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Wick's Review

Created Apr 20, 2013 06:43PM PST • Edited Jun 02, 2019 02:26AM PST

  1. Quality
  2. Perfect 5.0

    When everybody rates a movie as Five Star, calling it one of the greatest ever made, the stakes are high. Expectations of perfection prevail. Expectations, meet Sullivan’s Travels, a perfect Golden Age movie.

    Sullivan’s Travels is a movie about the movies, about comedies mostly, from which an often affecting comedy emerges. Sullivan travels through Depression America, riding the rails and bunking with hobos.

    Nevermind that he’s rich, a big time movie director and all. A Comedy Director no less. His last hit? Ants in Your Pants of 1939! Big hit. He’s gonna leave Hollywood to get in touch with the common man. Some things haven’t changed in the last three-quarters of a century. Some have. More in Reality below.

    Veronica Lake enters 25 minutes in – a debut for the ages. Her role? Simply called The Girl, she’s the one with the legendary peekaboo, who talks smart, talks sexy, and who creates a perfect movie moment by pushing back her perfect blonde tresses to accept a light.

    You must have a swimming pool?

    Veronica Lake soon sits poolside, long legs crossed, floor length white robe falling perfectly around her, brushing her long golden tresses, creating another perfect movie moment. Come to think of it, Sullivan’s Travels is studded with PMMs, one after another, each crisp as a fresh pressed dinner jacket.

    Near the end comes an important scene in Hollywood and African-American History. Sullivan visits a black church – in 1941 remember. Jim Crow still reigned. The congregation sings Let My People Go and watches a Disney cartoon. And laughs and laughs and laughs. Glory be!

    Preston Sturges wrote and directed this gem during a furious five-year burst of activity from ’39 to ’43:

    • One of seven movies he made during that half decade
    • Four of them – Sullivan’s Travels second amongst the four – have been declared among the 100 funniest movies of all time by the AFI. No argument here.

    The Library of Congress deems Sullivan’s Travels “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” Apparently they can’t make up their mind. I vote for all three.

  3. Really Great 4.5

    Joel McCrea stars with Veronica Lake in her first starring role and his last time agreeing to star with her. Veronica Lake was apparently that difficult. Diva extraordinaire from the jump.

    He’s Sullivan of the Travels. She’s The Girl, deadly of voice, cigarette gestures and peekaboo hairdo.

    They’re joined by Prestion Sturges’ “stock company,” whose worthies include George Anderson, Al Bridge, Chester Conklin, Jimmy Conlin, William Demarest, Robert Dudley, Byron Foulger, Robert Greig, Harry Hayden, Esther Howard, Arthur Hoyt, J. Farrell MacDonald, Torben Meyer, Charles R. Moore, Frank Moran, Jack Norton, Franklin Pangborn, Emory Parnell, Victor Potel, Dewey Robinson, Harry Rosenthal, Julius Tannen and Robert Warwick.

    Just a few actors, almost all men.

    Veronica Lake played The Girl, an all-time iconic leading lady role, let alone starring debut. No wonder she went nuts.

  4. Male Stars Really Great 4.5
  5. Female Stars Really Great 4.5
  6. Female Costars Really Great 4.5
  7. Male Costars Really Great 4.5
  8. Perfect 5.0

    Preston Sturges, we’re not worthy. Funny, trenchant and brave are three accolades that rarely go together in Hollywood, especially that third. Sullivan’s Travels showed the way.

    Amongst his funny, trenchant and brave filmic elements are Labor and Capital, two roles in a movie-within-the-movie. They fight of course. Like I said, funny, trenchant and brave.

    Then there’s this: instead of another meaningless comedy, Sullivan wanted to make a picture called O Brother, Where Art Thou? Over half a century later, the Coen Brothers did.

  9. Direction Perfect 5.0
  10. Play Perfect 5.0

    Final lines —

    Did you know that’s all some people have.
    It isn’t much, but its better than nothing in this cockeyed caravan.

    Damn near Casablancan, that.

  11. Music Perfect 5.0
  12. Visuals Perfect 5.0

    Costumes by Edith Head. Thus the film features magnificently attired women and men.

    Cinematography by John Seitz, whose IMDb Filmography includes Sunset Boulevard and Double Indemnity to go with Sullivan’s Travels. Stellar.

  13. Content
  14. Risqué 1.6

    Veronica Lake pressing her chest up against a sheer shower curtain must’ve been pretty edgy in 1942.

  15. Sex Titillating 1.6
  16. Violence Fierce 1.6
  17. Rudeness Salty 1.6
  18. Surreal 2.3

    Hollywood honchos have always lived obscenely high on the hog, while fancying themselves in touch with the common man. What’s changed is their propaganda about wealth, which has changed radically.

    • Then, a perfect Hollywood movie that speaks to the poor but doesn’t denigrate the rich.
    • Now, Great Recession movies do pretty much the opposite.
  19. Circumstantial Surreal 2.3
  20. Biological Surreal 2.3
  21. Physical Surreal 2.3

Forum

Subscribe to Sullivan's Travels 4 replies, 2 voices
Apr 21, 2013 8:21PM
BrettHarrison

Regarding Wick’s Review
And thanks for taking Monsieur Wick. I hope I wasn’t too critical. I really did enjoy your review, despite my one objeciton.

Apr 20, 2013 8:25PM
Wick

Regarding Wick’s Review
There’s no shortage of commentary opportunity with such a rich movie as Sullivan’s Travels. Thanks again for the recommendation Brett.

Apr 20, 2013 7:17PM
BrettHarrison

Regarding Wick’s Review
Nice review Wick, thought I should have said more about Joel McCrea. Almost forgotten now, he was quite a start back then.