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Stretches the film form but isn't Sturges' best
on 8 March 2015
The blu-ray visual quality isn't quite up there with others I've seen from this time, or before, and the documentary accompanying the film is pretty rudimentary: the kind where the stars and relatives speak rather than the cinema studies experts. The viewer is so much better off reading Sturges' beautifully written memoirs (that were finally published quite recently). As for the film itself, the beginning is wonderful: great writing, and hilarious. There is a change of pace as Veronica Lake joins, but if you can shift gears, the scene in the cafe is another to be relished.
It's when the situation turns bad, and from then on, that the film doesn't do as well as his brilliant-and-hilarious-all-the-way-through Hail the Conquering Hero and Miracle of Morgan's Creek. Sullivan's Travels goes for a big change of tone and goes out of its way to get "deep dish" despite Sturges intending the film as an answer to films that he perceived as too much so. And Joel McRea is just too Gary Cooper-stolid (his sneezes can't make up for this) compared for instance to what Eddie Bracken in the aforementioned movies could brought to the material.
Sullivan's Travels has the reputation as Sturges' best film, which is a shame, because it is the formal changes of tone that impresses more than much of the content. Hail the Conquering Hero, Miracle of Morgan's Creek and also the Palm Beach Story and Christmas in July, on the other hand, are Sturges at the top of his game in the wit and intelligence of his writing throughout.
Sturges has been extremely well served by Diane Jacobs' biography, a really excellent relating of Sturges' story, well above the nevertheless reasonable standard of the usual biographies of directors or stars.