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Posts Tagged ‘Presidential movies’

Ace in Hole, Paramount 1951.

Posted by keith1942 on December 23, 2020

As the 49th President of the USA prepares for his final [hopefully] Christmas in the White House it is worth discussing this film which presents a world modelled on the values of Donald Trump.

The basic plot is simple and contemporary for the 1950s. A journalist covers the developing story of the rescue of a man trapped in a network of ancient Indian caves in New Mexico. The journalist’s dream of a Pulitzer Prize leads him to organise the rescue in the most news-worthy fashion. However, the values of the film are embodied in the characters.

Chuck Tatum (Kirk Douglas) is the reporter, driven by unbridled egoism and ambition. He is prepared to use every person and every event to achieve his goals.

Leo Minosa (Richard Benedict) is the man trapped in an inaccessible cave. He is dominated by Tatum’s personality and right up until the end remains an uncritical fan.

Lorraine Mimosa (Jan Sterling) is the venal wife of Leo; her wedding vows are subordinated to every dollar that goes into the cash register.

Herbie Cook (Bob Arthur) is the junior photographer dazzled by Tatum’s power and apparent success.

Sheriff Kretzer (Ray Teal) is the corrupt local official whose only concern is his re-election to this sinecure.

Construction contractor Sam Smollett (Frank Jacquet) is easily persuaded to set up a news worthy rescue.

Dr. Hilton (Harry Harvey) tends the patient, Leo, as best he can but never seems to question the method of rescue; with Leo’s condition becoming more and more serious.

Mr. Federber (Frank Cady), is a tourist and voyeur; the representative of the crowds that come to follow the dram. He happily claims to have been the first onlooker to arrive.

Jacob Q. Boot (Porter Hall) is the editor, publisher and owner of the Albuquerque Sun-Bulletin. He employs Tatum despite the journalist’s previous escapades which led him to leave New York and work for a local newspaper. Boot never really confronts Tatum.

The competing journalists from national titles are solely concerned with Tatum’s monopoly of the story and press coverage. A New York editor is willing to pay a high p[rice for that story despite his previous [negative] experience with Tatum.

A local priest comes to give Leo the last rites [he is a Catholic] but the minister shows no awareness of the larger event.

Papa Minosa (John Berkes) and Mama Minosa (Frances Dominguez) are the only characters who wholly sympathise and worry about Leo. Both are either migrants or descendants of the indigenous people in the lands stolen from Mexico.

It is intriguing that Salt of the Earth (1954), a truly radical film, is also set in New Mexico among the Mexican people exploited by a US mining company; the latter aided and abetted by the US law enforcement officers.

Billy Wilder, the writer and director, is known for his critical and often satirical treatment of US culture. This is probably his most sardonic treatment of what is known as ‘the American dream’; that ‘dream’, an illusion and a delusion, which Hollywood so frequently valorised.

Ace in the Hole provides a world that certainly existed in its time but which has now appeared in its most grotesque manifestation. Sadly this actuality following fiction differs in one important respect; we do not [yet] see the resolution in the film repeated in reality.

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Of Presidents and Academy Awards

Posted by keith1942 on March 4, 2017

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“Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.” (Karl Marx in ‘The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon’, 1852).

One can, if one so wishes, apply this to less than historical events and people. An interesting example is the closeness in many years of the inauguration of a new President of the United States and that great ‘American’ shindig, The Academy Awards.

The first example was the inauguration of Herbert Hoover on March 4th 1929 as 31st President of the United States. The first Academy Awards Ceremony [a private dinner] followed on May 16th and the first ever Best Picture/Production was Wings (Paramount Famous Lasky).  A slightly ironic pairing as Hoover looked backwards to a financial world about to disappear whilst Wings, with its recorded musical soundtrack, looked forward to the new sound era.

