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Susan Green

To See or Not to See

(6 January 1941)

From Labor Action, Vol. 5 No. 1, 6 January 1941, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Well Concealed Tripe
“The Philadelphia Story”

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer attains here its too-often unattained objective – entertainment. There are a flock of amusing situations. The dialogue is snappy. Katherine Hepburn makes of the main character, Tracy Lord, a captivating little snob. James Stewart does a reporter with his usual ingratiating humor. The manly Cary Grant gives a good account of himself as the still-loving first husband of the heroine. There is a diverting young busybody, played by Virginia Weidler, and Roland Young who is funny just to look at, and many other pleasing features. No doubt the crowds who wait more than an hour for a seat, think it was worth the wait.

But when all is said and done the story is superficial and hackneyed, and has to do with people whose blood is blue not red – the Lords of Philadelphia, blue bloods of the deepest dye who in the midst of the “50,000,000 shrunken bellies,” continue to pursue happiness with such trifling advantages as mansions, huge estates, stables, cars, swimming pools, champagne parties. Here is the story for what it is worth:

Old man Lord pursues happiness in the shape of a New York dancing girl. This is a skeleton in the family closet, as is also the love life of Tracy, beautiful, unpredictable daughter of the house. It seems that because of her hypocritical, better-than-thou puritanism, she divorced her loving but hard-drinking first husband. (This smells strongly of Susan and God.) Tracy is about to make another try at marriage, but this does not come off.

A couple of hard-hitting lectures from husband No. 1 and from her erring father result in her going on a champagne binge – apparently to free her inhibitions. At dawn, Tracy, the pure, is being carried from the swimming pool in the arms of this very attractive reporter, who has been hanging around to get the story of her wedding. The straight-jacketed husband-to-be draws the obvious conclusions from the situation which happen to be wrong – and the marriage is off.

Presumably the goodness of the champagne and of the reporter’s kisses – that is as far as he went – have made Tracy realize that man’s desire for liquor and dancing girls is not to be condemned. She forgives her father – or vice versa – and remarries her ever loving first husband.

This tripe has been made so toothsome an entertainment morsel that the uncritical audience accepts, with its laughter, the futile existence of this good-for-nothing bunch of parasites.

I Prefer Conrad

It would be a good thing if Hollywood admitted to itself that, even with the best intentions on its part (which are often absent), the written word is a much better vehicle for certain moods and meanings than the movies can hope to be. Conrad’s Victory must, I think, necessarily be better off between the covers of a book. At any rate, this screen version has left out everything that distinguishes the original from the run of the mill South Sea yarn. Conrad gave importance to the story not only by his clear-cut character delineations, but by his philosophic slant. One can imagine him sadly shaking his head over life: “See how life is. Here was this man Heyst, a civilized soul, wanting nothing but to be left alone. But being civilized, he had great compassion for suffering and was compelled, in spite of his better judgment, to help. That was his undoing.” Nothing of this geta across the screen.

The victory-theme of the film is the, usual “good, man plus good girl kill off one or more villains and live happily ever after”. But Conrad wrote Victory over this story with tongue in cheek, for he ended it with disaster for Heyst and for the girl. Heyst tried to save her from a sordid life but could not defend her from the desperado’s gun, But the girl dies with victory in her heart for she holds in her hand the knife that was to have brought death to her beloved Heyst. She does not know that he will die anyway.

Such fine shadings were apparently too much for the producers, They have turned out just another movie – graced, however,by a very fine cast.

Success Story
“Dispatch from Reuter’s”

My knowledge of the development of the world famous Reuter news agency – which presumably got going more than 100 years ago with the use of carrier pigeons – is very flimsy. So I can’t tell how much of the film is historical biography and how much Hollywood. However,I can say that the strong Horatio Alger overtones made me lift a skeptical eyebrow.

According to the film, Julius Reuter, known at first as the crazy pigeon man, succeeded in getting his carrier service established against tremendous odds. When the extension of the telegraph put his pigeons out of a job, he conceived the idea of the telegraphic news service only to be ousted by the telegraph company itself when it went into the news distributing business on its own. So Julius, not to be outdone, slung up a few wires on his own, and of course was able to get the news quicker than allthe rest.

Following the usual Hollywood formula, the Reuter of the film was motivated only by public service, love ofa free press, and devotion to truth. (Parenthetically, I might say that during the days of Lenin and Trotsky the famous Reuter agency distinguished itself by spreading the most infamous lies about the Russian revolution.) Also true to form is the faithful little woman, always at his side, cheering, and helping.

The really bright spots, on the whole, are those in which Albert Basserman appears. He does the part of a slightly slap-happy old artist. Though he over-acts a bit, he seems to be having so much genuine fun doing it that the enjoyment is passed on to the audience.

Did you ask me if I liked the picture?I stifle just a little yawn and reply: “Aw-awright.”

Watching the Money Bags
“The Eyes of the Navy”

This is one of the numerous propaganda films Hollywood is turning out to assist in the preparation for entry into the imperialist war. It is supercharged with patriotism, and would have the audience believe that, because “your son, my son and the neighbor’s son” form the personnel of the air division of the navy, therefore the whole works belong to us. Might as well believe that because “your son, my son arid the neighbor’s son” run the factories, the factories are ours, not the boss’. However, one lie is as good as another in attempting to create the false illusion that the armed forces of the boss government belong to the people.

The film does succeed in conveying the thrill of flying and the lure it has for youth. The shame of it is that decadent capitalist society can do nothing better with this marvelous spirit of youth and with the great inventions of our age than use them for bloody war.

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