Sullivan's Travels

1941

Sullivan's Travels

Critics Consensus

No consensus yet.

100%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 32

89%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 8,561
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Movie Info

In Preston Sturges' classic comedy of Depression-era America, filmmaker John L. Sullivan (Joel McCrea), fed up with directing profitable comedies like "Ants in Your Plants of 1939," is consumed with the desire to make a serious social statement in his upcoming film, "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?" Unable to function in the rarefied atmosphere of Hollywood, Sullivan decides to hit the road, disguised as a tramp, and touch base with the "real" people of America. But Sullivan's studio transforms his odyssey into a publicity stunt, providing the would-be nomad with a luxury van, complete with butler (Robert Greig) and valet (Eric Blore). Advised by his servants that the poor resent having the rich intrude upon them, Sullivan escapes his retinue and continues his travels incognito. En route, he meets a down-and-out failed actress (Veronica Lake). Experiencing firsthand the scroungy existence of real-life hoboes, Sullivan returns to Hollywood full of bleeding-heart fervor. After first arranging for the girl's screen test, he heads for the railyards, intending to improve the lot of the local rail-riders and bindlestiffs by handing out ten thousand dollars in five-dollar bills. Instead, Sullivan is coldcocked by a tramp, who steals Sullivan's clothes and identification. When the tramp is run over by a speeding train, the world at large is convinced that the great John L. Sullivan is dead. Meanwhile, the dazed Sullivan, dressed like a bum with no identification on his person, is arrested and put to work on a brutal Southern chain gang. With its almost Shakespearean combination of uproarious comedy and grim tragedy, Sullivan's Travels is Sturges' masterpiece and one of the finest movies about movies ever made. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

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Cast

Joel McCrea
as John L. Sullivan
Veronica Lake
as The Girl
Robert Warwick
as Mr. Lebrand
Franklin Pangborn
as Mr. Casalais
Porter Hall
as Mr. Hadrian
Byron Foulger
as Mr. Valdelle
Margaret Hayes
as Secretary
Maggie Hayes
as Secretary
Robert Greig
as Sullivan's Butler
Eric Blore
as Sullivan's Valet
Torben Meyer
as The Doctor
Victor Potel
as Cameraman
Richard Webb
as Radio Man
Esther Howard
as Miz Zeffie
Frank Moran
as Tough Chauffeur
Harry Rosenthal
as The Trombenick
Alan Bridge
as The Mister
Jan Buckingham
as Mrs. Sullivan
Al Bridge
as The Mister
Pat West
as Counterman
Harry Hayden
as Mr. Carson
J. Farrell MacDonald
as Desk Sergeant
Arthur Hoyt
as Preacher
Roscoe Ates
as Counterman
Robert Dudley
as One-Legged Bum
Monte Blue
as Cop in slums
Harry Tyler
as Railroad Information Clerk
Madame Sul-Te-Wan
as Harmonica Player
Jess Lee Brooks
as Black Preacher
Harry Seymour
as Entertainer in Air-Raid Shelter
Frank Mills
as Drunk in Theater
Preston Sturges
as Studio Director
Emory Parnell
as Man at Railroad Shack
Julius Tannen
as Public Defender
Gus Reed
as Mission Cook
Perc Launders
as Yard Man
Billy Bletcher
as Entertainer in Hospital
Paul Newlan
as Truck driver
Mme. Sul Te Wan
as Harmonica player
Howard Mitchell
as Railroad Clerk
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Critic Reviews for Sullivan's Travels

All Critics (32) | Top Critics (4)

