One of the questions I am asked most commonly when I’m speaking about movies is “What is your favorite movie?”
I am not sure how anyone who truly loves films can pick just one favorite movie! However, for me, a good starting place is “Sullivan’s Travels.”
This uniquely wonderful film represents director/writer Preston Sturges at the height of his powers – and that means the end result will be about as good a film as you can get.
In his deft hands the film manages to be hilarious, romantic, dramatic, and thoughtful. The plot revolves around a Hollywood director during the Depression who wants to stop making silly comedies and instead create a serious drama about the plight of working and poor people. Convinced he knows nothing about suffering, the director, played by Joel McCrea, dresses as a hobo and sets out to discover what life is like outside of Hollywood.
The first third of the film is a fast paced screwball comedy as the pampered director fails miserably but hilariously.
The middle of the film combines a romantic comedy, when he meets a failed actress (Veronica Lake, never better)
who decides to accompany him on his journey. The tone of the film shifts to a serious and brilliantly crafted exploration of America during the Great Depression. So confident is the filmmaking that Sturges is able to include a mesmerizing 8 minute montage with no dialogue, showing how the characters changed and America has changed, thus changing the expectations of the audience.
The final third of Sullivan’s Travels contains a twist so unexpected, so unique, that audiences then and now never saw it coming. It changes the entire direction of the film and challenges the audience to think about the movies, the characters, and America in a completely different way! Think of your surprise at the twists in “The Sixth Sense” or “The Shawshank Redemption” or “The Crying Game.” It’s that good.
Filled with brilliant performances, memorable dialogue, and wonderful inside jokes about the movies,”Sullivan’s Travels” is a film that offers delight from start to finish with no let up. Find it. Watch it. Love it!
If you enjoyed Sullivan’s Travels, be sure to check out “The Lady Eve.” It is the sexiest screwball comedy ever – another Preston Sturges masterpiece!