This is one of my favorite movies of all time, so don’t expect much criticism in this one. Joel McCrea plays Sullivan, a top movie director who is having an artistic crisis. He wants to make a serious, dramatic film about the horrors of real life, while his producers and everyone around him tell him it’s a bad idea, that nobody wants to see this kind of material, people just want to laugh. Feeling that he hasn’t suffered enough, he goes incognito to know what it’s like to live in poverty and suffering. Sadly for him, it all goes astray, as a robbery makes him out to be a dead man. While the world mourns, the real Sullivan is trapped in a chain gang prison, doing hard labor and trying to see how he could get out of jail and return to real life.
This movie is hilarious, and has a lot of heart. Preston Sturges had a lot of talent when it came to that. He was the master of romantic comedy in the fourties, as you can see from films like The Lady Eve and The Palm Beach Story, and this one has it’s share of romance thanks to the casting of the beautiful and tragic Veronica Lake, who joins him in his voyage. There’s also plenty of goofball physical comedy, as the legendary chase scene between Sullivan and his go-cart with the press bus. But it’s in the heart of the film that it makes it resonate with so many film fans. The main theme, that people prefer to laugh than to be depressed, is something that still resonates today. The scene where the chain gang prisioners laugh out loud while watching a Mickey Mouse cartoon being screened at the church is one of the most beautiful and profound moments in cinema history, as it reflects that you don’t need a masterpiece to remind you why the cinema is so great, a simple short cartoon can let you feel as much as the typical overrated Oscar nominee. I always feel that critics today dismiss this idea, even though they love this film, they can’t seem to remember it’s lesson. A beautiful and funny film not to be missed.