In 1930s New York Orson Welles tries to stage a musical on a steel strike under the Federal Theater Program despite pressure from an establishment fearful of industrial unrest and red activity. Meanwhile Nelson Rockefeller gets the foyer of his company headquarters decorated and an Italian countess sells paintings for Mussolini. Written by
Jeremy Perkins <email@example.com>
This film is based on actual events, though it takes liberties with the details. Marc Blitzstein's 1937 anti-capitalist operetta 'The Cradle Will Rock', about the effort to unionize steelworkers, was originally produced as part of the Federal Theatre Project. The Federal Theatre Project (1935-1939), in turn, was part of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), which was created in 1935 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to employ people during the Great Depression. Directed by Orson Welles and produced by John Houseman, Cradle was shut down right before it was due to open because of "budget cuts" at the FTP. Everyone involved believed the government deliberately cut funding because the play's message offended its more conservative contingent; Actor's Equity prohibited its members from taking part, apparently oblivious to the fact that Cradle was a pro-union piece and Actor's Equity was - and is - a union. Welles, Housman and Blitzstein spontaneously rented another theater and planned to put on Cradle with Blitzstein himself singing/reading the piece; the show sold out and various actors defied Equity and performed their parts from the seats they'd bought. The secondary plot which involved Mexican painter Diego Rivera butting heads with Nelson Rockefeller when the mural the latter commissioned for a Rockefeller Center lobby on the high-minded subject of "human intelligence in control of the forces of nature" included a portrait of Lenin, is also based on fact, though it happened in 1933. The incident is also dramatized in the 2002 film Frida (2002). Tim Robbins included it because it tied into the theme of artistic integrity vs. economic practicality. See more »
In the opening exterior NYC street sequence following Olive, just as John Turturro's credit is supered, a window mounted air conditioner is visible in the alleyway behind. While home air conditioning was introduced in 1928, it was extremely rare until after World War II, and it's not clear the design shown was available at the time. See more »
Mr Rivera, Mr Rockefeller has told us to give you your comission check. Your services are no longer required.
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There is a heart in the credit roll with the following initials inside; SS, EMLA, JHR & MGR (SS is likely 'Susan Sarandon,' EMLA for Sarandon's daughter Eva Amurri, JHR & MGR for Robbins' & Sarandon's sons Jack Henry & Miles Robbins). See more »
This may suffer from having a few too many plot lines and characters (Emily Watson, for example, is a role too far), but most of what's there is excellent. Bill Murray is as good as he has been recently in Rushmore and Lost in Translation, and the Cusacks are at their best. This is a film that lingers with you after you've seen it, and gives a fascinating insight into a turbulent time.
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