In praise of an old film…

But first…
Dulltown, Europe: Today’s bird-of-paradise is the drab nunty* one.
(*Nunty: A northern English word meaning frumpy or dowdy.)

A favourite film of mine, which I recommend that you seek out dear reader, is ‘Sullivan’s Travels’ (1941) directed by Preston Sturges. It stars Joel McCrea and Veronica Lake – Veronica Lake, what a wonderful name!
It is all about a successful, but troubled Hollywood film director who has become very rich making a string of slapstick comedy films, but which he has recently come to think of as being shallow and meaningless; he says that he desperately needs to make ‘the great movie about the Depression’, showing the unemployment, the misery, and the suffering that there is out there. ‘What do you know about pain and suffering?’ asks his studio boss. ‘You re right!’ says Sullivan, and decides to dress up as a hobo and go out into the world of the poor to find out what it’s like.
After a few days in out the real world he bumps into the slightly down at heel, but lovely, Veronica Lake. They have many adventures together, mostly broadly comic, but sometimes quite gritty and genuinely moving.
‘Sullivan’s Travels’ is a fine piece of work. Beautifully and wittily written, well acted (Veronica does comedy very well) and bearing in mind that this is a Hollywood film, it does have a little something to say, and says it very well.
Incidentally, when Sullivan is planning his ‘great movie of the Depression’ his proposed title for it is ‘Oh Brother Where Art Thou?’. Does that ring a bell? Yes, the Cohen brothers pinched it for their film on a similar theme in 2000. I expect they’d say they were paying homage to Sturges, but in true Cohen style, their film is totally lacking any of the warmth, humanity, and charm that pervades ‘Sullivan’s Travels’.
Of course Sturges’ film is the film that Sullivan wanted to make… ‘Sullivan’s Travels’ is ‘Oh Brother Where Art Thou’, but it also is very funny…
Look out for it, it sometimes turns up on TV, often in the middle of the night or first thing in the morning; well, classy though it is, it is in black and white…

About Dave Whatt

Grumpy old surrealist artist, musician, postcard maker, bluesman, theatre set designer, and debonair man-about-town. My favourite tools are the plectrum and the pencil...
This entry was posted in art, drama, Film, history, humour, information, seeing, style, surrealism, TV, words and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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