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Franklin D Roosevelt enjoyed his first inauguration on March 4th 1933. The Academy Awards followed a year later [missing the inaugural year], March 16th 1934, choosing as Best Picture/Outstanding Production Cavalcade (Fox). Rather than addressing the issues that fuelled the New Deal the film exemplified the escapist and backward-looking aspect of 1930s Hollywood. There was a faux pas at this ceremony, but it concerned Best Director rather than Best Picture. F.D.R.’s second inauguration took place on January 20th 1937: and this more or less remained the date in the decades that followed. The Academy Awards also settled into a routine, usually late February or early March, occasionally in April; in this year the 4th of March. The Best Picture continued the escapist tradition far removed from Roosevelt’s New Deal, The Great Ziegfeld (M-G-M). FDR’s third inauguration was followed by a similar Academy Award choice in 1941 with Rebecca (Selznick International pictures). However, the film did contain themes that presaged the personal disruptions of the forthcoming war.

FDR enjoyed a fourth inauguration in 1945 but little of the Presidency. Harry Truman was inaugurated in a private ceremony in April. The Academy Awards had already taken place on March 15th, but there choice seemed more appropriate to Truman than Roosevelt, Going My Way (Paramount).  Harry Truman’s public inauguration took place in 1949. The Academy Award that year for Best Picture went to Hamlet (J. Arthur Rank Two Cities Films): presumably cementing the ‘special relationship’  opined by Winston Churchill.

Dwight Eisenhower was inaugurated in 1953. The Academy came up with The Greatest Show on Earth (Cecil B. de Mille); more appropriate for the illusions of the 1950s than the actual President. For Eisenhower’s second inauguration in 1957 the Academy came up with Around the World in Eighty Days (Michael Todd) which somehow fitted the expanding US ’empire’.

John F. Kennedy enjoyed his inauguration in 1961. In keeping with his new,  liberal values the Academy, meeting in April, selected The Apartment (Billy Wilder). With its critique of nepotism and graft the film fitted the rhetoric [if not the actuality] of the new President.

J.F.K did not see a second inauguration and Lyndon B. Johnson had his first in private, November 22nd 1963. His first public inauguration was in January 1965. The Academy responded with My Fair Lady (Jack L. Warner): the Academy members recognised a peremptory tone?

The next inauguration, in 1969, was for Richard Milhous Nixon. The Academy’s choice of Oliver (John Woolf) with its musical Fagin suggested a flair for criminality that the new president lacked. But the 1973 Academy choice seemed more apt, perhaps with a touch of irony, The Godfather (Albert S. Ruddy).

Gerald Foird only had a private inauguration: August 1974. But had he seen that year’s Academy Awards Best Picture, The Sting (Tony Bill, Michael Phillips, Julia Phillips)?

1977 saw Jimmy Carter’s only inauguration ceremony. He probably wished that he shared the ‘come back skill’ of the Academy’s choice for Best Picture, Rocky (Irwin Winkler, Robert Chartoff).

Ronald Reagan’s first inauguration in 1981 was followed by the Academy’s Award to Ordinary People (Ronald L. Schwary). His second in 1985 by Amadeus ( Saul Zaentz). Neither really represented the sort of Hollywood seen in Reagan’s own film career.

George Bush Senior was another President who enjoyed only one inauguration in 1989. The Best Picture at the Academy ceremony, Rain Man (Mark Johnson) possibly contained a subtle hint to him.

Bill Clinton enjoyed two inaugurations, the first in 1993. But the Academy’s Best Picture choice offered a possible omen for this future, Unforgiven (Clint Eastwood). His second inauguration in 1997 saw the academy choice, The English Patient (Saul Zaentz, a second time), offering in its plot line a sort of metaphor for his travails.

Barrack Obama was inaugurated first in 2009. Slumdog Millionaire (Christian Colson) seemed completely appropriate for this new era, though [like the Nobel Peace Prize] not really realised. His 2013 inauguration saw an Academy choice for Argo (Grant Heslov, Ben Affleck, George Clooney) a film that misrepresented Iran in similar fashion to the administration.

However it fell to Donald Trump in 2017 to achieve an inaugural first: a complete fiasco at the ceremony around Best Picture. This seems totally appropriate, a ‘false award’. The actual winner, Moonlight (Adele Romanski, Dede Gardner, and Jeremy Kleinerdouble-dagger) seemed like a deliberate rebuke by the Academy: offering more aspects likely to offend Trump than any other nominee.

 

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