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From an artistic perspective, this is an awful film. It did not start as
film originally, it started as a commercial, but was expanded into a
The film was commissioned by General Motors, and was never released
commercially. The film production was supervised by the head of GM's film
division, John K. Ford. The film was meant as corporate propaganda for
except the shoddy manner in which it was done makes Soviet propaganda look
like a masterpiece. Basically the plot goes like this: a politician says
something negative about the town's largest company. The company
then comes in and makes a five minute speech about how much the
has done and the glories of capitalism. Then later on a newspaper writer
says something negative about the company. The corporate executive comes
again and makes a ten minute speech about how great their corporation, and
every American corporation for that matter is. And so on and so forth.
of the characters is Alan Hale, better known as the Skipper on Gilligan's
Island. Marilyn Monroe also has a small part, she is onscreen for less
two minutes. In the end of the movie, the politician/journalist's little
sister gets buried in a cave-in. The company springs into action, and
it's latest developed technology to save her. The company president flies
the girl to a hospital and saves her life. The politician/journalist sees
the light and how wonderful the corporation, and all corporations are.
This unreleased GM inhouse movie was on TV as a late night movie recently (probably because it had two minutes of yet-to-be-a-star Marilyn Monroe in it), it was so awful I had to find out who wrote, directed and produced it. As I said, it was produced by GM - the writer and director was Arthur Pierson. Four years later Pierson would direct "Born In Freedom: The Story of Colonel Drake", a 30 minute movie about the beginning of the oil industry. I had read how US corporations produced a lot of these propaganda films (as well as books etc.) in the 1950's and tried to get them out there before they came upon more subtle and persuasive techniques and not this hard, bang-you-over-the-head with Soviet-style shoddy propaganda. If anything, this movie is an artifact of that happening, and perhaps interesting in that respect.
Yes I bought the DVD because of the Marilyn Monroe connection, but
found a 1951 movie that was quite compelling as typical of the era:
Yes, McCarthyism was raging, and the film had an "america is great"
message. But that's all right. It was a good "morality story". Well
written. Enjoyable (and this from a big liberal).
Allen Hale Jr. is great as the reporter and former WWII Sea-Bee. And I love the character actress who plays the Society Reporter at the newspaper. And, of course, Marjery Reynolds had a great career on early television, shortly after this film.
But the best performance - great despite the fact that it is the vehicle to please the "anti Communist" / Black-list fear of 1951, is that of Donald Crisp: an incredible actor!!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I found this a quite watchable little movie, with a moping Marilyn
Monroe as padding material". It features a pocket sized Citizen Kane
and a dramatic incident which reminded me of Atom Egoyan's The Sweet
Shot synposis: An unexperienced young man without influence who got elected senator to his state's legislature solely because of his war record, is defeated by the son of a local entrepreneur. He returns to his home town, gets hold of a newspaper (owned by his uncle) and tries to nail" the big enterprise run by the father of the new senator in that town. The issues are environmental pollution and high profits for the owners. He doesn't succeed in getting any leverage to nail the enterprise but that does not weaken his grim determination. Then his kid sister gets trapped in a caved in mine shaft during a school excursion led by the former senator's estranged fiancée (solid performance by Marjorie Reynolds). The entrepreneur personally pilots the plane with the severely injured girl to the state capital. The girl gets well, the former senator is reformed ... and all's well that ends well.
Its easy to see that Home Town Story was made for propaganda purposes. Big business is presented as something good and powered by altruism and patriotism (and a little hunger for more profit). The main character's motive is personal frustration, and yet he wants to make his newspaper spicier and more appealing for a wider public. He is an entrepreneur, too, and sees his revenge binge as a tactic for improvement. After some venomous editorials the entrepreneur visits the former senator in the newspaper building and tries to speak some sense into him. His speech and demeanor present the entrepreneur as a calm, even minded man who is open to discussions, it is a really good and convincing performance. He says, among other things, that his father in the Old Country worked from dawn to dusk, dying at 40 as an old man, whereas he himself is 60 already and feeling in tiptop shape. Today we laugh about stuff like that on both sides of the Atlantic, however, as far as propaganda goes, I've seen and heard worse.
