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Sullivan's Travels
Sullivan's Travels
is a 1941 American comedy film written and directed by Preston Sturges. It is a satire about Hollywood's top director of comedies, played by Joel McCrea, who longs to make a socially relevant drama, but eventually learns that creating laughter is his greatests 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
Jonathan Swift
about another journey of self-discovery. Sullivan's Travels
Sullivan's Travels
received mixed critical reception, varying from the New York Times
New York Times
calling it "the most brilliant picture yet this year", praising Sturges's mix of escapist fun with underlying significance, and naming it as one of the ten best films of 1941 to The Hollywood Reporter claiming it lacked the "down to earth quality and sincerity which made [Sturges's] other three pictures of 1941 – The Great McGinty,The Lady Eve, and Christmas in July
Christmas in July
– "a joy to behold". Over time, the film's reputation has improved tremendously, being regarded as a "classic", "one of the finest movies about movies ever made", even a "masterpiece".[3] In 1990, it was was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry
National Film Registry
by the Library of Congress
Library of Congress
as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."

Contents

1 Plot 2 Cast 3 Production 4 Response 5 Awards and honors 6 Adaptations 7 Themes 8 In popular culture 9 See also 10 References 11 External links

Plot[edit]

Veronica Lake
Veronica Lake
and Joel McCrea
Joel McCrea
in Sullivan's Travels

John L. Sullivan (Joel McCrea) is a popular young Hollywood
Hollywood
director of profitable but shallow comedies (e.g. Ants in Your Pants of 1939). Sullivan is dissatisfied despite his success and tells his studio boss, Mr. Lebrand (Robert Warwick), that he wants his next project to be a serious exploration of the plight of the downtrodden. He asks to make his next film an adaptation of O Brother, Where Art Thou?, a socially conscious novel. Lebrand wants him to direct another lucrative comedy instead, but the idealistic Sullivan refuses to give in. He wants to "know trouble" first hand, and plans to travel as a tramp so he can return and make a film that truly depicts the sorrows of humanity. His butler (Robert Greig) and valet (Eric Blore) openly question the wisdom of his plan. Sullivan dresses as a hobo and takes to the road, followed by a fully staffed double-decker coach bus at Lebrand's request. Neither party is happy with the arrangement, and Sullivan eventually persuades his guardians to leave him alone and arranges to rendezvous with them in Las Vegas later. However, when he hitchhikes alone, he finds himself back in Los Angeles where he started. There he meets a young failed actress (Veronica Lake, identified only as "The Girl") who is just about to quit the business and go home. She believes he is truly a tramp, and buys him a breakfast of eggs and ham. In return for her kindness, Sullivan retrieves his car from his estate and gives her a lift. He neglects to tell his servants that he has returned, so they report the "theft" of the car and Sullivan and the Girl are apprehended by the police. Upon their release, the Girl pushes him into his enormous swimming pool for deceiving her about his true identity. However, after considering her options, she becomes his traveling companion -- disguised as a boy. This time Sullivan succeeds in living like a hobo. After eating in soup kitchens and sleeping in homeless shelters with the Girl, Sullivan finally decides he has had enough. His experiment is publicized by the studio as a huge success. The Girl wants to stay with him, but is stymied by his complicated living situation. On the advice of his business manager, Sullivan had gotten married to reduce his income tax. Ironically, he discovers that his wife cost him double what he saved in taxes. Sullivan decides to thank the homeless by handing out $5 bills, but one man, who had previously stolen his shoes, ambushes Sullivan and steals the money. Sullivan is knocked unconscious and dragged into a boxcar leaving the city. The thief drops the loose cash on the rails and gets run over and killed by another train while picking it up. When the thief's body is found, they discover a special identification card sewn into his shoes identifying him as Sullivan. The mangled body is assumed to be Sullivan's, and his staff and the Girl are informed of his death. Meanwhile, Sullivan wakes up in the rail yard of another city, with no memory of who he is or how he got there. A railway worker finds him and berates him for illegally entering the rail yard, shoving him; in his confused state, Sullivan grabs a rock and strikes the railroad worker in the bed causing significant injury, for which he is sentenced to six years in a labor camp. Sullivan gradually regains his memory. While in the labor camp, Sullivan attends a showing of Walt Disney's Playful Pluto
Playful Pluto
cartoon. Looking at the pure joy in the audience's faces, Sullivan realizes that comedy can do more good for the poor than his proposed social drama, O Brother, Where Art Thou?. But Sullivan still has a problem – he cannot convince anybody at the labor camp that he is Sullivan or communicate with the world outside the labor camp. Finally, he comes up with a solution: he confesses to being his own killer as his unsolved killing was on the front page of a newspaper someone brought into the labor camp. When his picture makes the front page of the newspapers, the Girl recognizes him and tells the studio executives where he is and the studio executives get him released. His "widow" had already taken up with his crooked business manager, so he can now divorce her and be reunited with the Girl. A montage of happily laughing faces ends the film. Cast[edit]

