Friday, May 04, 2012

...with a little Veronica Lake in it

I dunno.  I guess I just wasn't in the mood for it.  But for a worshipper of the Coens like me, it's nice to know that there was room even in the early days of Hollywood for a little self-reflection in the cinema itself, to put it mildly.  Or perhaps it was just inevitable.  But even back then an auteur could apparently have studio heads eating out of their hands; obviously this wasn't MGM.  But the director of Hey, Hey in the Hayloft and Ants in your Plans of 1939 is getting tired of making the same old comedies that everyone loves.  He wants to make Citizen Kane... I mean, a picture that can single-handedly right all the wrongs of the world, and bring about that utopia in which there is no war, famine, oppression or brutality.  One vast and ecumenical holding company... well, you get the idea.  The studio heads resist.  The bull-headed "artist" presses on.  So the studio heads try a different tact: what does this director know about suffering?  When pressed, Sullivan confesses that he doesn't know.  Trapped in the cocoon of Hollywood, he hasn't experienced The Grapes of Wrath for himself... then, the genius light bulb goes off!  He'll take a trip for himself!  The great director posing as a bum will venture forth into the world, a world of sinkers and cheap coffee at every rest stop diner along the road.  The studio heads recoil... but eventually decide to go along with the gag.
I hate to spoil it too much, but Sullivan does manage to score some cheap thrills as he hitches a ride with a 13-year old boy driving a 'tank' through the countryside.  Sullivan's bus tries to follow with comedic results.
Apparently, the actual writer-director Preston Sturges saw some wisdom in having "a little sex in it".  Enter sassy fast-talking Veronica Lake, who's just a sweetie pie.  The Renee Zellweger of her day, if you will.  She plays a girl trying to make it in Hollywood... well, Preston never met a lot of authentic people, either.  She eventually finds out the truth, and insists on joining in on Sully's epic adventure of self-discovery.  Robert Greig, who played Hives in Animal Crackers, doesn't like the whole thing at all.
Alas, fellow readers, I must report the truth... yup, I fell asleep during part of this thing, but I did manage to wake up to see a train run over a guy... from the train's point of view!  That must've been a little groundbreaking at the time.  So I will give Sturges some credit: he at least gave birth to O Brother, Where Art Thou? and part of Cool Hand Luke.  You know, the whole night in the box thing.  On the other hand, everyone else gives this four stars, but must I as well?  Maybe when I see it a second time, I don't know...

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

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