There are weird loose ends in this movie. It is made clear that the accident occurs because two workers of the big enterprise (we're always talking about the same one) were too lazy to repair a danger sign that had fallen down. So the crew of the school bus did not see it. I guess in the US of today this would be a classic case for a damage claim as demonstrated in the aforementioned movie The Sweet Hereafter. In this movie the entrepreneur by piloting his private plane with the injured kid atones for everything that might have gone wrong, and no one investigates the incident any further. Tempi passati!
Another reviewer called this an awful movie. I do not agree, I think especially the accident and the ensuing rescue operation are exceptionally well edited, probably with very little material to work with. The whole episode has a very modern feel and is really suspenseful.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It's a watchable little time-passer, like an episode of a TV show from the 60's. I liked it for its outdoor on-location shooting in the hills of California, Marilyn's silly early vocal inflections, Crisp's stirring reading of big biz theory, and the chance to see a 49 year-old actress play a 42 year-old actor's [i]mom[/i] as Brown does to Lynn. His annoying kid sister --who is young enough to be his granddaughter-- has a Bad Thing happen to her in the last half, complete with a pray-it-happens near-death experience. Alan Hale Jr is the B-movie Jack Carson here, large economy-sized wry sidekick to the hero, and Marjorie Reynolds is stalwart as Lynn's long-waiting bride. She looks quite a bit like Ellen Burstyn here, which made watching her more interesting.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
There are no big surprises in this movie, but the outcome in 1951 was a
lot different than the same story retold today.
A majority of journalists still have a problem with the notion of profits. Profits are bad, aren't they, since someone is making more on a deal than they need to cover costs, right? From each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs, right? Hotheaded (and not very deep thinker) Wade (who seems WAY too old to have a 10 year old sister--who seems way younger than 10) goes looking for evidence of corporate sins, and finding none, seems annoyed. In 1951, if one plant wasn't dumping into a stream, one didn't have to look far to find another one right down the road that did, so Wade's motivations seem less than pure.
If this movie was made today, the last few scenes would be a heavy-handed Diversity Fest saving the life of the sister trapped in the mine with herbal cures known only to Indigenous Peoples, with a guillotine set up at one end of the canyon (was Robot Monster being filmed at the other end of the canyon?) where all of the Vile Capitalists were being decapitated for Sins Against the People--the mining company, the company that failed to re-post the danger sign, the lumber company that provided the faulty mine timbers, the design company that planned the mine excavation--in other words, a complete fantasy.
Marilyn is lovely, and refreshingly Unfluffy, Sensible, and Dignified.
"Home Town Story" is a frustrating B-movie from MGM. It has a few
excellent story ideas but manages to execute them quite poorly. Despite
this, it is watchable.
Jeffrey Lynn plays Blake Washburn--an ex-senator with a serious chip on his shoulder. He's mad he lost the re-election and is bent on punishing the guy responsible. So, as the new editor of a newspaper, he's bent on attacking the MacFarland family business--because the factory owner's son beat Washburn in the election! If Washburn sounds like a petty jerk, then you are correct. In addition to using the paper for his personal vendetta, he seriously ignores his incredibly long-suffering fiancé. Therein lies much of the problem with the film--the main character is unlikable and you really want a piano to fall on his head (or some equally horrid accident). Additionally, the film has a very odd message about economics and capitalism that COULD have been excellent had the message not been hammered home so poorly. Overall, despite the MGM glitz and a few good actors (I like the Washburn kid), it's a film that needed more time to allow the plot to move realistically instead of being so rushed and contrived.
Average programmer to fill the bottom of a double bill with Jeffrey
Lynn his usual dull blank slate in the lead. He actually gives the
film's worst performance not helping the meager story in the least.
Somehow they managed to wrangle Oscar winner Donald Crisp into a brief appearance, his last on screen work for three years-of course if this was the quality of stuff being offered no wonder he took a break, he's far better than this run of the mill junk deserves.
The real interest and the only reason the film is sought out today is for the presence in the cast of Marilyn Monroe and to a much lesser extent Gilligan's Island's Skipper, Alan Hale Jr.
Marilyn very much on the way up, her billing is far more prominent than the small part she plays would rate for anyone else, would play a few more minor roles like this throughout 1951. Within the year though she would be a minor star and within two a superstar permanently moving beyond this kind of routine assignment. She looks beautiful and handles the minimal demands of her secretary role well enough but she has a total of no more than five minutes screen time.
Strictly for those who are interested in seeing all of Marilyn's work, no matter how minor.
