118. Sullivan’s Travels

Whenever I sit down to yet another film about filmmaking, I have a hard time not rolling my eyes. Yes, I get it that filmmakers like talking about their immediate surroundings; who doesn’t? But Preston Sturges’ SULLIVAN’S TRAVELS places its scope well beyond Hollywood. Set at the tail end of the Great Depression, it stars Joel McCrea as Sullivan, a director of light comedies who wants to make a serious film about poverty. (He wants to call it, incidentally, O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU?—maybe that’s old news for you diehard Coen brothers fans, but it was a fun surprise for me.) When it’s pointed out how little he knows about trouble, he decides to hit the road with ten cents in his pocket to find out. He has a few false starts, but succeeds in meeting the glamorous yet plucky Veronica Lake who wants to tag along. Unable to say no to such flawless shiny hair, they set off to experience poverty together, depicted in a loving silent montage. I’ll admit that Pulp’s “Common People” kept playing as the soundtrack in my head, but this is a satire that recognizes the flaws of the well-meaning. The beauty is that making fun of Sullivan’s desire to comment on poverty and the human condition also allows Sturges to do just that. And he does it warmly and movingly and full of humor, especially towards the end, concluding on what may well be his career’s thesis. No wonder that the Coen brothers wanted to pay homage to that.



292. Unfaithfully Yours

Since I don’t like to give any spoilers on this little blog of mine, a review for Preston Sturges’ UNFAITHFULLY YOURS is going to be hard to write. I’ll say this much about the plot: Rex Harrison plays a symphony conductor with world renown and a loving wife. But when he suspects his wife might be having an affair, he begins to entertain some pretty dark fantasies. I won’t say what happens next, because it definitely took me by surprise, but I promise it’s both macabre and comical. The screenplay is unique, with a somewhat experimental structure—and I do love a film with a good structure. It also holds nothing back in terms of how it feels to be a jealous husband, and how jealousy can reduce the best of us to slapstick.