101 Funniest Screenplays

Preston Sturges’s self-reflexive 1941 masterpiece of a Hollywood satire is, as Richard Brody of The New Yorker points out, “two movies in one. The comedy that it’s framed as, and the earnest, indeed grim drama, that the story, and for that matter ultimately Sullivan himself, repudiate.” John L. Sullivan is a rich and powerful Hollywood director, but he wants to leave his frivolous comedies behind and make a film of social realist import. For research, he becomes a dilettante of Depression-era poverty, disguised as a hobo. At first, he only meets an unemployed actress (Veronica Lake) but soon finds actual hardship. The title of the film Sullivan plans to make, Oh Brother Where Art Thou, was used by the Coen Brothers for their 2000 comedy. The influence of Sullivan’s Travels goes beyond that, however; its story echoes in comedies from Trading Places to 2008’s Tropic Thunder.