Veronica Lake
Veronica Lake
and Joel McCrea

Joel McCrea
Joel McCrea
as John L. Sullivan Veronica Lake
Veronica Lake
as The Girl Robert Warwick
Robert Warwick
as Mr. Lebrand William Demarest
William Demarest
as Mr. Jonas Franklin Pangborn
Franklin Pangborn
as Mr. Casalsis Porter Hall
Porter Hall
as Mr. Hadrian Byron Foulger
Byron Foulger
as Mr. Johnny Valdelle Margaret Hayes
Margaret Hayes
as Secretary Robert Greig
Robert Greig
as Burrows, Sullivan's butler Eric Blore
Eric Blore
as Sullivan's valet Torben Meyer as The doctor Georges Renavent
Georges Renavent
as Old tramp Emory Parnell as Rail Yard Bull

Cast notes:

This was the sixth of ten films written by Preston Sturges
Preston Sturges
in which William Demarest
William Demarest
appeared.[4] Members of Sturges's unofficial "stock company" of character actors who appear in Sullivan's Travels
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
Julius Tannen
and Robert Warwick. Eric Blore had appeared in The Lady Eve
The Lady Eve
and Porter Hall
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
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.[5] 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.[5]

Production[edit] Paramount purchased Sturges's script for Sullivan's Travels
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."[5] Sturges may have been influenced by the stories of John Garfield,[6] 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
Joel McCrea
in mind, but found the female lead through the casting process. Barbara Stanwyck
Barbara Stanwyck
was considered, as well as Frances Farmer.[5] The film as released opens with a dedication:

To the memory of those who made us laugh: the motley mountebanks, the clowns, the buffoons, in all times and in all nations, whose efforts have lightened our burden a little, this picture is affectionately dedicated.

