Preston Sturges is a well regarded director of comedies and especially for his written dialogue, much like that of Ernst Lubitsch. Surprisingly, he only has three films on the list (as does Lubitsch); I guess great writing skills aren’t on par with some of the other qualities that land some directors 8-9+ films on the list. I, for one, highly appreciate great writing in a film, and Sullivan’s Travels has some of the best writing I’ve seen in a 1940s film outside The Big Sleep.
The script is impossibly quick-witted and fast-paced, opening with a whiz-bang of a scene featuring the main character, Sully, arguing with a couple of Hollywood producers over what the medium of film should and will be used for. Once the scene starts, the dialogue never once leaves room for a single breath, and each successive scene is just as tightly packed with lines as this first one. The script is jam-packed with both verbal and physical comedy, brazen in its setups and its executions, and especially in the wordplay, though the physical side can get a bit cliché in a few areas. The performances behind the wordplay are just as whip-smart as the script itself, though this does come with the downside of having every character seem like they’re speaking through the same mouth.
The only other Sturges film I’ve seen is The Lady Eve, which I enjoyed though I didn’t find very comical. This was very much in the same vein, but the comic bits here were much more obvious, sometimes exasperatingly so. Still, the film tries very hard at being a romance, and it just barely succeeds, mostly thanks to the ending. It’s more or less a fictional commentary on a Hollywood idea; it’s really hard to put down to one type of film, but even without the classification, it’s still entertaining, and short, so there’s nothing to lose and a whole lot to gain from watching it.
Arbitrary Rating: 9/10