As a lover of American screwball and sophisticated comedies, I struggled to choose among a dozen favorites, my solution being to narrow the field by highlighting a theme common to screen and stage—the relationship between art and life—hence, the pairing of these Pirandellian, and very personal, films by two of cinema’s greatest comedy directors. The medium is definitely the message in Sullivan’s Travels, Sturges’s satire of Hollywood hubris in which a successful director (McCrea), disdainful of his own hit comedy ‘Hey, Hey in the Hayloft’, vows that his next film, O Brother Where Art Thou?, will deal with the plight of the working man. Despite several unsuccessful attempts to escape the studio’s publicity machine, Sullivan naively hits the road dressed as a hobo; but neither the love of waif-like Lake (disguised as a boy) nor a phone number hidden in his shoe can protect him from the brutal reality of Depression America. By turns light, dark, sweet, sad, satiric, sentimental and laugh-out-loud funny, Sturges’s artistic testament affirms the healing powers of laughter in both life and the movies. Guaranteed to draw an audience, Sullivan’s Travels featured prominently in two centennial tribute series: Preston Sturges in 1998 and Joel McCrea in 2005.
Bing Theater | $10 general admission. $7 museum members, seniors (62+), students with valid ID | Tickets: 323 857-6010 or purchase online.