This was originally intended to be spoken by Sullivan. Sturges wanted the film to begin with the prologue: "This is the story of a man who wanted to wash an elephant. The elephant darn near ruined him."[5] Paramount contracted with the Schlesinger Corp., who made the Warner Bros. Looney Tunes
Looney Tunes
and Merrie Melodies
Merrie Melodies
cartoons, to make an animated main title sequence, but this was not used in the film, if it was ever actually produced.[5] The censors at the Hays Office
Hays Office
had objections to the script that the studio had submitted. They felt that the word "bum" would be rejected by British censors, and warned that there should be no "suggestion of sexual intimacy" between Sullivan and The Girl in the scenes in which they are sleeping together at the mission.[5] Sullivan's Travels
Sullivan's Travels
went into production on May 12, 1941 and wrapped on July 22.[7] Location shooting took place in Canoga Park, San Marino, Castaic and at Lockheed Air Terminal.[5] Veronica Lake
Veronica Lake
was six months pregnant at the beginning of production, a fact she did not disclose to Sturges until filming began. Sturges was so furious that, according to Lake, he had to be physically restrained.[8] Sturges consulted with Lake's doctor to see if she could perform the part, and hired former Tournament of Roses
Tournament of Roses
queen Cheryl Walker
Cheryl Walker
as Lake's double.[5] Edith Head, Hollywood's most renowned costume designer, was tasked to find ways of concealing Lake's condition. Reportedly, Lake was disliked by some of her co-stars; McCrea refused to work with her again, turning down a lead role in I Married a Witch, and Fredric March, who got the part, didn't get along with her as well.[9] However, McCrea got along famously with Sturges, and afterward presented him with a watch engraved "for the finest direction I've ever had." Sturges' assistant director, Anthony Mann, was also heavily influenced by the production.[10] There were some minor problems during filming. Sturges had wanted to use a clip from a Charlie Chaplin
Charlie Chaplin
film for the church scene, but was turned down by Chaplin. Lake does parody Chaplin's "Little Tramp" character earlier in the film.[5] Also, the poverty montage was scheduled to take three hours to film, but instead took seven hours. Incidents such as this may account for the film, which cost more than $689,000 to produce, going more than $86,000 over budget.[5] The film was first screened for critics on December 4, 1941,[11] and for the public on January 15, 1942 in Detroit.[12] Its Hollywood premiere occurred two weeks later on February 12, 1942, at the Los Angeles Paramount Theatre.[13] When the film was released, the U.S. Office of Censorship
Office of Censorship
declined to approve it for export overseas during wartime, because of the "long sequence showing life in a prison chain gang which is most objectionable because of the brutality and inhumanity with which the prisoners are treated." This conformed with the office's standing policy of not exporting films that could be used for propaganda purposes by the enemy. The producers of the film declined to make suggested changes that could have altered the film's status.[5] Sullivan's Travels
Sullivan's Travels
was released on video in the U.S. on March 16, 1989, and re-released on June 30, 1993. The film was re-released in the UK with a restored print on May 12, 2000.[14] Criterion produced a Blu-ray
Blu-ray
version, which was released in the U.S. on April 14, 2015.[15] Response[edit] Sullivan's Travels
Sullivan's Travels
was not as immediately successful at the box office as earlier Sturges films such as The Great McGinty
The Great McGinty
and The Lady Eve, and received 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
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."[5] Nevertheless, the Times named it as one of the ten best films of 1941, and the National Board of Review
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; at least one reviewer called it Sturges's "masterpiece" and "one of the finest movies about movies ever made."[3] It has a 100% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with an average rating of 8.7/10.[16] Awards and honors[edit] In 1990, Sullivan's Travels
Sullivan's Travels
was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry
National Film Registry
by the Library of Congress
Library of Congress
as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant." In 2007, the American Film Institute
American Film Institute
ranked it as the #61 Greatest American Movie of All Time. In addition, the movie's poster was ranked as #19 of "The 25 Best Movie Posters Ever" by Premiere. A 2010 special issue of Trains magazine ranked Sullivan's Travels
Sullivan's Travels
25th among the 100 greatest train movies.[17] The film is recognized by American Film Institute
American Film Institute
in these lists:

1998: AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies – Nominated[18] 2000: AFI's 100 Years... 100 Laughs – #39[19] 2005: AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movie Quotes:

John L. Sullivan: "There's a lot to be said for making people laugh. Did you know that's all some people have? It isn't much, but it's better than nothing in this cockeyed caravan. Boy!" – Nominated[20]

2006: AFI's 100 Years... 100 Cheers – #25[21] 2007: AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) – #61[22]

