[Last Film I Saw] Sullivan’s Travels (1941)

Sullivan's Travels

Title: Sullivan’s Travels
Year: 1941
Country: USA
Language: English
Genre: Adventure, Comedy
Director: Preston Sturges
Writer: Preston Sturges
Cast:
Joel McCrea
Veronica Lake
William Demarest
Franklin Pangborn
Porter Hall
Margaret Hayes
Robert Warwick
Byron Foulger
Eric Blore
Torben Meyer
Robert Greig
Almira Sessions
Esther Howard
Al Bridge
Jimmy Conlin
Jan Buckingham
Rating: 7.1/10

Two men grappling on the top of a scudding train and both wind up falling into a choppy river, after that rolls out “THE END”, which is the beginning of this film, directed and written by Preston Sturges, our protagonist is a booming young director Sullivan (McCrea), the said clip he shows is his latest film which intends to dig into the bleak reality instead of make another fluff. So unsurprisingly, the investors and producers will not buy it, then Sullivan decides to experience all the “troubles” which unfortunately elude him since clearly his life is too pricey to provide him with the adversity of the huddled mass.

Here is the compromising plan, he puts on an act as a poor guy with only 10 cents in the pocket, and the film studio sends an 8-men crew to (not so stealthily) follow him and records his adventure, which will be compiled as a front-page story for the media and publicity, a great mutual benefit trickery only it sounds a tad highfalutin, paraphrasing a sentence from the film “People always like what they don’t know anything about it”, Sullivan is a lucky bastard born with a golden spoon in his mouth! Anyway, there he goes, it starts as a slapstick comedy, when he meets the girl (a 19-year-old Lake), who fails to have a crack into Hollywood, the film morphs into a romantic screwball, Lake is a fabulous stunner, and much to my surprise, her diminutive figure does stand for a little boy in her tramp outfit alongside a husky McCrea, and together they showcase some heavy scored silent montages of their improvised life with tramps, an apparent tribute to Chaplin.

Then the film veers its trail with a mood-changing malevolence, the do-gooder has to learn a lesson for his own naivety towards the lower stratum’s spite, after the courtroom hubbub with a hazy and distorted images, Sullivan has to undergo a diabolic spell in a prison camp where he will finally find what people really want to see and it is sardonically at a black people’s church.

During the viewing, there was an impulse pushing me to want to love this film more, but eventually it failed, the story is an oversimplified product of one’s wacky imagination, the overall tone never cease to patronize the poor mass, the ending is too gratuitous to feel the empathy, a 7.1/10 is out of my respect to Sturges’ cachet, anyway it is an taxing tale to spin, even for Sturges.

Sullivan's Travels 1941

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