This certainly has to be rated as one of the least interesting movies
I've ever seen. I don't think I would go as far as to call it bad -
simply dull would be a better word for it. It features passable
performances from most of the leads (including a limited role for
Marilyn Monroe as a sexy secretary with only a handful of lines) but
aside from some suspense about the fate of little Katie in the last 20
minutes or so there really wasn't much here to hold my attention.
The movie starred Jeffrey Lynn as Blake Washburn - a one term state senator who's defeated for re-election and can't let it go. In fact he's the poster boy for sore losers, ready to pick fights with anybody who brings his defeat up, and convinced that the people were tricked into voting for his opponent. Frankly, he was a thoroughly unlikable character. Returning to his hometown, he uses his new position as editor of the family-run newspaper to criticize the man who beat him and to take on a variety of crusades, most notably against excess corporate profits. In that sense, the movie perhaps had some potential to provide a degree of social analysis, except that there was always question as to whether Washburn really cared about these issues, or whether he was simply using the paper as a platform to launch another election bid. In the end, the movie actually becomes a celebration of the system, as Washburn learns why profits are necessary, and how a company's profits benefit us all.
I found this most interesting for the very early look at Monroe, as well as for a look at a not bad piece of work from a young Alan Hale, Jr., who I know best as the Skipper from "Gilligan's Island." One thing really made me curious - how could Lynn play the brother of young Katie, played by Melinda Plowman, who got a few years as a bit player out of an acting career? Lynn would have been 42 when this was made, Plowman about 10. The family relationship was not at all believable. 4/10
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
There are several problems with this movie. There is not much of a plot. The dialogs leaves a lot to be desired. The minor characters are not well developed or defined. And the pace is snail like. However, the main problem I have with this story is that the lead character, Blake Washburn, is not even close to being a likable fellow. While I understand he was supposed to be pushy, driven and opinionated, the plain fact is that he was just a Jackass. (Can I say that?) As a result, it is a real stretch to expect the audience to care about him. There is an accident involving his little sister, but we have not spent enough time with her to get to know and like her and you have to like before you can care. We care about this little girl's plight, but only because she is a child - any child would solicit the same response. Do we really care it was his sister? I will not say the movie totally sucked, but I will say it left me unmoved and empty. There were, however, two performances that worked Alan Hale Jr. gave a pretty good performance as ace reporter and friend of Washburn, as if this guy could really have a friend. Donald Crisp gave the best performance of the lot as industrialist John MacFarland who displayed a even balance of quiet ambition, intellect, drive and humanity to stand out from all the other characters even though he did not really have that much screen time.
Hometown Story, a rather cheaply made film, even for a B picture and
especially since it comes from MGM, is stalwart Republican Louis B.
Mayer's defense of the free enterprise system. Not that he hadn't done
it before, one of the most rightwing films ever made came out of his
studio a decade earlier with Boom Town. But that film was a big
production with some heavy duty name players in it. This one was made
with frugality in mind.
Jeffrey Lynn is our star who has returned to his hometown in Hometown Story a defeated State Senator, defeated by Hugh Beaumont grandson of Donald Crisp who is the biggest employer in the area. Lynn takes over the newspaper and decides to use it to gain support for a comeback bid. And who to go after but the biggest target around.
And if you can't find an issue, create one. Lynn attacks what he labels the obscene profits of Crisp's firm and others like it. That sends Crisp into Lynn's office with a theory of capitalism and a defense of his business practices.
At first people might dismiss this film because in this day and age we now see what corporations like Enron and investment banks like Goldman-Sachs have done. But I would quote no less than Martin Sheen from Wall Street who says there is a great deal of difference between speculators like Michael Douglas and businessmen like Crisp who started the business and put their work and sweat into it.
Of course it would be interesting 60 years later to see if that Hometown Story now includes said firm moving to a foreign country or to some state with right to work laws and no environmental regulations. It's a complicated business with no easy answers.
Hometown Story would be gathering dust in a tin can at MGM's vaults if it weren't for the fact that Marilyn Monroe has a small role as a secretary at Lynn's newspaper. She's not Lynn's love interest, that's reserved for Marjorie Reynolds. But she does send Lynn's best friend and star reporter Alan Hale into a tizzy. The future skipper of the USS Minow has his hormones in overdrive.
Economics is not an easy subject for films and Hometown Story will not provide any answers. But it's pleasant enough viewing.
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