Hollywood always loved the road film, even if they were shot entirely on a back lot. Exotic locales, a revolving cast of characters, episodic plots, the road film was a perfect platform for studios to display the range of their stock actors and settings.
This weekend at the theatre we have a pair of fantastic road films made in the early 1940s. Preston Sturges(pictured at left), perhaps the greatest writer/director working in the studio system, made his masterpiece with 1941’s SULLIVAN’S TRAVELS. Joel McCrea stars as a filmmaker desperate for critical and artistic recognition that he’s failed to find as the creator of a wildly successful string of comedies. In order to better understand the common man, he sets out on a roadtrip through America to meet ordinary people. With a quick pace and a great cast of supporting characters, Sturges’s film is one of the great defenses of the value and importance of comedy in society. It certainly helps that it’s wildly funny in its own right.
Paired with that film we also have ROAD TO MOROCCO (1942), a movie that the filmmaker lead of SULLIVAN’S TRAVELS would have been proud to make. Starring Bob Hope and Bing Crosby in the best of their many on screen pairings, this manic and hilarious film utilizes all the tricks in the classic Hollywood playbook. Crosby’s songs and charm play off of Hope’s devious wordplay, slapstick and out right mugging for laughs. The film also contains many instances of the characters breaking the fourth wall, from the self-reflexive title song to our heroes directly addressing the audience. It creates an overall sense of fun that’s impossible not to get caught up in.
Comedies should be seen with an audience, and these two are a blast. I hope to see you at the theatre Friday and Saturday!