Classic Hollywood and Preston Sturges "Sullivan's Travels"

Essay by foreverripUniversity, Bachelor'sB, February 2006

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"The principles which Hollywood claims as it's own rely on notions of decorum, proportion, formal harmony, respect for tradition, mimesis, self-effecting craftsmanship, and cool control of the perceiver's response - canons which critics in any medium usually call "classical" (Maltby). Through the satirizing of film language and it's processes Sullivan's Travels brings about an awareness of it's own ideology within the framework of Classic Hollywood.

The film tells the journey of "Sully," a big time Hollywood director of lightweight comedies wanting to experience suffering in the world before creating his first socially conscious film. In the film Hollywood is accurately depicted as a business of entertainment, producing pleasure for as much financial gain as possible. This in a sense was the "Classic Hollywood" style, with it's organized narrative, continuity script, and structured management and divisions of labor. An example of this Hollywood mindset is best understood in the conflict between the artist and the studio.

In the film, Hollywood was best represented in Mr. Lebrand as the studio chief who is disinterested in films that teach a moral lesson. The long opening scene in the studio chief's office is a classic Sturges mixture of rapid fire, crisp, driving dialogue and satirical drama. Tired of doing comedies, Sullivan wishes his next film would be more relevant and meaningful "a true canvas of the suffering of humanity":

Sullivan: This picture is an answer to Communists. It shows we're awake and not dunking our heads in the sand like a bunch of ostriches. I want this picture to be a commentary on modern conditions, stark realism, the problems that confront the average man.

Lebrand: But with a little sex

Sullivan: A little, but I don't want to stress it. I want this picture to be a document. I want to hold up a...