on 14 January 2016
SULLIVAN’S TRAVELS [1941 / 2014] [Blu-ray] Veronica Lake’s on the take . . . and what a ride she takes on him!
Director John L. Sullivan [Joel McCrea] is one of Hollywood s hottest talents, with an uncanny gift for getting audiences rolling in the aisles. But he’s dissatisfied: he wants to abandon comedy for Serious Statements, and buys the rights to celebrated social-realist novel “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”
To make his masterpiece as realistic as possible, John L. Sullivan naturally has to understand how the book’s downtrodden characters must have felt, so he takes to the road as a hobo, is taken under the wing of a failed actress [Veronica Lake], and learns several valuable home truths about the importance of not patronising his audience.
Writer-director Preston Sturges had an inspired run in the 1940s, turning out some of the funniest American comedies ever made [‘The Lady Eve,’ ‘The Palm Beach Story’ and ‘The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek’]. ‘SULLIVAN’S TRAVELS’ is one of his best: not just hilarious but also truly wise.
FILM FACT: The film features one of Veronica Lake's first leading roles. The title is a reference to Gulliver's Travels, the famous novel by satirist Jonathan Swift about another journey of self-discovery. In 1990, the 1941 film ‘SULLIVAN’S TRAVELS’ was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."
Cast: Joel McCrea, Veronica Lake, Robert Warwick, William Demarest, Franklin Pangborn, Porter Hall, Byron Foulger, Margaret Hayes, Robert Greig, Eric Blore, Torben Meyer, Victor Potel, Richard Webb, Charles R. Moore, Almira Sessions, Esther Howard, Frank Moran, Georges Renavent, Harry Rosenthal, Al Bridge, Jimmy Conlin, Jan Buckingham, Robert Winkler, Chick Collins, Jimmie Dundee, George Anderson (uncredited), Roscoe Ates (uncredited), Ted Billings (uncredited), Billy Bletcher (uncredited), Monte Blue (uncredited), Ed Brady (uncredited), Jess Lee Brooks (uncredited), Chester Conklin (uncredited), Edgar Dearing (uncredited), Robert Dudley (uncredited), Jester Hairston (uncredited), Chuck Hamilton (uncredited), Edward Hearn (uncredited), Arthur Hoyt (uncredited), Sheldon Jett (uncredited), Bob Kortman (uncredited), Perc Launders (uncredited), J. Farrell MacDonald (uncredited), Esther Michelson (uncredited), Ray Milland (uncredited), Frank Mills (uncredited), Howard M. Mitchell (uncredited), Bert Moorhouse (uncredited), Paul Newlan (uncredited), Emory Parnell (uncredited), Lon Poff (uncredited), Gus Reed (uncredited), Cyril Ring (uncredited), Willard Robertson (uncredited), Dewey Robinson (uncredited), Sheila Sheldon (uncredited), Preston Sturges (uncredited), Madame Sul-Te-Wan (uncredited), Julius Tannen (uncredited), Harry Tyler (uncredited), Cheryl Walker (Veronica Lake's Double) (uncredited), Pat West (uncredited) and Bill Wolfe (uncredited)
Director: Preston Sturges
Producers: Buddy DeSylva (uncredited) Paul Jones and Preston Sturges (uncredited)
Screenplay: Preston Sturges
Composers: Charles Bradshaw and Leo Shuken
Cinematography: John F. Seitz
Video Resolution: 1080p [Black-and-White]
Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
Audio: English: 2.0 LPCM Stereo Audio and English: 1.0 LPCM Mono Audio
Subtitles: English SDH
Running Time: 90 minutes
Region: Region B/2
Number of discs: 1
Studio: Paramount Pictures / Arrow Academy
Andrew’s Blu-ray Review: ‘SULLIVAN’S TRAVELS’  is generally considered one of celebrated writer/director Preston Sturges's greatest dramatic comedies and a satirical statement of his own director's creed. One of his more interesting and intelligent films from a repertoire of about twelve films in his entire career, Preston Sturges' ‘SULLIVAN’S TRAVELS’ satirises Hollywood pretension and excesses with his particular brand of sophisticated verbal wit and dialogue, satire and fast-paced slapstick. Preston Sturges was one of the first scriptwriters in the sound era to direct his own screenplays. He was assisted by future westerns film director Anthony Mann, and cinematographer John Seitz, who later filmed such notable “film noir” ‘This Gun For Hire’ , ‘Double Indemnity’ , ‘The Big Clock’  and ‘Sunset Boulevard’ , as well as two other Preston Sturges works, ‘Hail the Conquering Hero’  and ‘The Miracle of Morgan's Creek’ .
