RICHLAND — Link Americana and movies and the first name that pops to mind is Frank Capra.
The annual holiday showing of It’s a Wonderful Life has kept Capra in the forefront. Fans of the genre hold another in equal awe. Preston Sturges.
This week’s Battelle Film Club presentation is Sullivan’s Travels, a 1941 classic starring Joel McCrea and Veronica Lake. Sturges opens his movie with a dedication to those in the medium who make us laugh. Then he proceeds to do just that.
McCrea plays a popular director tired of making comedies and musicals. He wants to do deep, dark drama. Having never experienced trouble, the director — much to the chagrin of the studio bigwigs — decides to don the dress of a tramp, and with 10 cents in his pocket, go out and find trouble.
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That trouble leads to Lake’s character and some outstanding comedy.
Some of the bits between the peripheral characters and McCrae contain quick one-liners brilliantly executed by men and women who no doubt learned their craft in live performance or vaudeville.
Sturges also pays homage to the era of silent film with a couple of wonderfully staged and executed scenes. The biggest laugh of all comes during a scene in which a chain gang visits a church to see a movie.
He also mixes some heavy drama into all that mirth. It helps make the point that laughter is — indeed — what keeps us sane.
Mr. Movie rating: 5 stars
Not rated — probably PG. It plays one time — 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 19 — at the Battelle Auditorium.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on video.
2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.