Sullivan's Travels (1941) - Rotten Tomatoes

Sullivan's Travels1941

Sullivan's Travels (1941)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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Movie Info

In Preston Sturges' classic comedy of Depression-era America, filmmaker John L. Sullivan (Joel McCrea), fed up with directing profitable comedies like "Ants in Your Plants of 1939," is consumed with the desire to make a serious social statement in his upcoming film, "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?" Unable to function in the rarefied atmosphere of Hollywood, Sullivan decides to hit the road, disguised as a tramp, and touch base with the "real" people of America. But Sullivan's studio transforms his odyssey into a publicity stunt, providing the would-be nomad with a luxury van, complete with butler (Robert Greig) and valet (Eric Blore). Advised by his servants that the poor resent having the rich intrude upon them, Sullivan escapes his retinue and continues his travels incognito. En route, he meets a down-and-out failed actress (Veronica Lake). Experiencing firsthand the scroungy existence of real-life hoboes, Sullivan returns to Hollywood full of bleeding-heart fervor. After first arranging for the girl's screen test, he heads for the railyards, intending to improve the lot of the local rail-riders and bindlestiffs by handing out ten thousand dollars in five-dollar bills. Instead, Sullivan is coldcocked by a tramp, who steals Sullivan's clothes and identification. When the tramp is run over by a speeding train, the world at large is convinced that the great John L. Sullivan is dead. Meanwhile, the dazed Sullivan, dressed like a bum with no identification on his person, is arrested and put to work on a brutal Southern chain gang. With its almost Shakespearean combination of uproarious comedy and grim tragedy, Sullivan's Travels is Sturges' masterpiece and one of the finest movies about movies ever made. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

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Joel McCrea
as John L. Sullivan
Veronica Lake
as The Girl
Robert Warwick
as Mr. Lebrand
Franklin Pangborn
as Mr. Casalais
Porter Hall
as Mr. Hadrian
Byron Foulger
as Mr. Valdelle
Margaret Hayes
as Secretary
Maggie Hayes
as Secretary
Robert Greig
as Sullivan's Butler
Eric Blore
as Sullivan's Valet
Torben Meyer
as The Doctor
Victor Potel
as Cameraman
Richard Webb
as Radio Man
Esther Howard
as Miz Zeffie
Frank Moran
as Tough Chauffeur
Harry Rosenthal
as The Trombenick
Alan Bridge
as The Mister
Jan Buckingham
as Mrs. Sullivan
Al Bridge
as The Mister
Pat West
as Counterman
Harry Hayden
as Mr. Carson
J. Farrell MacDonald
as Desk Sergeant
Arthur Hoyt
as Preacher
Roscoe Ates
as Counterman
Robert Dudley
as One-Legged Bum
Monte Blue
as Cop in slums
Harry Tyler
as Railroad Information Clerk
Madame Sul-Te-Wan
as Harmonica Player
Jess Lee Brooks
as Black Preacher
Harry Seymour
as Entertainer in Air-Raid Shelter
Frank Mills
as Drunk in Theater
Preston Sturges
as Studio Director
Emory Parnell
as Man at Railroad Shack
Julius Tannen
as Public Defender
Gus Reed
as Mission Cook
Perc Launders
as Yard Man
Billy Bletcher
as Entertainer in Hospital
Paul Newlan
as Truck driver
Mme. Sul Te Wan
as Harmonica player
Howard Mitchell
as Railroad Clerk
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Critic Reviews for Sullivan's Travels

All Critics (33) | Top Critics (4)

Sturges' dialog is trenchant, has drive, possesses crispness and gets the laughs where that is desired.

June 27, 2007 | Full Review…

A dubious proposition, but in Sturges's hands a charming one, filled out by his unparalleled sense of eccentric character.

June 27, 2007 | Full Review…

Sullivan's Travels is a gem, an almost serious comedy not taken entirely seriously, with wonderful dialogue, eccentric characterisations, and superlative performances throughout.

February 9, 2006 | Full Review…

It's a great comedy, with a message that works in context, the flophouses of life's downside contrasting with Hollywood's absurd hedonism.

January 1, 2000 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
Top Critic

The public will be delighted with the fine humor that is present throughout this symbolic film. [Full Review in Spanish]

September 11, 2019 | Full Review…

Hard-nosed, farcical, tender, critical, satirical, elitist and populist all at once.

September 28, 2015 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Sullivan's Travels


Preston Sturges knows that every joke has a victim and decidedly makes him go through the hardships of poverty and anonymity for our own amusement. The chemistry between Joel McCrea and Veronica Lake is the heart of this hilarious and life affirming meta-cinematic exercise.

Pierluigi Puccini
Pierluigi Puccini

Super Reviewer

A wealthy hollywood director gets more than he bargained for when he goes out looking for "trouble" so as to better identify with the common man (and make a better film dramatizing their plight). The director's name is Sullivan (Joel McCrea), and he is more known for goofy slapstick than dramatic human interest. He believes himself to be a noble pursuer of truth and justice, but as his butler Burrows points out, dressing up as a bum and hoboing around is something "only the morbid rich would find glamorous". At first, the studio is intent on following him around (in a giant bus, no less) to document this adventure, but he quickly loses them after making a deal to meet up with them later. Not long after, he's taken in by a girl (Veronica Lake) who buys him a ham-and-egg breakfast as she's on her way east, back home. Sullivan is attracted to her and wants to make a movie with her, only he's still trying to maintain his incognito status, so as a compromise, he goes home and steals his own car so as to give her a ride to whereever she wants to go ("Chicago", she says). After she discovers his ruse, the girl decides to go along with him on his adventure ("How can I be alone if you're with me?" he asks, but to no avail), and the two delve right into the seedy underbelly of America's misfortunes. Riding the rails, sleeping in flophouses, looking for handouts, as if some great and noble purpose could be distilled from abject misery. But as with other martyrs, that nobility is never pure, as they could escape their condition at anytime they so choose, he's never really down and out, he still has his millions waiting for him at home, and so the deception is never fully realized as he knows who he is. Ah, but after he goes back to being Sullivan, and he's clunked over the head and robbed by a hobo and then thrown onto a freight train, well only then does he come to realize the nature of being lowly and without friends. Sullivan comes to realize the irony of socially conscious films is that they do nothing for the people they purport to defend, that watching a film doesn't change anyone's plight. The best a film can hope to do for the lowest rungs of our society is take away the burden of life for a little while, take a person somewhere they've never been before, let them laugh and enjoy themselves, even if it's just for a little while. Throwing their poverty back up in their faces doesn't help them, not even a little bit.

Devon Bott
Devon Bott

Super Reviewer


Sturges' insight about the relevance of humor in a dog-eat-dog world never gets old, mainly because his insight into humanity itself is spot on. And all his mainstays are here: crisp dialogue, vivid and far-reaching portrayals, a wide cross section of society, Hollywood w/o being Hollywood. And Veronica Lake, too!

Kevin M. Williams
Kevin M. Williams

Super Reviewer

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