The film tells of the 'mission' of 'Sully' [Joel McCrea], a big-shot Hollywood director of lightweight comedies to experience suffering in the world before producing his next socially-conscious film of hard times and the epic titled 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' about the common man. Film-makers Joel and Ethan Coen paid homage to Preston Sturges and his admirable film by naming their own 21st century film ‘O Brother, Where Art Thou?’ . After some failed attempts dressed as a hobo and companionship on the road with an aspiring blonde actress simply called The Girl [Veronica Lake] in her second picture following her work in ‘I Wanted Wings’  and wearing boy's clothes, he succeeds in losing his freedom, identity and name, health, pride and money. Incarcerated in a prison work camp as the end result of his misadventures, and as part of an audience of chain-gang convicts watching a screening in a Southern black church of a Walt Disney cartoon starring Mickey Mouse and Pluto, he retains one final ability to laugh. He succeeds in understanding that his attitude toward the poor had bordered on patronisation. He finally realizes the uplifting power of laughter, and decides to return to his true calling and the making of entertaining comedies to entertain rather than to edify.
It has a cracking good opening act kicks off with a daredevil fight scene atop a moving train, especially with a scene that turns out to the climax of a film within the film (the first of three). It’s the sort of morally serious project “Sully” wants to make, and he expounds eagerly on its symbolism, where “Capitalism and Labour destroy each other!” especially while a pair of sceptical producers argue that serious fare doesn’t sell.
Along the way, “Sully” picks up another shadow: a disillusioned would-be actress [Veronica Lake] who takes pity on him and buys him breakfast even though she’s broke. Despite taking him for a bum, Veronica Lake unwittingly highlights Sully’s privilege in some pointed remarks about how differently she’d have to treat him if he were “some big shot, like a casting director.” “The Girl” (who is never named) becomes Sully’s companion in a series of attempts to experience hardship. Each venture is somewhat more successful than the last, culminating in a striking seven-minute segment shot in the style of a silent-era “social issue” melodrama, with “Sully” and “The Girl” wandering through a hobo shantytown, eating at a Salvation Army soup kitchen and sleeping in a homeless shelter.
This witty journey film from Paramount Studios skilfully mixes every conceivable cinematic genre type and tone of film possible tragic melodrama, farce, prison film, serious drama, social documentary, slapstick, romance, comedy, action, and even musical, in about a dozen sequences. Due to confusion over the varying, inconsistent moods within the film, the marketing campaign decided to focus on Veronica Lake's peekaboo hairdo instead, with the tagline: "VERONICA LAKE'S ON THE TAKE." Visual gags in the comic scenes include a prolonged cross-country car chase, a pratfall into a mansion's swimming pool, changing facial expressions in a portrait, and tramps scampering onto boxcars, among others. Having chosen a misguided film director as the main character of his own film, many critics have generally assumed that the film has a personal, introspective, autobiographical slant, with Preston Sturges arguing for and affirming the production of light comedies, to lift viewers' spirits while providing commentary upon serious “message” in films. However, the superb film lacked even a single Academy Awards® Oscar nomination.
