The butler, as we'll see, is correct. This movie has so many laughs, such as fast pace, and then there's a sequence that runs about six or seven minutes -- without dialogue. Just music. We see Sully and The Girl dressed as tramps. Homeless people. They have no money and must survive as best they can. They're hungry and dirty and tired...with others who are the same.
Sully will learn even more before he gets back to Hollywood.
I got hit hard by the Great Recession. Although I have had network TV jobs and worked on national radio, I never made big money. But I love performing. I never made more than $55K annually on any TV or radio job I've had since 1999. Honestly, I probably could've made more money if I was an electrician or a landscaper. With my income, I helped a couple of relatives and I had a humble studio apartment in New York City. In 2008, a bunch of us got laid off. I was out of work for almost a year. I'd never been out work that long. I got another job. Another layoff came within the same year I started that job. I was out of work for so long and I was so broke that I lost my once-affordable studio apartment and had to part with most of my belongings. I'd used much of my savings and emergency fund to take care of my mother. A buddy in San Francisco offered me a spare room at his place and a chance to start over. I took it. Then I couldn't find work there for months. Technically, I was -- and still am -- below the poverty line. In San Francisco, I applied for jobs ranging from restaurant bus person to shop clerk to TV news contributor at local stations. San Francisco had been hit by the Great Recession too. Thank Heaven, I had a few friends there.
My spirit had been beaten down. If I did get a day of work here or there, I'd take some money and see or rent a movie. Usually a comedy. When I saw people asking for money on the street, I thought to myself "There, but for the grace of Heaven, go I."
I saw Sullivan's Travels on TCM and tears welled up in my during that dialogue-free sequence. I felt it more. It touched me in a deeper place. It was like seeing it for the first time. And then the absolutely loopy and imaginative ending had me laughing out loud.
Years ago, when times were better in New York City, I went to my local DVD rental store. I chatted with another customer about Coen Brothers movies. I mentioned how major an influence Preston Sturges had on them. Look at Tim Robbins playing an Eddie Bracken in The Miracle of Morgan's Creek-type of character in The Hudsucker Proxy. Look at the Coen Brothers film entitled O Brother, Where Art Thou? -- the same title as the book Sully has in Sullivan's Travels. The customer said, "Yeah, but the big difference is...the Coen Brothers don't like people."
That really hit me. But, when I thought it, I agreed. They've given us excellent films but there's a coldness to them. Fargo, No Country For Old Men, Barton Fink -- not packed with characters you'd buy ham and eggs for in a diner. Preston Sturges cared about people. He liked them. He liked making them laugh. He appreciated those who made him laugh. In Sullivan's Travels, there are sweet mentions of directors Frank Capra and Ernst Lubitsch. He shines a spotlight on the work of Walt Disney. He shows that Disney's work, and comedy in general, can be more healing to the beaten down soul than the shaming sermons of organized religion in church. And writer/director Preston Sturges made us laugh. In Sullivan's Travels he gives us big laughs, heart and warmth.
I'm still looking for work. I'm again living temporarily in a friend's spare room. This time in New Jersey. I had more days of freelance employment last year than any year since 2010. My spirit is resurrecting.
Now I get tears of joy in my eyes at the end of Sullivan's Travels when Sully says, "There's a lot to be said for making people laugh. Did you know that's all some people have? It isn't much, but it's better than nothing in this cockeyed caravan."
Thanks to The Retro Set for reminding us that Sullivan's Travels was released on this day in history in 1941. Find The Retro Set, an entertainment site, on Facebook or on Twitter: @the_retro_set.