Posts Tagged ‘Sullivan’s Travels’

sullivans travels poster“There’s a lot to be said for making people laugh. Did you know that’s all some people have?”

How can a comedy from more than seventy years ago still be relevant today? Two reasons, the world really hasn’t changed that much, and writer/director Preston Sturges’ script is unbelievably clever and an on the mark. A timeless satire and social comedy/commentary that is as much about life as it is about films and the movie business.

Film director John Lloyd Sullivan (Joel McCrea) is disillusioned and dissatisfied with the shallow, superficial and lightweight comedies that he has been making. Determined to make his masterpiece by adapting the (fictitious) social realist novel O Brother, Where Art Thou? (yes, this is where the Coen Brothers got the name from). Looking for inspiration and to help him understand the life he hit’s the roads and rails of America disguised as hobo. Along the way he meets “The Girl” (Veronica Lake) a young woman who has given up of her dream of making it in Hollywood.sullivans travels

The first and most comic part of the movie sees Sullivan attempting to escape the his studio minders and live like a hobo. A little like Bill Murray reliving the same in Groundhog Day Sullivan finds that despite his best efforts all roads lead back to Hollywood. The film makers and the studio executives find it as hard to charge the direction of their lives as the hobo’s they are impersonating. For all the wit of its clever, sophisticated dialogue the movie isn’t afraid to descend into slapstick from time to time and is all the better for it. The film is at its best when it introduces Veronica Lake as the unnamed girl. She is tough and streetwise but broken girl, broken by her failure to make it in Hollywood and like Sullivan looking for a way out of town. The two characters bounce off each other with a natural ease with real chemistry between the two actors.sullivan's travels veronica lake

SPOILER WARNING: To be honest, there is no big twist you will see the conclusion coming.  After been knocked unconscious and thrown into boxcar Sullivan finds himself sentenced to six years in a labour camp for assaulting a railroad worker. Through the one part of the plot that feels forced or contrived, everyone believes Sullivan to be dead. A classic case of be careful what you wish for, it isn’t until he truly hits rock bottom that Sullivan understands the value of his work and he finds a direction, but not the one he thought he was looking for. As he finally sees another side to life he still believes his destiny is to make O Brother, Where Art Thou? A social realist story in the vein of The Grapes of Wrath (1940). It isn’t until from the kindness of a local church that he and his fellow prisoners get to see a Disney Pluto cartoon. Not only does he find himself laughing at the lowest point of his life but he sees the escapist enjoyment in the faces of the rest of the audience. In other words: “There’s a lot to be said for making people laugh. Did you know that’s all some people have?”sullivans_travels

For all his ideals and big ideas Sullivan is a fool, blind to the importance of what he does and the effect has on audiences. His humility and humbleness are not the virtues they first appear to be. Where he thinks he understands ordinary people, his preconceptions separate him from them. It is no great surprise that during the recent economic downturn, cinema attendances went up just as they did during the depression. For a man at the top he needed to find bottom before he can understand this. Hollywood isn’t always great at turning the camera on itself but once in a while it gets it right, really right, and when it does it is something very special, that’s what Sullivan’s Travels is.

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2013 Blind Spot SeriesWhen Ryan from The Matinee suggested I join The 2013 Blind Spot Series I didn’t know where to start. The obvious starting point was E.T. the Extra Terrestrial having recently admitted to Ryan that I have never seen it. Then came the IMDB top 250. Of the 250, there are 33 movies that I haven’t seen yet so I chose a few that looked interesting. Then came Steven Jay Schneider’s 101 Cult Movies You Must See Before You Die, I had seen a lot of them an just wasn’t interested in a lot but there were some I really should have seen. Before I knew it, I was up to eleven. For the final place I turned to the BFI Top 100 British films, I picked the highest placed film that I am yet to see: The Crying Game.  so my chosen twelve (sort of) are:

The Gold Rush (1925) or Modern Times (1936)
Sullivan’s Travels (1941)
Harvey (1950) 
Paths of Glory (1957)
The Seventh Seal (1957)
Bande à Part (1964)
Manhatten (1979)
E.T. the Extra Terrestrial (1982)
Princess Mononoke (1957)
The Crying Game (1992)
The Green Mile (1999)
WALL·E  (2008) or Up (2009)

There are a couple of either or’s on the list and I haven’t decided on the order yet. I also haven’t actually got my hands on most of the movies so there many some forced changes. come back on the last Tuesday of each month last year to see what I think of them.Blind Spot Series

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We are just a week away from My Movie Year

As previously mentioned we are publishing on Sunday 15th April. I will post a homepage with a list of all participants at 12:00 (mid day) BST. If you can post at around this time it will be perfect. Don’t worry if you can’t anytime that day is fine.

Please post this link: http://wp.me/prVbF-2rb (it won’t work until the day) to the homepage in your post. And use the banner from the top of this post.

Please email me at fandangogroovers@gmail.com by Thursday 12th if possible with the following information:

  • The name you wish to be know by on the homepage
  • The name of your blog
  • A link to your post ( if you are not able to produce a link to the post, include a link to your blog homepage)

Don’t forget if you know anyone who is interested in taking part, its not to late. Email me if you have any questions.

As a precursor to the main event here are a few years that were in contention but didn’t make it. Check in every day this week to see some other years that didn’t make the final cut.

1941: Citizen Kane, The Maltese Falcon, Suspicion, High Sierra, Sullivan’s Travels

1946: It’s A Wonderful Life, The Big Sleep, Notorious, Gilda, The Killers

1948: Key Largo, Bicycle Thieves, The Treasure o f the Sierra Madre, The Red Shoes, Fort Apache

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