Finally, I think that what really sums up this brilliant satirical look at Hollywood, is the wording at the start of the film, where it says, “To the memory of those who made us laugh: the motely mountebanks, the clowns, the buffoons, in all times and in all nations, whose efforts have lightened our burden a little, this picture is affectionately dedicated.
Blu-ray Video Quality – The brilliant Arrow Academy ‘SULLIVAN’S TRAVELS’  Blu-ray delivers a very nice black-and-white 1080p high-definition transfer image and an equally impressive 1.37:1 aspect ratio. But most importantly throughout the film looks stunning and the image depth in particular and definitely being far superior when one compares the Blu-ray release with the inferior Criterion Collection DVD release produced back in 2001. But with the Universal's master also had some built-in sharpening, and while it is easy to see that various adjustments were made to rebalance the image, light to moderate traces of the sharpening are still quite easy to see throughout the entire film and there are no traces of problematic grain corrections. All in all, the brilliant Arrow Academy Blu-ray release clearly represents a superior good upgrade in quality over previous inferior DVD release and for people wanting to see images at their best, then this Blu-ray disc release is a great way to upgrade to the superior Blu-ray format. As a sort of post script, that ‘SULLIVAN’S TRAVELS’ was made in 1941, at a time when every Hollywood studio film was shot in the so called “Academy” aspect ratio of 1.37:1. This has been respected on this Arrow Academy edition, which means that when viewed on a widescreen television or monitor, there will be black bars at the side of the picture. This is perfectly normal. The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray release: "The HD master for ‘SULLIVAN’S TRAVELS’ was created from a 35mm dupe negative by Universal Digital Services and delivered by Hollywood Classics. Additional picture and audio restoration work was carried out using a combination of software tools and techniques at Deluxe Digital – EMEA, London. Playback Region B/2: This will not play on most Blu-ray players sold in North America, Central America, South America, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Southeast Asia. Learn more about Blu-ray region specifications.
Blu-ray Audio Quality – The brilliant Arrow Academy ‘SULLIVAN’S TRAVELS’  brings us only one standard audio track on this Blu-ray release, which is 2.0 LPCM Mono Audio and the dialogue is very crisp and stable and the music is also well balanced for a mono audio track. But now and again you experience some light background hiss occasionally, but it never becomes too distracting. Dynamic intensity is limited, but this should not be surprising considering the age of the film. Any age-related imperfections, such as hiss, pops, and crackles, have been meticulously scrubbed away, and a wide dynamic range handles all the highs and lows with ease. All of Preston Sturges' rapid-fire dialogue is easy to comprehend, and all of the audio effects are crisply rendered, which adds impact and presence to this 1941 audio track.
Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:
New high definition [1080p] digital transfer of the film by Universal Pictures.
Uncompressed 2.0 LPCM Stereo Audio.
Optional English SDH subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing.
Audio Commentary: Commentary by filmmaker and Monty Python Terry Jones: With this special audio commentary by Terry Jones on the film ‘SULLIVAN’S TRAVELS’ , and here we have a very excitable Terry Jones talking about the virtues of Preston Sturges the director and informing us that he was a genius of filmmaking and was making great films in the 1940s, and where Hollywood was dominated by the studio system, where directors and stars were ruthlessly hired and fired. Terry Jones again is very enthusiastically informs us that Preston Sturges was a true auteur and a few brief years could do no wrong. His films were wildly successful and the studio bosses gave Preston Sturges carte blanch to do whatever he wanted and would pander to his wishes. As we go through the film Terry Jones seem to sometimes gets bogged down as though he is slightly struggling to say something worthwhile just to say something, to keep the audio commentary going, but overall Terry Jones does seem to delivers a rather energetic enthusiastic commentary about the film’s style and the structure of its funny gags throughout the film. Throughout the audio commentary Terry points out how the elements of this film influenced some of the gags or elements of their Monty Python’s works, especially from Joel McCrea’s “crazed sincerity” influencing Graham Chapman’s king in Holy Grail or the “we’ve had sex twice and have two kids” joke in the film ‘The Meaning of Life.’ Terry breaks down sequences, shots, and montages, though occasionally just repeats what we see on screen. Terry finally closes off by giving a brief overview of the brilliant Preston Sturges career after the film, which is covered a little more in-depth in the other supplements on the Blu-ray disc. Despite some hiccups with the audio commentary, you can see why Terry Jones is very enthusiastic about the film and entertaining one and also informs us that it is one of his all-time favourite Preston Sturges film and although now and again Terry Jones points out the obvious in what you are viewing of the film, it is not detrimental to his audio commentary, which now again comes out with some wonderful gems and overall it is quite a pleasant interesting audio commentary and I know you will join in with Terry Jones enthusiasm.
