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Susan Green

To See or Not to See

(23 September 1940)

From Labor Action, Vol. 4 No. 24, 23 September 1940, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Sure Cure for “Reds”

If I were Mr. Roosevelt, I would put over a brand new kind of conscription. I would draft a few thousand beautiful rich girls to vamp the male “Reds” of this country, and enough handsome rich gentlemen to divert the female contingent from politics. That, as was proved by Ninotchka once before and is now equally well sustained by He Stayed For Breakfast, is what ails the “Reds”. Bountiful living and the blandishments of a wealthy admirer will make a supporter of Roosevelt out of any “Red”. What are you waiting for, Mr. President?

The conscripts would have to receive some training in political philosophy. For instance, Loretta Young, the beautiful vampire in this leaden story, absolutely vanquishes Melvyn Douglas and undermines his entire faith in communism, when she argues: “You are always talking about the poor and the rich. There are only two kinds of people – male and female”. Obviously such profundity is the outcome of deep study.

In case you don’t know it, unions are for the sole purpose of employing barbers as plumbers so that they can pull that old one of piping the water into the kitchen gas range – while the greatest crime that a banker commits is to curl his pinky when he drinks his coffee, or maybe to make love to his secretary.

Stand Up Fast – Or Else

The foreword leads you to expect a realistic piece about reporting the news from war-torn Europe. What you get is a thriller-diller from the land of make believe, along the lines of pulp detective stories.

A mere police reporter is suddenly promoted to the rank of foreign correspondent and lands on all fours in the midst of an international plot. A gang of Nazi spies kidnap the leader of a peace organization who for some inexplicable reason carries in his head the terms of an important international treaty, no less. The amateur-detective-reporter smells out all the clues, dashes in and out of the jaws of death, and arrives in the nick of time to save the inhumanly tortured pacifist (done expertly by the German actor Albert Basserman).

All this time the foreign correspondent sends no story to his paper. When he finally has his great scoop, he doesn’t wire it, but boards a plane for America. Naturally the plane is torpedoed by the Germans. He and his glrl are almost drowned, but aren’t. They wind up in a London broadcasting station, sending to America a hurry-up-and-get-your-guns speech, while German bombs burst all around them and the Star Spangled Banner booms forth.

I was so overcome by it all that I was a bit slow on the pick-up. Whereupon a patriotic neighbor shoved me. “You stand when this song is being played,” she hissed.

Land of Opportunity

This here Clark Gable is an oil prospector, a wildcatter, in Texas around 1918, and he partners up with Spencer Tracy. After one or two tries they strike oil and get rich. Everybody else does too.

Clark goes and marries Spencer’s girl. Well, says Spencer, if that’s the way she wants it, it’s all right with him. But when Clark does some wildcatting with Hedy LaMarr, Spencer thinks it’s time to protect his beloved Claudette Colbert. There are a lot of shady oil deals by Spencer to bankrupt Clark and send him back to Claudette’s arms.

Well, anyway, Clark gets himself mixed up with the Sherman anti-trust law. There’s a trial, and boy scout Tracy comes to the rescue with a homespun speech on “Americanisrn”. He says that a man like Clark is really helping “these here United States”, and by gad, if such a man is not entitled to his million dollars earned by brain and hand, then it is time “to rewrite this here land of opportunity stuff”.

Thus the anarchy, waste, greed and corruption that were midwife to the oil industry aborning receive a complete whitewash with the brush of “Americanism”. And not even a whisper issues from the screen on how “this land of opportunity stuff” has long ago been rewritten for the working class.

Migratory Workers Again

The trouble with producing a good picture is that so many bad ones are modelled after it. The Grapes of Wrath has started an epidemic of lousy pictures about migratory workers. The hope that one box office success. will lead to another is not alone responsible. The unvarnished truth of Steinbeck’s story left such a bad taste in the democratic mouth of America that Hollywood is now administering sweet-tasting gargle. Migratory workers must by nook or by crook be maneuvered into “prosperity”.

In Gold Rush Maisie a bunch of migratory workers go prospecting for gold when they can’t find work. The gold they strike is of such poor quality that it isn’t worth the labor. So that they may not be destitute a confirmed misanthrope makes a quick change of character, becomes suddenly philanthropic and starts a cooperative venture for the benefit of the jobless workers. Hollywood doesn’t know that Santa Claus is dead.

Primarily this cheesy production is a vehicle for Ann Sothern as Maisie. Maisie with her low-cut dress and valise, on the trail of that elusive singing job, is a likeable character. She knows the facts of life, and when they come into her bedroom, she outwits them. She’s a two-fisted, wisecracking gal with clean skirts and a heart of gold. Maisie is all right and so is Ann Sothern. It’s not their fault that MGM hitches them to a bunch of migratory workers whom they have to pull into a happy ending.

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