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“I want to make ‘O Brother, Where Art Thou?’,” proclaims John L. Sullivan, a successful Hollywood director of madcap comedies. He’s grown weary of the light fare and wants to try his hand at a serious look at the problems of ordinary folk. “OK,” respond the studio bosses, “but with a little sex in it.” Pointing out that Sullivan knows nothing about the poor, they unwittingly launch him on a journey to discover the real America. What follows is a madcap adventure of its own, both funny and moving, that stands as proof that sometimes the best way to tackle a serious subject is to do it with comedy.
Preston Sturges (1898-1959), was the first writer to successfully convince a Hollywood studio (Paramount) to allow him to direct his own work. Without him, there would be no John Huston or Billy Wilder, or the legions that followed them. Sullivan’s Travels (1941) was his 4th feature as writer-director. Less commercially successful than its predecessor, The Lady Eve, it has nonetheless become a true classic, standing the test of time as an example of great writing, great directing, and great “serious” comedy. The Coen Brothers were making a direct reference to it when they made their own 2000 film O Brother, Where Art Thou?
On Friday, October 11, Linda DeLibero – Director, Film and Media Studies, Johns Hopkins University – and Christopher Llewellyn Reed – Chair of Film/Video at Stevenson University – will appear on Midday with Dan Rodricks on WYPR 88.1 FM, Baltimore’s NPR News Station, during the second hour, 1-2pm, to discuss this great film and what it can teach us about the nature of comedy.
If you can’t listen locally, you can live-stream the podcast.
And you can always download the podcast afterwards, either via iTunes or the Midday page.
Enjoy the show!