Special Feature: Preston Sturges: The Rise and Fall of an American Dreamer  [480i] [1.33:1] [75:00] Kenneth Bowser’s acclaimed feature-length documentary portrait from the American Masters series. For many film lovers, it is both a source of mystery and disgust that Preston Sturges is not currently recognised by the general public like he should as “the” great Hollywood comedy director. During a four-year period at Paramount in the 1940s, Preston Sturges wrote and directed a handful of landmark films. His best-known comedies of the period, such as ‘Sullivan's Travels,’ ‘The Great McGinty,’ ‘The Palm Beach Story’ and ‘The Miracle of Morgan's Creek’ are blistering satires on American politics, society and moral conventions, as well as, arguably, the most witty and sophisticated comedies ever made. Apart from his remarkable ability to circumvent the strict moral codes of the time - big-city politics, fertility, marital infidelity and capitalism were chief among his targets and Preston Sturges was to have a significant effect on how films would be made in Hollywood, being the first to direct his own screenplays. This lively and exhaustively researched documentary, by self-confessed Preston Sturges nut Ken Bowser, written by renowned author Todd McCarthy, provides an illuminating and intriguing journey through the remarkable, though short-lived, career of Preston Sturges as a writer, director, inventor, husband, father, restauranteur. In many respects, Preston Sturges' life was as packed with irony as the stories that evolve in his films. Sprinkled with well-chosen clips from various films and interviews, as well as some rare and revealing footage and recordings of Preston Sturges himself, the documentary creates a vivid portrait of this larger-than-life figure, his meteoric rise to fame and later obscurity. Contributors: Fritz Weaver (Narrator voice), Peter Bogdanovich, Preston Sturges (archive footage), Priscilla B. Woolfan, Sandy Sturges (Mrs. Preston Sturges), Frances Ramsden, Thomas Quinn Curtiss (film historian), Cesar Romero, Edwin Gillette, A.C. Lyles (Paramount Producer), Eddie Bracken, Joel McCrea (archive footage), Andrew Sarris (archive footage), Betty Hutton, Rudy Vallee (archive footage), Jack Rourke (archive footage) and Katy Jurado (archive footage). Director: Kenneth Bowser. Producers: Caroline Baron, Diane Dufault, Harlene Freezer, Kenneth Bowser, Marilyn Haft and Susan Lacy. Screenplay: Todd McCarthy. Composer: Michael Bacon. Cinematography: Denis Maloney.
