This film is generally considered one of celebrated writer/director Preston Sturges' greatest dramatic comedies - and a satirical statementof his own director's creed. One of his more interesting and intelligentfilms from a repertoire of about twelve films in his entire career, Sturges'
satirizes Hollywood pretension and excesses with hisparticular brand of sophisticated verbal wit and dialogue, satire and fast-paced slapstick. Sturges was one of the first scriptwriters in the soundera to direct his own screenplays. He was assisted by future westernsfilm director Anthony Mann, and cinematographer John Seitz (who later filmed such notable film noir's as
This Gun For Hire (1942)
The Big Clock (1948)
Sunset Boulevard (1950)
,as well as two other Sturges works,
Hail the Conquering Hero (1944)
The Miracle of Morgan's Creek (1944)
).This witty journey film from Paramount Studios skillfully mixes everyconceivable cinematic genre type and tone of film possible - tragicmelodrama, farce, prison film, serious drama, social documentary,slapstick, romance, comedy, action, and even musical, in about a dozensequences. Due to confusion over the varying, inconsistent moodswithin the film, the marketing campaign decided to focus on VeronicaLake's peekaboo hairdo instead, with the tagline: "VERONICA LAKE'sON THE TAKE." Visual gags in the comic scenes include a prolongedcross-country car chase, a pratfall into a mansion's swimming pool,changing facial expressions in a portrait, and tramps scampering ontoboxcars, among others. The film's title is a vague reference to
(Jonathan Swift's satirical 1726tale of Lemuel Gulliver's fanciful journey into strange, unknown worlds of Lilliputians, Brobdingnags,Houyhnhnms, and Laputians).The film tells of the 'mission' of 'Sully' (Joel McCrea), a big-shot Hollywood director of lightweight comedies toexperience suffering in the world before producing his next socially-conscious film of hard times - an epic titled 'OBrother, Where Art Thou?' about the common man. [Film-makers Joel and Ethan Coen paid homage to Sturgesand his admirable film by naming their own 21st century film
O Brother, Where Art Thou (2000)?
] After somefailed attempts dressed as a hobo and companionship on the road with an aspiring blonde actress simply calledThe Girl (Veronica Lake in her second picture following her work in
I Wanted Wings (1941)
) and wearing boy'sclothes, he succeeds in losing his freedom, identity and name, health,pride and money. Incarcerated in a prison work camp as the end result of his misadventures, and as part of an audience of chain-gang convictswatching a screening in a Southern black church of a Walt Disney cartoon(starring Mickey Mouse and Pluto), he retains one final ability - - to laugh.He succeeds in understanding that his attitude toward the poor hadbordered on patronization. He finally realizes the uplifting power of laughter, and decides to return to his true calling - the making of entertaining comedies to entertain rather than to edify.Preston Sturges pokes fun at virtually everything in
-including (luckily) himself. While sparing neither the single-mindedhucksters otherwise known as producers nor the successful director of comedies suddenly gripped with a social conscience, Sturges also attacks just the sort of movie Frank Capra was making at the time -
(1941). Capra himself had also been a successful director of comedies (
It Happened One Night
You Can't Take It With You
), before his seriousness got the better of him. When Capra tried tocombine his social conscience with his comedic genius, the results wereusually uneven. While
Mr. Deeds Goes To Town
(1936) was initially successful as a serio-comic look atDepression-era economics, Capra found himself increasingly at odds with the status quo. And his populismpushed both
Mr. Smith Goes To Washington
Meet John Doe
into perilous territory. Neither film had asuitable ending, as if Capra, having confronted Good and Evil so convincingly, couldn't decide who should win.