Audience Reviews for Sullivan's Travels

  • Jun 03, 2016
    Sullivan's Travels strikes many poses and excels whether operating as a fast paced comedy or tender, buddy-road flick.
    Jeff L Super Reviewer
  • Jul 12, 2014
    This clichéd American comedy written and directed by Preston Sturges is trying to be too many things at once. It is classified as a comedy, has few elements of a drama and adventure, but mainly wants to be a satire about a movie director, played by Joel McCrea, who longs to make a socially relevant drama! The title is supposed to be a reference to Gulliver's Travels, the famous novel by Jonathan Swift about another satirical journey of self-discovery. I am not as impressed as most of the people who saw this movie, but it must be significant when it was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant." The story of John L. Sullivan (Joel McCrea), a popular young Hollywood director fresh from a string of very profitable, but shallow comedies, tells his studio boss, Mr. Lebrand (Robert Warwick), that he is dissatisfied and wants his next project to be a serious exploration of the plight of the downtrodden, to be based on the socially-conscious novel O Brother, Where Art Thou? by Sinclair Beckstein. Of course, Lebrand prefers that he directs lucrative comedy instead. Idealistic Sullivan refuses to give in, and decides to go out in the world to "know trouble" first-hand as a tramp so he can return and make a film that truly depicts the sorrows of humanity. People close to him openly question the wisdom of his plan. With only 10 cents in his pocket, Sullivan dresses as a hobo and takes to the road. However, no matter how hard he tries, somehow he always ends up back in Hollywood. Luckily, in time of trouble, he meets a young failed actress (Veronica Lake, credited only as "The Girl") who had enough of Hollywood is contemplating quitting the business... I understand why Sullivan's Travels was not as immediately successful at the box office as earlier Sturges films such as The Great McGinty and The Lady Eve, and also received a mixed critical reception - it is clearly divided into separate parts which I call the Yo-yo story (which helps the character to feel like a yo-yo, going back to the riches and then back to the street). At the time the reputation of the movie wasn't great and my biggest complaint even now is that lacks down to earth quality and sincerity which made the director's other three pictures a really enjoyable experience. But, it is good for relaxation and entertainment without too much thinking!
    Panta O Super Reviewer
  • Jan 07, 2014
    Its an interesting argument for comedy as the best form of escapism, especially since the film is anything but escapist. That finale is quite touching.
    Alec B Super Reviewer
  • Apr 10, 2013
    A wealthy hollywood director gets more than he bargained for when he goes out looking for "trouble" so as to better identify with the common man (and make a better film dramatizing their plight). The director's name is Sullivan (Joel McCrea), and he is more known for goofy slapstick than dramatic human interest. He believes himself to be a noble pursuer of truth and justice, but as his butler Burrows points out, dressing up as a bum and hoboing around is something "only the morbid rich would find glamorous". At first, the studio is intent on following him around (in a giant bus, no less) to document this adventure, but he quickly loses them after making a deal to meet up with them later. Not long after, he's taken in by a girl (Veronica Lake) who buys him a ham-and-egg breakfast as she's on her way east, back home. Sullivan is attracted to her and wants to make a movie with her, only he's still trying to maintain his incognito status, so as a compromise, he goes home and steals his own car so as to give her a ride to whereever she wants to go ("Chicago", she says). After she discovers his ruse, the girl decides to go along with him on his adventure ("How can I be alone if you're with me?" he asks, but to no avail), and the two delve right into the seedy underbelly of America's misfortunes. Riding the rails, sleeping in flophouses, looking for handouts, as if some great and noble purpose could be distilled from abject misery. But as with other martyrs, that nobility is never pure, as they could escape their condition at anytime they so choose, he's never really down and out, he still has his millions waiting for him at home, and so the deception is never fully realized as he knows who he is. Ah, but after he goes back to being Sullivan, and he's clunked over the head and robbed by a hobo and then thrown onto a freight train, well only then does he come to realize the nature of being lowly and without friends. Sullivan comes to realize the irony of socially conscious films is that they do nothing for the people they purport to defend, that watching a film doesn't change anyone's plight. The best a film can hope to do for the lowest rungs of our society is take away the burden of life for a little while, take a person somewhere they've never been before, let them laugh and enjoy themselves, even if it's just for a little while. Throwing their poverty back up in their faces doesn't help them, not even a little bit.
    Devon B Super Reviewer

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