7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Unique and a Masterpiece
, January 19, 2012
This review is from: Sullivan's Travels (DVD)
Sullivan's Travels is a truly great movie, a screwball comedy of the highest order, but it is also sort of an unusual one. For one thing, it aims to set forth a justification for comedy. It has a thesis. The first half, or more, of ST is the comedy. Sullivan, a successful Hollywood director, wants to do more with his life through his work. Having made some very successful comedies like So Long Sarong, Hey Hey in the Hayloft, and Ants in Your Plants of 1939, Sullivan now wants to make a serious movie, O Brother Where Art Thou. The studio heads are not happy with that, but since Sullivan is their favorite, and something of a pet, they grudgingly agree.
However, Sullivan makes it hard for himself. Before he embarks on the project, he decides that, because of his sheltered life, he needs to take to the road as a hobo in order to properly experience the vicissitudes of existence. Sullivan is a sweet man, a simple man, and something of a naïf, and Joel McCrea is just perfect in the part. Everyone of course thinks he's crazy, even the girl (of course there's a girl) he meets and falls for, Sullivan has a wild card, his cushion, though. He's not really a bum, and he can always go back to his pampered luxurious existence whenever he chooses. Until one day....
Until tragedy befalls. ST is kind of twp movies. It's a comedy, then a tragedy, and then it attempts to reconcile the two with the comedy supervening. Decide for yourself if it succeeds. It's a gallant attempt, probably Sturges most ambitious movie when it comes to subject matter, and makes for a unique movie experience. Everyone is A+ in their roles. The dialog is as sharp as it can be, and of course this being a Sturges' movie that's saying something. There are eccentric supporting characters (a requisite of good screwball) and the plot keeps developing in novel but believable ways.
Lake is good--very effective, and very believable as the love interest. You want her and McCrea to get together, stays together, and have a good life. But it's McCrea's movie, and he is at the top of his comedy form. When I was growing up, he and Randolph Scott were the cowboy heroes for older kids (the two together more or less went out on a Western masterpiece, Ride the High Country). I didn't know until the advent of TCM and the old AMC that he had had this other career in comedy and romantic drama. Around this time, McCrea was also in The Palm Beach Story (another superb Sturges move), Hitchcock's Foreign Correspondent, sort of a screwball spy film, a very fine movie, and The More the Merrier, another screwball masterpiece. Earlier he had been in two excellent screwball comedies with Miriam Hopkins: The Richest Girl in the World and Woman Chases Man. Try them. I think you will be pleasantly surprised.
McCrea is as adept with drama as he is with comedy. He's has such a natural easy style. He doesn't force effect on his line readings. In fact, like with a lot of actors of the naturalist just play yourself school, you tend to underrate him at first maybe. He gets his effect; he gives you your money's worth emotional payoff. And I don't know of many actors who could have so fluidly reconciled the movie's essential schizophrenia.
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