SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS (1942) B/W 91m dir: Preston Sturges
w/Joel McCrea, Veronica Lake, Robert Warwick, William Demerest, Franklin Pangborn, Porter Hall, Byron Foulger, Margaret Hayes, Robert Greig, Eric Blore
From The Movie Guide: "A Hollywood variation on Gulliver's Travels and just as successful as satire. This brilliant, often devastating look at Hollywood and the real world behind its tinsel is arguably Preston Sturges's greatest film. McCrea, in one of his best roles, plays a successful Hollywood film director who has made nothing but lightweight films with titles like 'So Long, Sarong.' When he is suddenly struck with the desire to make a searing drama about human suffering, his studio bosses (Warwick and Hall) laugh and tell him that the proposal is ridiculous, since McCrea has no personal experience of such difficulty. Accordingly, McCrea sets out to suffer. He will don hobo clothes and, with only 10 cents in his pocket, go forth into poverty and experience adversity for himself. Knowing they can't change his mind, Warwick and Hall humor the eccentric director's whim, but decide to turn McCrea's nomadic adventure into a publicity stunt that will benefit the studio. To this end they provide him with an publicity entourage and a luxury van that follows McCrea as he travels on foot, and that carries McCrea's butler, Greig, and valet, Blore, who both urge their employer to give up this mad idea, telling him that the poor insist upon their privacy and don't want him intruding upon it.
"Though the plot may sound a bit contrived, everything in this wonderful film works. And it presents a spectacular array of emotions and situations that allow for Sturges's magical direction and script to quickly turn all the film's sharp corners with his characters. SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS is a wonderful comedy-drama, the type of a one-of-a-kind film for which Sturges --- basically a writer with a good sense of camera use and visuals, who as a director was always trying out new techniques --- was noted. Unlike many of his other films, which were made for sheer entertainment value, SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS contains a message, which Sturges himself later explained: 'SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS is the result of an urge, an urge to tell some of my fellow filmwrights that they were getting a little too deep-dish and to leave the preaching to the preachers.'"