Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Art of the Poster: Sullivan's Travels (1941)

Sullivan's Travels, Preston Sturges' pre-war masterpiece, concerns a movie director (Joel McCrea) who has tired of making light comedies and wants to make a film about the downtrodden forgotten man. So, like William Powell in My Man Godfrey, he goes incognito as a hobo, but finds that no matter what he does, he winds up back in Hollywood. Several plot twists later with the help of The Girl (Veronica Lake), Sullivan succeeds in becoming a hobo only to wind up on a chain gang serving time for manslaughter. Here, he learns the value of laughter and decides that possibly he has been contributing after all. Like any Sturges film, Sullivan's Travels is satiric and sharply observed, though this time the satire informs a powerful social message. Many regard this as Sturges' best film.

In this famous scene, Jesse Lee Brooks leads a congregation in "Go Down, Moses" as the convicts arrive to see a Disney cartoon:


Roy said...

Wow! That clip from the movie makes a pretty powerful image. British composer Michael Tippett used African-American spirituals as the chorales in his oratorio A Child of Our Time (1944), about the plight of the Jews under Hitler. "Go Down Moses" is one of those used, and comes at the climax point of the plot.

K. said...

Not familiar with that one Roy, but your word on music is gold. I'll check that one out. That clip is amazing, and contains much truth: The poor donate a greater percentage of their income than any other income group.

Foxessa said...

They don't make films like this one anymore, and more's the pity. We need them, desperately, as film is still the most powerful propaganda tool there is. Or, at least used to be, before 24/7 television cycles.

Love, C.

TaraDharma said...

great clip! This film is in my near future. What a image of the chained men filing in, shot at waist level, a shuffle-march, a ghostly visage.

Anonymous said...

Hello, I was searching for the poster image and your blog came up. My father illustrated that poster. He emigrated from Vienna in 1936 and began his illustration career in the US making movie posters. There are very few originals left of that one, trying to find one to buy. His name was Fritz Siebel.
Thanks, Barbara Siebel Thomas