Special Feature: Kevin Jackson on Sullivan’s Travels [22:00] Here we have a celebrated appreciation by the English writer, broadcaster, filmmaker and pataphysician [French: 'pataphysique) is an absurdist, pseudo-scientific literary trope invented by French writer Alfred Jarry (1873–1907)]. Kevin Jackson, who talks extensively about the film ‘SULLIVAN’S TRAVELS.’ Kevin Jackson also talks about the structure of the film and its funny hilarious gags, and especially the certain joy, glee and brilliance we all got to experience, as well as all the variety of character actors that appeared in his films and calling it the “most Dickensian” story, that was not written by Charles Dickens and has elements that were ahead of its time, like the film within a film element and its subtle ways of breaking the “fourth wall.” It’s an excellent analysis of the film, which Kevin also feels the film is like an Encyclopaedia of comedy, especially with lots of slapstick, car chases, pratt falls comedy, as well as plenty of verbal humour, that he feels is an homage to Chaplin, as well as talking about Preston Sturges’s style as a writer and a director, and again this is a very nice enjoyable and observant analysis of the film ‘SULLIVAN’S TRAVELS’ and Preston Sturges, especially the calibre of the person and the writer and director of his films, and this special feature is a very nice accompanying extra that is equally complementary about Preston Sturges, the man. But most important is that Kevin Jackson sums up that Preston Sturges knew how to shoot a film, and a brilliant example with the terrific opening of the film, which is shot terrifically fast cutting, fast action with pounding music score, and it is very creative and someone who knows his medium, who is a magician who uses the tricks of the trade and is a very nice ending to this very nice special feature by Kevin Jackson, who certainly is a terrific aficionado on Preston Sturges. Producers: Francesco Simeoni and Michael Brooks.
Special Feature: The Preston Sturges Stock Company [46:00] Here we have a celebration of Preston Sturges regular character actors and bit-part players that appeared in his films. “The Preston Sturges Stock Company” is a rather wonderful visual essay covering most of the recurring actors that appeared in Preston Sturges’s films. But the narrator asks the question, “How do you make a Preston Sturges film?” We for a start you have to have a good script, especially with one of Hollywood’s wittiest writers, and also to direct, and you also have to hire “A” list stars and bring out of retirement old silent stars like Harold Lloyd, as well as hiring outstanding character actors, and insert verbal dexterity and funny pratt falls, and that is why when you view any Preston Sturges films, you get to see regular performances from the same actors in all of his films, and that is why Preston Sturges wanted to create from “The Preston Sturges Stock Company,” which created some of his most memorable films of its time, and over time you get to feel you know the character actors and you also get the feeling they are becoming your friends. With this special feature it begins with a general overview and then gives brief histories on the number of the performers that appeared regular in his films and we get presented a number of clips from the films they appeared in. Here you have a nicely assembled piece, which is remarkably thorough of the breadth of material from “The Preston Sturges Stock Company” and really excellently produced. We also get a dedicated list to all the actors that appeared as members of The Preston Sturges Stock Company, which you see the narrator read out the brief history of each character actor which included: George Anderson [1886-1948]; Al Bridge [1891-1957]; Georgia Caine [1876-1964] Chester Conklin [1886- 1971]; Jimmy Conlin [1884-1962]; William Demarest [1892- 1983]; Robert Dudley [1869- 1955]; Byron Foulger [1899- 1970]; Robert Greig [1879- 1958]; Harry Hayden [1882- 1955]; Esther Howard [1892- 1965]; Arthur Hoyt [1874- 1953]; J. Farrell MacDonald [1875- 1952]; George Melford [1877- 1961]; Torben Meyer [1884- 1975]; Charles R. Moore [1893- 1947]; Frank Moran [1887- 1967]; Jack Norton [1882- 1958]; Franklin Pangborn [1889- 1958]; Emory Parnell [1892- 1979]; Victor Potel [1889- 1947]; Dewey Robinson [1898- 1950]; Harry Rosenthal [1893- 1953]; Julius Tannen [1880- 1965]; Rudy Valée [1901- 1986]; Max Wagner [1901- 1975]; Raymond Walburn [1887- 1969] and Robert Warwick [1878- 1964]. In addition, Preston Sturges re-used other actors, such as Sig Arno [1895- 1975]; Luis Alberni [1886- 1962]; Eric Blore [1887- 1959]; Porter Hall [1888- 1953] and even stars such as Joel McCrea [1905- 1990] and Eddie Bracken [1915- 2002]. Screenplay: Michael Brooke. Producers: Francesco Simeoni and Michael Brooke. Narrated by Anthony Neild.
