They wuz robbed! 1942 

Won: Mrs. Miniver
Robbed: Sullivan's Travels

If I had my way, nearly every historical epic and sentimental weeper that has ever won Best Picture would have to hand its prize over to the best lean, literate comedy released the same year. In my Bizarro World Oscars, The Life of Emile Zola rolls over for The Awful Truth, Ben-Hur bows to Some Like It Hot, Out of Africa makes way for Lost in America. And Mrs. Miniver is first in line to hand over the goods. Sure, this prim soaper about an English family maintaining good cheer and prize roses in the face of Nazi bombs did wonders for wartime morale, but Miniver's power as a work of cinema dissipated when Berlin fell. (Especially after audiences set eyes on franker films about the war's domestic fallout, such as 1946's Best Picture winner, The Best Years of Our Lives, also directed by Miniver's William Wyler.)

What deserves Miniver's trophy? Writer/ director Preston Sturges' non-nominated Sullivan's Travels, which boldly blends serious drama into its comic tale of a Hollywood dream-weaver who stumbles into a nightmare. John L. Sullivan (Joel McCrea) is a director of high-grossing froth who hankers to be a serious artist; he wants to direct a ponderous tale of poverty and degradation called O Brother, Where Art Thou? (Sure sounds like Best Picture material, doesn't it?) Deciding that he lacks sufficient street cred to do justice to O Brother, Sullivan sets off to live the life of a hobo. Sturges' dialogue zips and his story enthralls, but this is more than just a well-crafted comedy. It takes up the timeless battle of entertainment vs. enlightenment, wades into the messy intersection of show biz and politics, and offers up a possibly ironic message about how the rich and mighty receive a finer brand of justice in America. Sullivan's Travels has never lost its relevance, and that's what makes a classic--and a Best Picture.

See also:

They wuz robbed! 1951 - A Place In The Sun
They wuz robbed! 1964/1968 - Dr. Strangelove, 2001: A Space Odyssey
They wuz robbed! 1979 - Apocalypse Now
They wuz robbed! 1980 - Raging Bull
They wuz robbed! 1994 - Heavenly Creatures

This feature originally appeared in the Baltimore City Paper. Send comments to

Tags: ,

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Detroit Metro Times works for you, and your support is essential.

Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Detroit and beyond.

Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.

Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Detroit's true free press free.

Speaking of Screens

Read the Digital Print Issue

February 24, 2021

View more issues


Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Best Things to Do In Detroit

© 2021 Detroit Metro Times - Contact Us

Website powered by Foundation