as "Dear Joseph", the late husband of "Miz Zeffie", in a photograph in which the man's expression changes.
Paramount purchased Sturges's script for Sullivan's Travels for $6,000. He wrote the film [as a] response to the "preaching" he found in other comedies "which seemed to have abandoned the fun in favor of the message." Sturges may have been influenced by the stories of John Garfield, who lived the life of a hobo, riding freight trains and hitchhiking his way cross country for a short period in the 1930s. Sturges wrote the film with Joel McCrea in mind, but who was to play opposite him went through the casting process. Barbara Stanwyck was considered to co-star, and Frances Farmer was tested for the role as well.
Sullivan's Travels was not as immediately successful at the box office as earlier Sturges films such as The Great McGinty and The Lady Eve, and also received a mixed critical reception. Although the review in the New York Times called the film "the most brilliant picture yet this year" and praised Sturges's mix of escapist fun with underlying significance, the Hollywood Reporter said that it lacked the "down to earth quality and sincerity which made [Sturges's] other three pictures a joy to behold" and that "Sturges...fails to heed the message that writer Sturges proves in his script. Laughter is the thing people want-not social studies." The New Yorker's review said that "anyone can make a mistake, Preston Sturges, even. The mistake in question is a pretentious number called Sullivan's Travels." Nevertheless the Times named it as one of the "10 Best Films of 1941", and the National Board of Review nominated it as best picture of the year.
Over time, the reputation of the film has improved tremendously, and it is now considered a classic, with at least one reviewer calling it Sturges's "masterpiece" and "one of the finest movies about movies ever made."