50 Movie Hollywood Legends, Disc 10

Gold, 1974, color. Peter R. Hunt (dir.), Roger Moore, Susannah York, Ray Milland, Bradford Dillman, John Gielgud, Simon Sabela. Elmer Bernstein, score. 1:59.

Quite a cast and quite a plot. The action’s centered in a South African gold mine—but the plot’s centered in a secret cabal. The gold mine’s separated from a huge body of water by a natural barrier. The cabal figures that, if they could break through that barrier, it would flood not only this mine but the whole district, thus (supposedly) raising the price of gold by 30% and naturally elevating all the other mining stocks. It would ruin this particular company and kill a few hundred miners, but that offers short-sale opportunities (and almost all of the miners are black).

The second-in-command at the gold mine (Dillman in one of his properly villainous roles) is part of the plot. He gets Moore appointed as the new mine manager, figuring he won’t ask too many questions when he’s told there’s really more gold on the other side of the barrier—if you just blast through deep enough. But Moore (when he’s not seducing or being seduced by the second-in-command’s wife, Susannah York) is sharp enough to set up a safety, a second set of explosives that would seal off the situation if the “gold on the other side” report turns out to be wrong. Ray Milland plays well as York’s grandfather and the head of the mining company. Gielgud is part of the cabal—a group nasty enough to blow up one of its members (and family) when he starts to sell off stock too obviously and early.

Lots’o’plot, particularly as the bad guys conspire to make sure the safety can’t work. A strong opening sequence in the mines, and a stirring final fifteen minutes, mostly in rushing water deep in the mine. Generally a very good print and sound. Not a great movie, but not a bad two hours either. $1.50.

Home Town Story, 1951, b&w. Arthur Pierson (dir.), Jeffrey Lynn, Donald Crisp, Marjorie Reynolds, Alan Hale Jr., Marilyn Monroe. 1:01.

Man climbs off a plane. Group comes toward him, one of them making a crack about political campaign. Man slugs him. As we find out, this fellow served five years in the Armed Forces, was immediately elected to the State Senate, and was defeated for reelection by the son of a local manufacturer—and he has a chip on his shoulder the size of a redwood. He’s also the nephew of the newspaper owner who’s only to happy to make him editor, and he’s going to Tell The Truth About Big Business.

First, he sets out to show that the manufacturer discharges stuff into the stream it’s next to—but he’s assured that it does no such thing. So instead he starts writing editorials about excess profits and how they hurt the country. His best friend is so disgusted he’s about to quit; his long-time fiancée doesn’t know what to make of it; this oddly recognizable secretary with a remarkable figure has a few lines. The manufacturer comes in to discuss his theory that corporate profits only happen because of consumer profits—that if someone doesn’t profit more from buying something, they won’t buy it.

After the editor laughs him out of the office, he gets a phone call: His little sister (?) is trapped in an abandoned mine, there on a school outing. Everybody jumps into action with remarkable speed, flying the little girl to a hospital in the manufacturer’s plane—and when she’s saved, the manufacturer happens to notice one of his company’s motors on some piece of equipment at the hospital. Suddenly enlightened, the editor decides he should really be an editor and give up politics, and writes a new editorial about the good side of corporate profits.

Now here’s the thing. The little girl was in trouble because (a) the for-profit mining company failed to properly shore up and close up the mine when it stopped mining—you know, that would have cost money—and (b) the employees of a for-profit company doing some work on what was supposed to be a closed road to the mine didn’t take the time to put back the warning sign, and I believe it was the employee who thinks the editor’s a troublemaker who couldn’t be bothered. So another moral might be “There are good companies and there are bad companies.” But I don’t think that’s what General Motors, who apparently commissioned this odd little propaganda piece, had in mind. I’m sure glad we’re reassured that responsible companies never, ever dumped chemicals in streams back in the Fifties, though. That’s probably why the Cuyahoga has always run sweet and clear. Alan Hale Jr. does a good job as Slim Haskins, the buddy/reporter. Strictly as a curiosity, with an odd little role by Marilyn Monroe (who isn’t one of the stars), I’ll give it $1

Meet John Doe, 1941, b&w. Frank Capra (dir.), Gary Cooper, Barbara Stanwyck, Edward Arnold, Walter Brennan, Spring Byington, James Gleason, Gene Lockhart, Rod LaRocque, Regis Toomey. 2:02.

If there’s anyone out there who doesn’t know the plot of this Frank Capra classic… Big businessman (Edward Arnold) takes over paper, turns it into streamlined paper, fires people—5including a columnist (Stanwyck) who really needs to work. As her last column, she turns in a phony suicide note from a John Doe who’s out of luck, fed up with everything and will jump off City Hall at Christmas. Well…people want to offer John Doe a job and there’s a possible circulation booster—so they choose one of many out-of-work people saying they’re John Doe, a baseball pitcher named Long John Willoughby (Cooper) who needs surgery to be able to pitch. They put him and his grouchy friend (Walter Brennan, who keeps talking about how Helots will grab you if you don’t stay on the bum) up at a hotel, put him on the radio—with speeches she’s writing—and soon enough, folks are forming John Doe Clubs and getting to know their neighbors.

Well, naturally, there’s evil behind the bossman’s helping John Doe Clubs: He wants to turn them into a third party and get elected President, then take over and Run Things Properly. Doe finds out about it but the big man’s goons make sure he can’t get the word out. Down and out, he’s about to make good on the suicide threat he actually never made…and, of course, it all works out.

Sounds a little sappy, but it’s not. It’s a great cast, well-written, well-directed, well-acted, well worth watching. It’s not a wonderful print, but it’s not bad, and the movie’s a classic. $2.00.

His Private Secretary, 1933, b&w. Phil Whitman (dir.), Evalyn Knapp, John Wayne, Reginald Barlow, Alec B. Francis. 1:00.

A very young John Wayne plays the playboy son of a millionaire businessman. The father demands the son take over as collection agent. He goes to a nearby small town to collect a debt, in the process picking up (and offending) a beautiful young girl—who turns out to be the daughter of the near-deaf minister he’s supposed to collect the debt from. He winds up forgiving the debt and getting fired for his trouble.

After various shenanigans and his continued stalking attempts to get on the right side of the girl, he succeeds and marries her—but his father assume she’s a golddigger and tells him to get rid of her. Somehow, she winds up becoming her father’s new private secretary—the best he’s ever had—but then leaves town because she thinks the playboy’s still a player. Everything works out in the end: This is, after all, a romantic comedy, if a surprisingly short one. Nothing spectacular, but not bad. I’ll give it $1.25.

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