Declan Hughes

Friday, 29 January 2010

The Godlike Genius of Preston Sturges

A director, John L. Sullivan, who wants to make a second socially relevant movie, dukes it out with two producers, LeBrand and Hadrian, who didn't want to make the first:

John L. Sullivan: You see? You see the symbolism of it? Capital and Labour destroy each other. It teaches a lesson, a moral lesson, it has social significance -

Hadrian: Who wants to see that kind of stuff? It gives me the creeps.

John L. Sullivan: Tell him how long it played in the Music Hall.

LeBrand: It was held over a fifth week.

Hadrian: Who goes to the Music Hall? Communists!

John L. Sullivan: Communists? This picture is an answer to communists. It shows we're awake and not dunking our heads in the sand like a bunch of ostriches. I want this picture to be a commentary on modern conditions. Stark realism. The problems that confront the average man!

LeBrand: But with a little sex in it.

John L. Sullivan: A little, but I don't want to stress it. I want this picture to be a document. I want to hold a mirror up to life. I want this to be a picture of dignity! A true canvas of the suffering of humanity!

LeBrand: But with a little sex in it.

John L. Sullivan: With a little sex in it.

Hadrian:How about a nice musical?

John L. Sullivan: How can you talk about musicals at a time like this, with the world committing suicide, with grim death gargling at you from every corner, with people being slaughtered like sheep -

Hadrian: Maybe they'd like to forget that.

John L. Sullivan: Then why did they hold this one over for a fifth week at the Music Hall? For the ushers?

Hadrian: It died in Pittsburgh.

LeBrand: Like a dog!

John L. Sullivan: Aw, what do they know in Pittsburgh...

LeBrand: They know what they like.

John L. Sullivan: If they knew what they liked, they wouldn't live in Pittsburgh!


LeBrand: Look, you want to make O Brother Where Art Thou?

John L. Sullivan: Yes!

Hadrian: Now, wait a minute -

LeBrand: Then go ahead and make it. With what you're getting I can't afford to argue with you.

John L. Sullivan: That's a fine way to start a man out on a million dollar production.

LeBrand: You want it, you got it. I can take it on the chin. I've taken it before.

John L. Sullivan: Not from me, you haven't.

LeBrand: Not from you, Sully, that's true. Not with pictures like So Long Sarong, Hey Hey In The Hay Loft, Ants In Your Plants of 1939, but they weren't about tramps, and lockouts and sweatshops, and people eating garbage in alleys, and living in piano boxes, and -

Hadrian: And phooey!

LeBrand: They were about nice clean young people who fell in love, with laughter and music and legs.

Preston Sturges - Sullivan's Travels (1941)


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