Sunday, January 31, 2016

Sullivan's Travels (1941)

Director (Joel McCrea) of lighthearted comedies wants to make serious films about the downtrodden. When it's pointed out that he knows nothing of trouble, he has wardrobe bring up a bum costume, puts a dime in his pocket, and tries to live among the poor. Along the way he meets up with a struggling starlet (struggling starlet Veronica Lake) and proceeds to find all the trouble he was looking for.

I suppose this is a romantic comedy, but Sullivan's quest to learn about the disenfranchised takes top priority. This movie appears to explore liberal guilt. Rich white man taking up the cause of the poor without having any clue what it means to be poor. Boy howdy, does he find out.

Nineteen year old Lake was seven or eight months pregnant while filming, and you'd never know it. She's jumping on trains and falling into water just as the doctor ordered. There's a scene in a black church that was rather interesting. It depicts the poor black people as, well, people. This was 1941, remember. Being a frightened or bumbling servant was the BEST they normally could hope for. Director Preston Sturges received a letter from Walter White (not THAT Walter White!) from the NAACP in appreciation. I guess the scene with the bumbling chef was easily ignored.

So wonderfully written, Sullivan's Travels is delightful. His dialog had just enough edge to make production code Hollywood interesting. Definitely a see-again. AMRU 4.
"Just an extra girl having breakfast with a director. Only I didn't used to have breakfast with them. Maybe that was my trouble.
Did they ever ask you to?
Then don't pat yourself on the back."

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