Special Feature: The Big Picture: Safeguarding Military Information  [480i] [1.33:1] [10:20] This is a Preston Sturges scripted propaganda short released in the same month as ‘SULLIVAN’S TRAVELS.’ The film opens with a dramatic explosion of a ship by two undercover saboteurs and then fades into a written "Thoughtlessness Breeds Sabotage" message. A short vignette comes next with a sailor with his girlfriend on the telephone at a bar. As he placates her suspicions by telling her that he is sailing to Hawaii on the USS Navajo at 10:30 pm. A man with a radio disguised as a hearing aid is sitting next to him, and he sends the message to his confederates speaking in code with an enemy submarine, which blows up the ship. Walter Huston then appears as a military instructor briefing a class about military security, and narrates a short vignette about service men in a bowling alley and how they confront a stranger asking questions about military equipment. Probably the most powerful segment is the last, in which a woman at a grocery store, tells the grocer about her son George taking a train to the West Coast, unaware of the person standing behind her. The film fades into a newspaper room, and an editor hurriedly ordering a re-write after receiving a telephone call. When the headline is shown, it does not show the information that the woman gave out, but that 200 servicemen died in a train explosion. The women's face is shown superimposed on the newspaper saying, "No, not George!" Despite it being quite a dramatic short film, sadly there is very bad lip syncing, there is throughout the film very bad hissing audio track and also now and again very bad video quality. Produced by Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Cast: Eddie Bracken and Walter Huston. Director and Screenplay: Preston Sturges.
Theatrical Trailer  [1080p] [1.33:1] [1:48] This is the Original Theatrical Trailer for the film ‘SULLIVAN’S TRAVELS.’
PLUS: Beautiful Reversible Blu-ray cover sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Jay Shaw. Jay Shaw is a Polish designer and is a Colorado-based poster designer and is in collaboration with Divine Fits, who design industry film posters.
BONUS: Beautiful designed 48 page Booklet featuring new writings on the film by screwball comedy expert Peter Swaab, plus archive pieces by Geoff Brown and Preston Sturges, illustrated with original black-and-white stills and rare poster designs. But the bulk of the main contents include: “CAST;” “CREW;” “SULLIVAN’S TRAVELS by Peter Swaab ;” “CONTEMPARY REVIEWS ;” “PRESTON STURGES ON SULLIVAN’S TRAVELS ;” “ELEVEN RULES FOR BOX-OFFICE APPEAL by Preston Sturges ;” “PRESTON STURGES: INVENTOR by Geoff Brown ;” “SAFEGUARDING MILITARY INFORMATION by Michael Brook ;” “PROJECTION NOTE;” “ABOUT THE TRANSFER;” PRODUCTION CREDITS” and “SPECIAL THANKS.”
Finally, ‘SULLIVAN’S TRAVELS’  is one of the screen's more "significant" films to come out in the 1940s period. It is the best social comment made upon Hollywood since the release of the film ‘A Star Is Born.’ And that, we quietly suspect, is exactly what Preston Sturges meant it to be. The upshot is that ‘SULLIVAN’S TRAVELS’ is a screwball comedy and a socially conscious melodrama, as well as being a satire of socially conscious melodrama and a serious apologetic for crowd-pleasing comedy. It’s too complex and interesting a film to be reduced to its ostensible message that the world doesn’t need message pictures, but laughter, and its depictions of Depression-era hardship are as important as its comedy to this classic Preston Sturges film status today. ‘SULLIVAN’S TRAVELS’ will certainly put any viewers through their paces, making them chuckle before bringing on the more depressing moments, but it’s a thankfully rewarding journey too. This may seem mostly like a director’s journey of self-discovery, but it also says a lot about not only being fortunate, but how misplaced pity can be a damaging trait. The actors are both comedic and dramatic and McCrea and Lake have wonderful chemistry. Plus with a wide range of interesting and fascinating extras, makes this a definite must buy from the very professional Arrow Academy. Highly Recommended!
Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Fan
Le Cinema Paradiso
WARE, United Kingdom