falderal : a moving images blog
Sullivan’s Travels ; 1941  ·  Posted by Tallulah

Director: Preston Sturges
Actors: Joel McCrea, Veronica Lake, Robert Warwick, William Demarest
Country: U.S.A.

As much as I liked The Lady Eve, I didn’t have any expectations for my second Sturges’ film. So what do I think about Sullivan’s Travels? Nothing much. I feel very neutral about this film and don’t see what’s so special about it and I didn’t find it to be that funny as well. It was also my first Veronica Lake film and as gorgeous as she is, her voice grated on my nerves in the beginning.

When I see this film as a comedy, I don’t like it that much since I didn’t find it to be particularly funny at times, but then again, I wouldn’t really label it as a drama. Oh whatever! Phooey with labels! This film just stands on its own for me. I’m digressing, so what I really wanted to say was that I liked many aspects of this film, but in the end, I felt indifferent. I can say I enjoyed it at times and I definitely do not think it’s a waste of time to watch it, thus I think people who haven’t watched it should give it a go if they are curious. What I liked the most was its metafilmic aspects and how the director becomes somewhat like a method actor and becomes a hobo (and fails miserably). Through the story, I thought Sturges made some great commentary on the film industry. Starting with the beginning, Sullivan (McCrea) says he wants to make a serious film, but the producers say “with a little sex in it” and Sullivan says that it won’t be the focus. Ironically, despite Veronica Lake’s sort of small role, her sex appeal had much to do with the advertising of the film. Sturges knew that “sex” was needed for films to be successful because there is another line when Sullivan says, “There’s always a girl in the picture. What’s the matter, don’t you go to the movies?” Also, Sullivan says that film should be used as a “sociological artistic medium with a little bit of sex in it”, which reflects this film. The sex bit could also be a nod towards Lubitsch films and that Sullivan’s producers want him to continue making trivial films. I also wondered if the line about that musical Sullivan made, Ants in Your Plants in 1939 and how one of his producers says that he should make another one with a different date is a reference to The Gold Diggers of [insert year] musicals. There is commentary on the poor, which I don’t want to delve into, but what I found to be particularly interesting was the take of comedies during the time period the film was set. The film was set in contemporary times, so there is World War II going on and Sullivan says, “I want this picture to be a commentary on modern conditions. Stark realism. The problems that confront the average man!” I was amused that he said this because in Germany, they already made films like this during the Weimar Republic. Not only does Sullivan’s Travels mention the escapist quality of comedies, but Sturges addresses that despite the trivial veneer of comedies, they also give us something when we have nothing: laughter.

Since I usually like to point out some weird, superficial thing that amused me, of course I have to comment on the outfit Veronica Lake wears towards the end. It cracked me up, especially when she trips over it. Those underpants are the most ridiculous things I’ve seen, and I’ve never seen ones like those outside of picture books. I also thought that it was great how Lubitsch was mentioned (I do love that man!) and in the end, Sullivan decides to make a comedy, which is what Lubitsch was known for.

And before I end this post, I have to give a little bit of loving to the pastor at the church. What he said was the most touching thing ever in that it is true what he says about not judging people and that we are all equal.

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