Monday, April 8, 2013


"Go Down Moses"
as seen and heard in
Sullivan's Travels (1941)

Last month I saw "Sullivan's Travels" for the first time in a double-feature with "O Brother Where Art Thou?" (itself an immense resource for future Movie Music Moments). My favorite sequence was observing the transition of a chapel into a movie house for the prisoners of a chain-gang where poor Sullivan has found himself amidst his travels. The preacher takes advantage of the opportunity to teach his congregation before leading them in a group rendition of "Go Down Moses."

Preacher and church-goers alike harmonize as we observe the prisoners march through the swamp, through the church doors and then down the pew-strewn aisle. It's a deep voiced number accompanied by an organ and speaks volumes about the situation on display. The  Old Testament story of Moses freeing the Israelites from Pharaoh's bondage is now given new meaning when used as soundtrack for the criminals in a "free country" as sung by a solely black congregation. The scene leads into a night at the movies where they enjoy a black-and-white cartoon together and it seems that all is right with the world. It's hard to tell when the church service ended and when the partaking of motion pictures began. Perhaps that's why this film is so beloved it film circles as the medium is right near sacred.

Have you seen "Sullivan's Travels" and/or do you have a Movie Music Moment of your own? Look for more on future Mondays!

1 comment:

Bryson and Tara said...

That was powerful! Really cool. Thanks for sharing!

One of my favorite Movie Music Moments is the last few minutes of "It's a Wonderful Life". Makes me cry every time.