The two Writers Guilds of America voted the screenplay for Sullivan's Travels as the 29th greatest ever written,[23] as well as the 35th funniest.[24] Adaptations[edit] On November 9, 1942, Lux Radio Theatre broadcast a radio adaptation of Sullivan's Travels
Sullivan's Travels
with Ralph Bellamy
Ralph Bellamy
in the lead role and Veronica Lake reprising her role.[5] Themes[edit] The film's primary theme is best summed up in the last line of dialogue as spoken by Sullivan: "There's a lot to be said for making people laugh. Did you know that's all some people have? It isn't much, but it's better than nothing in this cockeyed caravan." The scene in which the prisoners are taken to watch the Disney
Disney
cartoon Playful Pluto
Playful Pluto
takes place in a Southern African-American church; the film notably treats the African-American characters there with a level of respect unusual in films of the period. The Secretary of the NAACP, Walter White, wrote to Sturges:

I want to congratulate and thank you for the church sequence in Sullivan's Travels. This is one of the most moving scenes I have seen in a moving picture for a long time. But I am particularly grateful to you, as are a number of my friends, both white and colored, for the dignified and decent treatment of Negroes in this scene. I was in Hollywood
Hollywood
recently and am to return there soon for conferences with production heads, writers, directors, and actors and actresses in an effort to induce broader and more decent picturization of the Negro instead of limiting him to menial or comic roles. The sequence in Sullivan's Travels
Sullivan's Travels
is a step in that direction and I want you to know how grateful we are.[5]

In popular culture[edit]

In the movie's airplane scene the author of the book O Brother, Where Art Thou? is shown to be "Sinclair Beckstein", which is an amalgamation of the names of authors Upton Sinclair, Sinclair Lewis, and John Steinbeck, all of whom wrote socially conscious fiction.[25] The title of Sullivan's unrealized dream project has resurfaced in several other works.

In Lawrence Kasdan's Grand Canyon (1991), Steve Martin's character, an action movie producer who experiences a revelation after being mugged, temporarily decides to make high-quality "life drama" movies, but soon returns to the action genre when he decides that violence is life and should be welcomed and watched. Martin's character recommends that his friend (played by Kevin Kline) check out Sullivan's Travels, as "movies are where we get our answers to life".

A 1991 episode of The Simpsons, "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?", got its title from the film[26] and features Homer's half-brother Herb, who goes from CEO of a major car manufacturer to a hobo.

The Coen brothers' 2000 film O Brother, Where Art Thou? borrows the title and has many plot similarities to Sullivan's Travels; on the special-edition DVD the Coens say the film is almost what Sullivan would have ended up making after Sullivan's Travels
Sullivan's Travels
ends.

See also[edit]

List of films with a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, a film-review aggregator website

References[edit]

Notes

^ Curtis, James. Between Flops: A Biography of Preston Sturges, Limelight, 1984 p157 ^ "101 Pix Gross in Millions" Variety 6 Jan 1943 p 58 ^ a b Erickson, Hal "Sullivan's Travels" (Allmovie) ^ Demarest appeared in Diamond Jim
Diamond Jim
(1935), Easy Living (1937), The Great McGinty (1940), Christmas in July
Christmas in July
(1940), The Lady Eve
The Lady Eve
(1941), Sullivan's Travels
Sullivan's Travels
(1941), The Palm Beach Story
The Palm Beach Story
(1942), The Miracle of Morgan's Creek (1944), Hail the Conquering Hero
Hail the Conquering Hero
(1944) and The Great Moment (1944) ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o TCM Notes ^ Vials, Chris (12 Mar 2009), Realism for the masses: aesthetics, popular front pluralism, and U.S. culture, 1935–1947, Univ. Press of Mississippi, p. xiii  ^ IMDb
IMDb
Business data ^ Steffen, James "Sullivan's Travels" (TCM article) ^ Stafford, Jeff "I Married a Witch" (TCM article) ^ Spoto, Donald. Madcap: The Life of Preston Sturges. p. 171. ISBN 0-316-80726-5 ^ "Tradeshows". Variety: 22. December 3, 1941.  ^ IMDB entry ^ "Sullivan Travels Today". Los Angeles Times: 10. February 12, 1942.  ^ TCM Misc. notes ^ Sullivan's Travels
Sullivan's Travels
Blu-ray, retrieved 2017-11-03  ^ " Sullivan's Travels
Sullivan's Travels
(1942)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved January 31, 2017.  ^ Trains Magazine Special
Special
Edition No. 5-2010, p. 81 ^ " AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-06.  ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs" (PDF). American Film Institute. Retrieved 2016-08-06.  ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-06.  ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Cheers" (PDF). American Film Institute. Retrieved 2016-08-06.  ^ " AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition)" (PDF). American Film Institute. Retrieved 2016-08-06.  ^ "101 Greatest Screenplays". Writers Guild of America, West. Retrieved January 31, 2017.  ^ "101 Funniest Screenplays". Writers Guild of America, West. Retrieved January 31, 2017.  ^ TCM Trivia ^ Martin, Jeff. (2002). Commentary for "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?", in The Simpsons: The Complete Second Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.

