Joel McCrea, Veronica Lake, William Demarest, Franklin Pangborn,
Hollywood movie director John L. Sullivan is a past master of the escape comedy, but in the future, Sullivan (played by Joel McCrea in perfect earnestness, his special comic bent) wants to turn to drama with Social Significance. Determined to learn the true meaning of the word poverty, he leaves Beverly Hills for the Real World, joined in his misadventures by hobo/hippie/Hollywood hopeful Veronica Lake. When Sullivan reappears—busted, beaten, abused at the hands of a chain-gang cheerleader—he has learned something after all: the true meaning of the word escape. In the aftermath of the Great Depression, Preston Sturges created a strange hybrid: a film that movingly searches the grim depths of poverty, prisons, and chain gangs; and a film that is, in the end, a hilarious exposé of its own well-established concern. While Sullivan’s Travels prefigures Woody Allen and the Coen Brothers, it remains unique in American cinema.
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