Sullivan’s Travels (1941, Preston Sturges)

One of the least jokey of Sturges’s films (up there with Unfaithfully Yours), but makes up for that by being completely wonderful. Katy and I watched together for the first time. Even when I know it’s coming, I can’t help but jump when Sullivan says how much he wants to make O Brother Where Are Thou. No plot overview needed, watched it enough times.

William “Muggsy” Demarest, one of my favorites, plays the same type as always. More prominent in this movie are the butler and valet, Eric Blore and Robert Grieg, who were apparently professional butler-actors throughout the 30’s and 40’s. Veronica Lake was 21 when this was shot, looks younger. As famous as I thought she was, I’ve only heard of three of her movies (also The Blue Dahlia and I Married a Witch). Looks like after the 40’s, she switched careers from acting to drinking. I mainly know Joel McCrae from this, but apparently he was in a bunch of westerns. The poor “colored chef”, Charles R. Moore, has 100+ movie roles, all of them listed as porter, driver, bootblack, elevator operator or prisoner. Lot of in-film shouts-out to Capra and Lubitsch, who at this time were working on Meet John Doe and To Be or Not to Be.


Todd McCarthy calls Sturges “the first screenwriter to decisively break through as a director”… guess I never realized that’d never happened before 1940. Now it happens all the time (see Synecdoche New York).

The DVD commentary starts out funny, mostly a good time but sometimes one of them will resort to narrating and saying “that’s so great”. The Rise and Fall of an American Dreamer doc is better, with a full career overview of Sturges, going into the whole post-Conquering Hero part of his life which I had wondered about – it’s sad stuff.