External links[edit]

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Sullivan's Travels.

Sullivan's Travels
Sullivan's Travels
at the American Film Institute
American Film Institute
Catalog Sullivan's Travels
Sullivan's Travels
on IMDb Sullivan's Travels
Sullivan's Travels
at the TCM Movie Database Sullivan's Travels
Sullivan's Travels
at AllMovie Sullivan's Travels
Sullivan's Travels
at Rotten Tomatoes Criterion Collection essay by Todd McCarthy Review by Bosley Crowther in New York Times
New York Times
(1942)

v t e

Preston Sturges

Film

Written and directed

The Great McGinty
The Great McGinty
(1940) Christmas in July
Christmas in July
(1940) The Lady Eve
The Lady Eve
(1941) Sullivan's Travels
Sullivan's Travels
(1941) The Palm Beach Story
The Palm Beach Story
(1942) The Miracle of Morgan's Creek
The Miracle of Morgan's Creek
(1944) Hail the Conquering Hero
Hail the Conquering Hero
(1944) The Great Moment (1944) The Sin of Harold Diddlebock
The Sin of Harold Diddlebock
(1947) Unfaithfully Yours (1948) The Beautiful Blonde from Bashful Bend
The Beautiful Blonde from Bashful Bend
(1949) Vendetta (uncredited, 1950) The French, They Are a Funny Race
The French, They Are a Funny Race
(1955)

Written only

The Big Pond
The Big Pond
(dialogue, 1930) Fast and Loose (add'l dialogue, 1930) Strictly Dishonorable (play, 1931) They Just Had to Get Married (uncredited, 1932) Child of Manhattan (play, 1933) The Power and the Glory (1933) The Invisible Man (uncredited, 1933) Twentieth Century (uncredited, 1934) Thirty-Day Princess
Thirty-Day Princess
(1934) We Live Again
We Live Again
(adapter, 1934) Imitation of Life (uncredited, 1934) The Good Fairy (1935) Diamond Jim
Diamond Jim
(1935) Next Time We Love
Next Time We Love
(uncredited, 1936) Love Before Breakfast
Love Before Breakfast
(uncredited, 1936) One Rainy Afternoon
One Rainy Afternoon
(lyrics, 1936) Hotel Haywire (1937) Easy Living (1937) College Swing
College Swing
(uncredited, 1938) Port of Seven Seas
Port of Seven Seas
(1938) If I Were King
If I Were King
(1938) Never Say Die (1939) Remember the Night
Remember the Night
(1940) New York Town
New York Town
(uncredited, 1941) Safeguarding Military Information
Safeguarding Military Information
(1942) I'll Be Yours
I'll Be Yours
(1947) Strictly Dishonorable (play, 1951) The Birds and the Bees (prev. screenplay, 1956) Rock-A-Bye Baby (prev. screenplay, 1958) Unfaithfully Yours (prev. screenplay, 1984)

Plays

The Guinea Pig Strictly Dishonorable Recapture The Well of Romance A Cup of Coffee Child of Manhattan Make a Wish Carnival in Flanders

Related

List of actors who frequently worked with Pre

.