|SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS (1941)|
|"I wanted to make you something that would realize the potentiality of film as the sociological and artistic medium that it is...with a little sex in it."|
|Time: 90 mins.|
Rating: Not Rated
A film that takes a long, silly and melodramatic road to come to a point that seems patently obvious to everyone except the lead character: laughter is the best medicine. McCrea stars as John ĎSullyí Sullivan, a wealthy film director tired of churning out mindless comedies and desperate to connect with the common man. Much to the horror of his studio bosses, he decides to hit the open road with no money and only the clothes on his back to research the ills of the real world. Upon his return, he plans to use his experiences to create a serious, important, social epic. The idea fails to excite the studio, but since heís made them tons of cash, they agree to indulge his quest for art. Sullyís initial attempts to get out of Hollywood are impeded by the studioís efforts to protect him. Once he finally convinces them of the seriousness of his intentions, they back off and he starts to get in touch with the woes and worries that come with poverty.
Fortunately for him, he doesnít have to suffer alone. Heís joined early on by a beautiful girl (Lake), who buys him breakfast on her way out of Hollywood. The Girl is tired of struggling to become an actress and is heading back home. Sully is touched by her generosity and offers to help her with her career when he returns home. Her anger at being deceived by his masquerading as a hobo quickly turns into excitement when she learns the reasons behind the deception. Against his better judgment he agrees to take her along dressed as a boy (as if anyone would believe that) and they soon discover how hard life can really be. As if being hungry and tired werenít enough, a twist of fate turns Sullyís life-altering lark into a seemingly unalterable pit of despair, cruelty and humiliation. He finds himself in a situation he canít talk or buy his way out of. Itís not until he hits this rock bottom that he discovers the worth and joy his silly comedies bring to the world.
The dark and unrelenting turn the film takes at the end is a bit of a jolt, considering the first two-thirds are as fun and jovial as a film about poverty can be. However, the last act is necessary to convince the audience that Sully has really experienced injustice and endured heartache. Itís easy to suck up hardship when you can see the end of the tunnel, and once you get there the road is easy. Sully had to lose all hope for his future to truly understand how unrelenting and unpleasant life can be. The way he escapes back to his reality is a bit farfetched, but cleverly conceived. His epiphany is also somewhat overplayed, however, it has to be expected from a film that toots itsí own horn. Yes, movies, especially comedies, play an important role in our society, giving us the chance to escape the boredom and suffering of our daily lives. Can Sully be the only person on the planet who is unaware of that fact?
Since the concept and the story are so well written, Iím sure the filmmakerís expected the audience to be in on the joke. Kind of a wink to their own efforts and a nod to thank us for supporting them. This could have been a train wreck of sentimentality if it werenít for the hilarious and honest performances by McCrea, Lake and the rest of the cast. Lake finally gets a role that forces her to be more than just and pretty face. She knocks this part out of the park, giving an impressively funny, smart and occasionally melancholic turn. McCrea also gets to show his comedic side, though is best towards the end when he cranks up his self-righteous anger. The story hits some pitfalls along the way, but for the most part is a clever, intelligent, sincere tale of self-discovery that does justice to itsí subject. A film to make Hollywood proud, considering itís also one that makes them look good. Thereís nothing old-fashioned about this classic and it's one that even modern audiences should enjoy