Home / Movie Review: Sullivan’s Travels (1941)

Movie Review: Sullivan’s Travels (1941)

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Sullivan's Travels is really a wonderful film. It has great writing and direction and does a fantastic job of mixing intelligence with comedy.

Joel McCrea is John L. Sullivan, a rich, successful Hollywood director who wants to venture away from comedies and make a serious picture about poverty in America titled O Brother, Where Art Thou? The problem is that his producers don't think he has it in him to make a good picture about poverty. They tell him he hasn't had a moment of trouble in his life, and they're right, so Sullivan decides to embark on an adventure across the country disguising himself as a transient in order to learn the life of the less fortunate.

The following day Sullivan heads out, but unfortunately the studio heads have decided to follow him in a giant land yacht documenting his adventure. He is finally able to shake them, and ends up hitching a ride in the back of a semi-truck.

Much to Sullivan's dismay, he wakes up the following morning in the back of the truck back in Hollywood. He makes his way into a diner to grab some breakfast, and that is where we meet The Girl, played by the lovely Veronica Lake. She buys him some food, and he offers to give her a ride back home in his "friend's" car. Problem is, he forgets to tell anyone he's taking out his car and it's reported stolen, so before too long they are pulled over and arrested. In order to get himself out of jail, he has no choice but to reveal his real identity to the girl.

At first she's hostile toward Sullivan for having been tricked, but she quickly grows to like him and insists on joining him for his experiment. Of course Sullivan is against her accompaniment; he tells her to either stay at his house or go home, but she is very persistent and ends up joining him anyway. Along the voyage it seems that every time they get into any trouble his people keep coming to the rescue, whether he wants it or not (and believe it or not, sometimes he wants it), so he really doesn't get any tough experience at all… not yet, at least.

Sullivan's Travels is probably one of the best comedies I have ever seen. It's able to not only show us the world of the less fortunate, but it is able to show us how they are able to get by day to day and the simple pleasures in life that the rich can't understand.

Preston Sturges' writing is absolutely magnificent; he is able to give us just the right amounts of comedy and seriousness. His direction is also incredible; he gets the maximum performances out of the bit players and just the right amount of hopelessness from the actors portraying the poor. Joel McCrea and Veronica Lake also give outstanding performances. All in all, Sullivan's Travels is really a masterpiece, fefinitely worth checking out.

Grade: A

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  • Barbara

    Looking for the city and address of Joel McCrea’s house in this movie.