This masterpiece by Preston Sturges is perhaps the finest movie-about-a-movie ever made. Hollywood director Joel McCrea, tired of churning out lightweight comedies, decides to make O Brother, Where Art Thou-a serious, socially responsible film about human suffering. After his producers point out that he knows nothing of hardship, he hits the road as a hobo. He finds the lovely Veronica Lake-and more trouble than he ever dreamed of.
This Criterion Collection DVD uses filmmaker Preston Sturges's best-known film as a springboard to assess the filmmaker's life. For the film itself, there's a sparkling transfer of the comedy and some cagey commentary by modern-day humorists Christopher Guest and Michael McKean (among others). There's just the right number of production stills, backstage photos, publicity materials, and some intriguing storyboards and blueprints of how the film was shot. Even better is the material on Sturges himself. Included are radio segments of Sturges reciting poetry, singing songs, and interviewing Hedda Hopper--the kind of stuff that falls through the cracks on many definitive DVDs. A new interview with Sturges's last wife, Sandy, fills in some key points of the filmmaker's later years. Yet the crown jewel of this disc is the 76-minute documentary that won an Emmy for writer-critic Todd McCarthy (Visions of Light
). "Preston Sturges: The Rise and Fall of an American Dreamer" is an entertaining tale of Sturges's intriguing life and how he redefined, forever, the role of the screenwriter in Hollywood. --Doug Thomas